How Easy Is It To Take Your Dog To France?
Following on from our summer holiday review post, and the photos we posted on facebook I’ve had a steady stream of
“oh, you took the dog with you! How easy is it to take your dog to France? Was it complicated? What did you need to do? How much was the passport?” type questions.
So I thought the easiest thing was to put all the answers in one place.
Firstly – do you actually want to take your dog? For us, this was a no-brainer. Quite apart from the fact that she’s one of the family, and it would feel weird not doing so, there’s the other side of the coin. We have no family or friends we could easily leave her with, as she’s a very large dog and not so perfectly behaved that we wouldn’t be worried about her being a liability. Friends have had her in the past, but it’s cheeky to ask and I don’t want to abuse their kind offer. Kennels, for cost alone, are out of the question for us.
So yes, we wanted to take her with us… what now?
Well, it’s really not that hard. Plus, presuming that you’re a responsible dog owner and already have your pet microchipped and vaccinated, the cost really isn’t very high either.
(NB – if, like us, you own a rottweiler – or any other mastiff-type breed – it’s very important to read this post about taking a rottweiler to France since new laws were passed)
Step 1 – Book your Holiday!
Many people seem to believe that it is illegal in France for holiday properties to refuse pets. This sin’t the case – the law came in for long-term rental properties, NOT short holiday stays. So you’re still at the whim of property owners when you’re searching for a place to stay. And of course, some properties will be more suitable than others. We used www.HomeAway.co.uk which has a pet-friendly option in the search function (with 22,723 properties for you to look through!), but still studied the properties carefully. Was there plenty of shade for the dog during the heat of the day? Is there plenty of space for playing? Is it close to a road? Is the property secure? Actually, it’s many of the questions you’ll already be asking if you’re taking young children with you!
Step 2 – Get Their Passport.
To enter France from the UK, your dog must be microchipped. Presuming that is already the case (ours was), then you can use your usual vet to get your dog’s passport – this must be done at least 21 days before you travel. Our vet vaccinated Blue against rabies and completed the passport for us – there’s no waiting, they issue it to you there and then. The total cost for the injection plus the passport was just over £50 for us – I’m guessing this varies from vet to vet. And that was it; 21 days later, she was good to go.
Step 3 – Book your travel.
We travelled with Brittany Ferries, who have a PETS travel scheme, and it worked really well. There is a small supplement for dogs (who must stay in the car during the voyage), and it is their rules that all dogs must be muzzled during check-in. We bought the muzzle, and spent the weeks leading up to the trip acclimatising the (indignant) dog to wearing it for short periods. As we approached the ferry terminal we realised the muzzle was in the glove box and the dog was in the boot… ah well, we figured we’d put it on her when asked. We weren’t. I was simply handed the gun to check her microchip, and her details were checked with the passport. Easy!
If you’re concerned about leaving your pet in the car for the duration of the crossing, I’d suggest using a crate in the car so that they can come to no harm (nor do harm to your vehicle!); leave them with water and maybe a chew, and most dogs will simply curl up and endure!
However, if you really don’t want to leave your dog then why not go a little further; if you take the ferry to Bilbao or Santander then there are pet-friendly cabins which mean your dog can stay with you for the whole trip.
And the Portsmouth/St Malo route has kennels which are accessible at all times for you; check this page for all your options; http://www.brittany-ferries.co.uk/information/PETS-travel-scheme/onboard-kennels-and-pet-friendly-cabins
Step 4 – Be Prepared.
We thought ahead and bought a few essentials to take with us, just-in-case (apart from the muzzle). We got a fab non-spill water bowl from Pets At Home which meant she’d have water for the entire journey (TOTALLY recommended, it’s brilliant), and also a stake and cable to keep her secure in the garden. We also bought a sack of her usual food, so that there were no dodgy dog-stomach issues.
Step 5 – On The Ferry
Dogs do not like being in the bowels of big boats. End of.
However, she hadn’t eaten since the night before, so we had no issues with seasickness, despite the rather rocky nature of our crossing. Brittany Ferries are happy to escort you down to the car deck to check on your pet during the crossing – the husband went once, and found a rather sad and sorrowful creature lying peacefully in the boot. On the return crossing, the minute the car crossed from the dock into the boat, Blue’s ears dropped, she sighed sadly, and the excited we’re-on-a-journey huffing at the windows ceased as she quickly sunk to the floor. We may have laughed rather too much at her sheer despondence.
The dog stays in the car for the duration of the crossing; for the Poole/Cherbourg crossing that’s around 4hrs. You’re not allowed to stay with your dog, but you can request a member of staff accompanies you to go and check on them during the trip if you feel the need.
Step 6 – Driving Across France
We had a 7hr journey once we left Cherbourg, and we were aware that Blue was about as keen on that as the children were. But actually, it was fine. Thanks to the after-effects of the boat she was quite quiet for a couple of hours, but gradually sat up and started looking excited in her usual “we’re-driving-we’re-driving-where-are-we-going-we’re-driving” enthusiastic way. Fortunately, the main routes through France are littered with Aires De Service – a network of stopping places (actually designed for motor homes) which are perfect for stopping for a leg-break. Lots of grass and trees for the dog, and picnic benches for the grown ups too.
Step 7 – The Holiday
So – was it a good thing she was with us? Well… yes! We didn’t go very far, and where we did go, she mostly came with us. The one time we left her was when we took a trip into Bordeaux – and she’d had a full day with us out by the pool, and was only too happy to curl up in the cool basement of the house and catch up on some sleep.
I made sure to walk her early each day – by 8.30 it was too hot to contemplate – and she had a simple 30 minute trot through the lanes surrounding our house most days. We did use the stake and cable, as the garden wasn’t entirely enclosed and she was far too keen to go visiting the black lab up the lane for our liking *sigh*. The house itself was the best spot for the heat of the day, and she also had daily hosings when she looked a little warm. Mostly she did what she does best; she napped, she played, she ate… much like the holiday was for all of us actually…
Step 8 – Coming Home
The one potentially tricky part for us was finding a Vet in France to visit, as your dog needs to be treated for tapeworm, ‘not less than 24 hours and not more than 120 hours (1-5 days) before the scheduled time of entry into the UK’.
My French is not fantastic, and I wasn’t convinced it was up to a veterinary-themed conversation. However, our cottage owner was brilliantly helpful with locating a vet for us (one of the big benefits of dealing with the owners themselves, rather than a general rep, so there’s always a font of local knowledge at hand), and when the husband took on the task of calling and making our appointment from the UK before we left, we found to our amazement that the vet in Duras spoke English far better than we spoke French! On the day he was lovely, gave Blue a quick health check, gave her the tapeworm injection (she cried like a baby), and it cost us €55. Simples.
How Easy Is It To Take Your Dog To France?
It was incredibly easy, and the peace of mind we had for having her with us rather than relying on the kindness and patience of other people for the care of our baby elephant was invaluable.
Would we do it again? Absolutely.
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