It can be a rite of passage here in Australia to at some point pack up your life into a van and head off to do the big lap. And many people who make the decision to head out on the road also find themselves faced with another hard question…. do I take the dog?

It can be hard to leave our furry loved ones behind, but what is it really like to travel in Australia with dogs? I have been following the travels of Ben and Emily as they have spent a year and a half making their way across the country with their Blue Heeler Sam in a Toyota Landcruiser and writing about the experience for their blog, Keeping up with the Kendall’s. Along the way they couldn’t resist adopting Oak, a camp dog from Alice Springs.

With not one, but two large dogs in tow, I asked Emily a few questions about what its really like to travel in Australia with your fur children:

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Travel Australia with Dogs

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First up, a single Land cruiser is not a lot of space, where do you all sleep?

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The cruiser is custom made to include a canvas canopy which is where the boys are tied in and it’s now where they sleep, too. 

They used to sleep with us in the camper trailer when we had it, but now we have the rooftop tent, they know their dog box is their bed.

They love it in there, they get a nice duvet and they know the Ute is their safe place. Ben is very industrious and knew exactly what he wanted to do with the Ute to fit it out for two dogs. It took some time to train Oak to get used to the Ute, but now he knows it’s his home, he’s fine. 

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Got any tips for keeping them healthy and happy on the road?

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Just embracing the good with the bad. It’s not always going to be easy, and you will always come across people and places that don’t like or allow dogs, but it’s just tackling each situation as it arises. 

Our boys love a good run, fetch, and having a cool off in the water so we always try to find areas that allow us to do that. 

We find they thrive on routine, so ensuring we’re giving them similar experiences everyday keeps them happy and comfortable (and of course giving them their spot on the camp chair helps)

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Travel Australia with Dogs

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What would be the main things you want people to be aware of if they decide to go travelling with their dogs?

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It will restrict what you can do, you NEED to plan ahead. There are always options where dogs are concerned, so just plan as best you can and take the good with the bad. For us, the good far outweighs the bad and we just embrace each day as it comes. 

The dogs really enrich our lives and remind us how important it is to find joy in the small things and simply live in the present. 

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You say planning ahead is important, are there any websites or guides that you have found particularly helpful to find information on dog friendly areas, camps, accommodations or attractions?

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We follow ‘travel Australia with dogs’ which is a good one on Facebook and Instagram, we also use WikiCamps. Select the ‘dog filter’ so you can check out what accommodation allows your furry mates in advance.

We do find Instagram brilliant in finding and linking with other families doing what we’re doing. It’s a great way to share information and tips on the best places to go with them.

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Travel Australia with Dogs

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What are some of the best parts about travelling with your dogs?

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Dogs take you to places you’d never usually visit. They remind you to live in the present and experience the sheer joy of the world around us. They remind us to find beauty and joy in the small things, and they are always so happy to experience things alongside you.

They’re also brilliant at getting you moving and exercising, and we always meet amazing people when we’re at a dog park or dog beach. They’re a great conversation starter.

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What are some of the worst parts of travelling with dogs?

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It can get restricting when you want to do normal things like going out for dinner or seeing a movie and you are worried about leaving them, but it’s just adapting a routine that pleases everyone. We feel comfortable leaving the boys in the Ute for a short time knowing they will be ok and will be cool and comfortable. 

Mainly though, the biggest issue is getting out into the national parks, which of course none allow dogs. In fact, we did the beginning of the trip without Sammy (our heeler) and then Ben’s folks met up with us at Uluru to hand him back over. We did 3 months without dogs so we could make the most of the national parks, particularly in NSW. 

Since having them both with us again, our experience has been a bit all over the place for national parks. We have done it all – left them in the car park, paid a dog sitter, left them with family and friends, and tag-teamed the attraction so someone is always with the dogs. We’ve even snuck into a national park and left them in the car just so we could go get a quick photo (yes, shame, I know). Here’s what we’ve learnt:

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  • Always speak to the local Tourist Information Centre first. These guys have been so helpful in suggesting dog sitters or arrangements for your pooch when you want to visit a national park. We’ve even had info centres hand over lists of people who are happy to look after your dogs, and sometimes they even have kennel facilities.
  • Hire a dog sitter. Again, self-explanatory, but it’s a simple, sure fire way to ensure your doggy will be safe and looked after. If you are having trouble finding someone, try Mad Paws – an online site dedicated to linking you with locals who can watch your pets
  • Leave with friend or family. Plan ahead and find out who you know in the local area. Put a shout out on social media. Peoples’ kindness might surprise you.
  • Tag-team. Ben and I did this at Kalbarri. Ben really wanted to see the ‘nature’s window’ and we couldn’t find a single person to watch the dogs. I decided to stay behind with them so Ben could go and enjoy the national park. A bit of give and take might be necessary.
  • Make friends with your neighbours. We’ve done this too! It’s amazing what you’ll learn about people if you’re willing to have a chat at the local caravan park or campsite. You’d be surprised how many people would be willing to watch your pooches if you’re willing to get to know them and offer something in return (a beer or $20 perhaps?) Some legends will even do it for nothing. It’s just about striking up that relationship first. We’d always be happy to watch other pooches. I’m sure we’re not the only ones.

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Travel Australia with Dogs

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Is there any states or areas around Australia that cater to dogs more?

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We have been surprised by Australia. We knew it would be a challenge, but we must have been prepared for the worst because we’ve found every state welcoming in its own way.

We have found the Northern Territory has been the most relaxed when it comes to dogs, but even places like Perth - which has incredible dog beaches - cater to dogs in their own way.

We’ve noticed places have become more dog friendly over time, and we’re thankful for that. Before arriving in WA, we were told the state wasn’t overly welcoming, but again we didn’t find it an issue. Plenty of off leash parks and beaches to check out, and plenty of places to stay.

I suppose the less-populated states have been the easiest to navigate with dogs, and we find the general public is more welcoming toward them too.

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Do the pros outweigh the cons?

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We say this often. While it’s difficult and takes a bit of work, we wouldn’t have it any other way. There will always be people out there who don’t like dogs for whatever reason, there are just as many who do. We’ve met wonderful people on the road because they wanted to come over and have a chat and pat our pups.

It’s important to tackle travelling with dogs with your eyes wide open, and to always be a responsible pet owner who is aware of their surroundings and of their pup’s own needs.

Oak and Sam brighten every one of our days, and we just love taking them around this brilliant country. While the challenges can be a deterrent, you must remember that the pros will always outweigh the cons.

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Travel Australia with Dogs

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And anything else you think is important to know?

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Don’t feel like you must miss out because you have a dog with you. It may take a little planning, but there are always options. If you want your furry mate with you, just do it!

As they say, where there is a will, there is a way, and at the end of the day, your dog is over the moon to just be in your presence so don’t feel like you need to give them the world. They’re just happy to be with you. 

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Travel Australia with Dogs