Norfolk: A Place to Holiday with a Reactive Dog?

Norfolk: A Place to Holiday with a Reactive Dog?

There was a time when I thought that we would never be able to go on holiday again. Has anyone else felt like that?

We struggled for a long time to find a boarding kennel that we felt was the right set-up for our nervous (and soft) dogs and have never seriously entertained the idea of home boarding for a number of reasons – so taking our dogs with us on holiday was the only option we felt was open to us.

Whilst a lot has changed since those more stressful days, it still seems difficult to find holiday places that really suit us and our dogs.

Is it so shiny and fancy that we have the keep our dogs wrapped in clingfilm all the time? Does it have a truly secure garden? Are there really quiet local walks and good dog fields nearby to let off steam?

There is a hit list of things that we look for in holiday accommodation and that’s got bigger since we started – finding more things we like (and don’t) from the places we’ve stayed – put it this way, our expectations have changed somewhat. This is because we didn’t know what we were missing until we found East Ruston Cottages – a dog-friendly holiday cottage company in Norfolk.

Yes – this article will fan-girl this small Norfolk holiday business but they deserve the accolades they get. The owner-operator is Sue – a kindred spirit – something important if you have a reactive or challenging dog.

We recently took our second short break to the Norfolk coast with East Ruston and despite the first holiday being beyond all expectations, this one exceeded those expectations and set a new high bar.

It’s the Little Things

I’ll be honest – my first trip with the dogs to Norfolk was a solo trip that I’d scheduled to view 10 dog fields in just a few days and I was apprehensive.

I read the instructions (you get an amazing digital guide to your property) over and over and planned my trip in detail. I even did a Google satellite search on the property – a full reconnaissance mission! I know I’m not the only one who is this bonkers but it makes me feel more prepared – an important thing for reactive dog owners.

All this was well and good but it was the little unexpected things that impressed me the most. Holiday tags for the dog’s collars; a vast array of bowls; blankets; towels; stickers on the patio windows to reduce the chances of doggy concussion…. And wine. These are my people.

Was this a one-off? Nope. All the properties are managed with the same eye for detail and so I was unsurprised when arriving as a new property a year later, the same standards were upheld.

And the Big Things

The garden is by far the most important thing for me when looking at holiday accommodation. It has to be secure otherwise it doesn’t work for me. Our dogs need a little more containing than many so I’m a bit neurotic with the research. This is how much that matters to Sue – she suggested this cottage, I took it. I didn’t even ask for the details because she knew what we needed.

Dog Fields We Have Visited in Norfolk

Just as important as the accommodation are the local secure dog fields. If our dogs can’t run off their insane levels of energy before we try a beach or woodland walk, we are setting ourselves up for drama.

Over the years we’ve visited a lot of dog fields in Norfolk and this time we added reviews of two newly opened fields and one on the way home which broke up the journey.

Check out all the secure dog fields in Norfolk on our interactive map – you can click each one to find out more details:

BDF Tip: book well in advance – particularly if you’re going in the busier holiday times. We booked approximately 2 weeks ahead but managed to get a last-minute extra booking with the longer days.

The Beaches

The Beaches in Norfolk are some of the best in the country and you’d think that would make them problematic for reactive dog owners but in reality, they are far better than many beaches we’ve been to.

Top Tips for Choosing Norfolk Accommodation

A) Visit The Website: East Ruston Cottages

There are no doubt tonnes of great dog-friendly places in Norfolk but I understand why once people find East Ruston Cottages, they stick with them. So my first port of call would be to take a look at their website to see if there’s anything on there that takes your fancy. Whether you’re looking for something that will accommodate a multi-family holiday with more dogs than people or you’re looking for a completely isolated rural get-away and require a secure spot you are going to get lost browsing so grab a cuppa before you start.

Some have videos which is always helpful – see The Walnut in Happisburgh as an example.

B) Call Sue!

It’s all very well seeing reviews of the properties online and looking at pictures – you get a good impression but there’s no substitute for explaining (in detail) your needs to someone who knows every property inside and out.

Sue also took me on a whistle-stop tour of a few of the properties last year and what really struck me was the variety of properties available – from huge farmhouses to bouji beachfront properties – there’s a lot of choice – one we’ve put on our list is The Lobster in Eccles.

C) Join the Facebook Group

As well as really helpful live information (tides for example), you can use the group to search for pubs, walks, cafes etc…. there’s a wealth of information and intel on there and some of the folks on that group are ten years into East Ruston holidays so know a thing or two about the area.

D) Book a short break

If you are someone who like us, thought they would never take a family holiday with the dogs, I can highly recommend a short break. There’s less pressure and if you have a freak-out and want to go home, less lost. I can bet you your fears will be unfounded but it’s always nice to have a plan b.

E) Look for the Reactive Friendly properties

These are listed on the site – they tend to be in quieter locations and dig into the descriptions for what makes them particularly suitable.

Ask for more detailed pictures of the garden if you’re not sure about the fencing.

Our Most Recent Stay

A few nights at Farthing Cottage was on the cards. Having stayed previously at The Swallow (same property owner) I knew what to expect and a little about the village. The property itself is fabulous and has the all-important ‘properly secure’ garden. Here are a few pictures to give you a taste!

As well as the garden, the pros of this property are that it’s quiet, set back from any roads and there as no impossible or impractical rules to comply with – meaning no constant stressing about dogs on the sofa which we experienced at a recent stay in the West Country.

The things that might not suit everyone – the parking is not in an enclosed area so if like us getting out of the car can be a palaver, it’s best to prepare as they will need to go on leads before entering the house for safety (unless your those people with obedient dogs with bombproof recall!). The adjoining property is dog friendly so if it is occupied you may hear dogs in the garden next door.

As this was a whistle-stop tour we didn’t venture much out of the area but Saturday fish and chips on the seafront after a good runaround at Walcott Dog Park down the road was just the ticket.

All in all a fabulous few days.  

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