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How to take your dog on road trips and still visit National Parks

Here’s the dilemma . .

You love your dog . . . you want to take him with you on your big road trips . . . but dogs are definitely not allowed in National Parks, which just happens to be where a lot of the great places are you want to visit and camp are.

What do you do?

Having become dog owners ourselves a few years ago we can appreciate the problem.

Having Buddy the Dalmatian with us on our road trips is great. He loves travelling in the car and is adaptable enough to take each day as it comes.

It’s as much an adventure for him as it is for us and he definitely adds a lot to the fun of the trip for our girls.

But unfortunately dogs are not allowed in National Parks, even if you are visiting for the day.

This is obviously to protect the native wildlife and it makes sense, but it does make it tough for dog owners to take their dogs on road trips AND visit National Parks.

Buddy loves a road trip!

On our South Australian Outback Adventure trip last year we left Buddy at home with Jen because we were only going to be away for 3 weeks and we would be in National Parks most of the time so he just couldn’t come with us.

But if we were planning a longer trip, like The Big Lap for example, then we would want to take him with us.

The solution . . . Dog sitters.

Over the past few years we’ve seen the rise of dog sitting services where you can jump on the website and find a dog sitter and arrange with them through the site to look after your dog.

We use one called Mad Paws.

Finding this service has been liberating for us.

A couple of years ago we went on a cruise and left Buddy with a traditional dog boarding kennel for about 15 days.

They promised to look after him and assured us he would be a great hands but when we picked him up he was shattered.

Almost like a different dog than what we left behind.

He spent the next couple of days basically sleeping and being miserable before he finally forgave us and started to get his spark back.

We concluded that with so many dogs together all barking at all hours of the day and night, he just didn’t get any sleep and he also lacked the love and personal attention he gets at home.

There was no way we were going to do that to him again.

So that’s when we started to look at alternatives and discovered Mad Paws.

Mad Paws connects dog sitters with dog owners and acts as the intermediary to make sure everyone is happy. Similar to the way Airbnb works for holiday property rentals.

Dog sitters can charge whatever they like per day for their service so as a dog owner I can shop around until I find a sitter that looks suitable - location, environment, price and their track record.

Previous customers leave a review of their sitter which helps build confidence for us dog owners that our pooch is in good hands.

So for our next trip we decided to give Mad Paws a go and we found a young couple a few kilometres from our place who also had their own dog. We liked this idea because Buddy would have another dog to play with so it would be like a holiday for him as well.

We also liked that this couple walked their dog morning and night at the local park so Buddy would get plenty of exercise.

We contacted the couple through the Mad Paws site to confirm their availability then booked the service.

We even met with them at the park before we went on our trip so Buddy and their dog (Sampson) could have a play and get to know each other as well.

It turned out great.

While we were away, the couple sent us photos of Buddy each day which reassured us he was in good hands.

When we picked him up it was obvious he was happy and there were no issues at all.

So having discovered Mad Paws a couple of years ago we have now used the service more than 10 times from a few days at a time to a couple of weeks at a time.

We have several ‘preferred’ sitters who we use if they are available as we would rather leave Buddy with someone he and we know than someone new every time.

Prices per night vary from about $20 to over $50 which is comparable with the cost of the boarding kennel.

As Mad Paws has grown, so have the areas that they cover across Australia.

Doing a search for sitters in remote places outside of Melbourne and other cities and I’m finding an increasing number of sitters available.

For example in Darwin . . .

Let’s say you want to spend 5 days exploring Kakadu National Park . . find yourself a dog sitter in Darwin and your all set.

Want to explore Karijini National Park? There's a dog sitter in Newman, the closest town.

Heading out to Uluru for a few days . . find a sitter in Alice Springs.

So with just a bit of pre-planning you can find yourself a dog sitter to leave you dog with while you head out to explore the National Parks which means you get to have your dog with you on the rest of your road trip.

The best thing is that as the demand for dog sitters on Mad Paws continues to grow from all of us road trippers using the service, more sitters will jump on board from more locations and it will get easier and easier for us to find a sitter where and when we need one.

Everyone’s a winner!

So if you’re a dog owner and lover like us, give it a go.


NOTE - This is not a sponsored post and Mad Paws has not paid us anything to promote their service. We have used Mad Paws many times personally and can recommend the service.

Also read

6 tips for travelling with dogs

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Steve Baile
Steve Baile
I’m the founder of Expedition Australia, a writer, filmmaker & adventure travel junkie. Passionate about my family, health and fitness, hiking, 4WD touring, adventure motorbikes, camping and exploring as much of the planet as I can.


  1. We did a road trip years ago Brisbane to Perth and all in between had to take are dog we were relocating, we found when we wanting to go to national parks we put him in kennels couple of days did are trip then picked him up and carried on. The dog loved every bit of it from cocking his leg at Bondi Beach to chasing/ playing with dingos at Airs Rock.

        • I'd take it it is a National Park to start, so no dogs allowed, even if dogs were allowed, they'd have to be leashed, when we visited the Rock, there was literally hundreds of tourists, the last thing a tourist need is a dog running loose all over the place.

          As for dingoes, never saw one, dingoes tend to shy away from hordes of ppl unless the Rock has tamed one's, doubt it though and even if the above dog got even an inch in front of a dingo, I'd lay $50 odds on the dingo would win,

  2. Personal Attention – The quantity and quality of care time your pet Sitter gives your dog cannot be matched in a kennel.

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