There are few Australian celebrities that are so universally loved, that have courted so little controversy, and that are so helpful when deciding on the perfect colour matches. But did you know that the Dulux Dog is a really keen caravanner, and often takes her owner, Sue, on trips across Australia in their Kimberley Kruiser? So, we caught up with Sue Hincks to see what it’s like travelling with an Aussie hero.
ROAM: So, who is the Dulux Dog?
Sue: Well, I’ve had a variety of them. I first started doing commercials for them back in 1972. I haven’t done all of them, but I’ve done a majority of the commercials in Australia with different dogs. They’re all pretty well related in some way, a mother, father, son, daughter, cousin. The current one, Skye, is probably the first one who’s got a lot more grey in her ears than the others. She’s a bit of a character, so she has fey behaviours that really appeal to Dulux. She’s done the last three commercials for them.
Skye’s four-and-a-half years old now, and she’s actually sitting at home expecting her first litter. So, we’ll have little Skyes soon! It takes a few years to train them up to be able to have the behaviours they need, and then for each commercial there might be something you actually need to teach them specifically. So usually you take something they already know and work onwards with that. They end up having quite a repertoire of things they can do.
We also have Toby, a young male who’s fourteen months old. He’s started his basic training and travelled with us down to Victoria.
ROAM: Tell me about the travel you do with your dogs?
Sue: We take them away quite a bit. She’s goes with us in the caravan when we’re not going to somewhere we can’t take a dog. As much as we can they’ll travel with us. We haven’t had to make the decision yet that the dog’s got to stay or go depending on where we’re travelling, but I guess there’s some places I’d rather not have a dog with us when we travel. So we have our trips with them and our trips without them.
ROAM: The Dulux Dog, Skye, is a bonafide celebrity, wouldn’t she rather holiday at Monaco or along the French Riviera, or something like that?
Sue: Like most dogs, she would rather be with us. So, wherever we are, that’s just fine. Because I travel with them to dog shows as well, my car is actually very well set up for a dog to be in. So if we want to go to a restaurant or something, I can park the car in a cool spot and lock the cage up and still have plenty of airflow in there, so I’m quite comfortable leaving the dogs there and knowing they are safe.
ROAM: When you do take the dogs on caravanning trips, where are some of the places you go. What are some of the places the dogs really enjoy?
Sue: We’ve been out around Parkes and Oberon, up around Coffs Harbour, often we’ll go and visit friends on the outskirts of Brisbane or the outskirts of Adelaide, and we’ve just been down to the Mornington Peninsula. We haven’t taken them into the Flinders Ranges as yet, but we’ve sourced some places we could. I’m very wary of going to places where there is dog bait around. That’s a real big difficulty, and so that’s one of the places we have been hesitant to visit.
ROAM: Does Skye get recognised at camp? Are people surprised to see the Dulux Dog in a campsite?
Sue: Yes, they are. Often, we’ll have people tell us it looks like the Dulux Dog, and when we say it is, they’re shocked. They think we’re joking. But there’s not many of those dogs around that are in full coat like that, so it doesn’t take them long to realise. In Ballina once, stopped in the caravan park, some kids asked if it was the Dulux Dog and immediately googled it. They looked on their phones and finally believed us. They had a lovely time playing with her.
ROAM: Is all that hair an issue in the Aussie bush or travelling around Australia?
Sue: Yeah, it can be. You usually watch out for a lot of bindies and all that and avoid them. Some of them are a little hard to get out, and because we show the dogs, I’m a little wary of what that’ll do to their coats, but it’s only a slight issue. Mud’s more of an issue, because although she’s not supposed to get on the bed, if we turn our back or sometimes when we’re not in there and we come back to find her up there and with muddy feet that’s a big no-no! But I also have a few fences and cages, so when we are caravanning they’ve got a comfort area and I know they are safe around us without being tied up. To me, if you are travelling with a dog, it’s important that it’s not roaming around or causing trouble or annoying other campers, because not all of them love dogs.
ROAM: I’m trying to choose the right colour for the interior of my old Viscount. Can Skye help me choose between Vanilla Ice Quarter or Sea Breeze Half?
Sue: There’s a grey colour that she really likes. She had to pick a grey colour out of the sky, so if either of those colours have some grey in it, she’ll probably agree.
ROAM: Have you always camped with your dogs?
Sue: They’ve always travelled with us. If it was possible to travel with them, and safe to take them and if we were camping, they would go with us.
ROAM: Does travelling with the dogs prove challenging?
Sue: We’re usually wary of what the weather will be. If it’s going to be exceedingly hot, we’d avoid that sort of area. Other than that, the restrictions of national parks can be a bit of a problem. We were going to go to Western Australia, at one point, and the route we were going to take had a lot of dingoes around, which was a little bit of a concern. I think we could have managed it, but in the end the decision was taken away from us as we had something else come up and couldn’t go.
ROAM: When anyone is preparing to travel with a pet, should they get them ready for it by training them to do certain things?
Sue: Yes, definitely. It must be comfortable in the car. Basic training is also important. They must know how to sit and stay when meeting people, and they must be social dog. I wouldn’t like to travel with a dog that was aggressive to people or other dogs. As far as in the car, most dogs normally settled down, if they’ve been travelling since they were puppies. Of course you want them to walk on a lead nicely because in Australia most places require it by law. I actually don’t really like stopping at these dog friendly parks because I find that some people who go to those don’t have dogs that are well trained and aren’t social.
Apart from that, I make sure I can get their normal food for them, wherever we are going, and I make sure all their heart-worm and medication is up to date. And because our dogs drink tank water, I would take their own water with us, or buy bottled water on the way, as I find new water leads to upset stomachs.
ROAM: Is there a flight risk taking a dog to a big open space like a caravan park of campsite? How do you deal with that?
Sue: If the dog’s trained and it’s a good dog, it’s not going to leave you. If there’s any instance of a chase, like if there’s a lot of prey around, I’d be taking a long, strong lead, (like a lunging lead for a horse) so if it saw a kangaroo or it saw an emu in the distance and it took off you’d be able to stop it before it did so. And even if there was something on the ground you were aware of, like a snake, you should be confident that if you call the dog it will come back instantly. If it’s likely to go investigate, you could have a problem a long way from a vet.
ROAM: You said that there’s often poorly behaved dogs in caravan parks and campsites. What can people do to make sure their pets are better behaved in those new social situations?
Sue: I think those people have to realise that not all dogs are friendly and not all dogs like another dog coming up and being in its face. And respect distance from another dog. Training your dog is vital and making sure it’s well socialised. Starting with puppy preschool training clubs and then to normal dog clubs, you’ll soon find out if it’s the sort that can get along with others. My own dogs, being used in a breeding program, especially the males, I have to be wary of other dogs because especially those with its neck and its tail up. But as long as it keeps its distance, it’s fine. But if the owner lets it come into my dog’s space it could be on, and that’s something I just find very difficult.
ROAM: What sort of things should people do to make sure the dog is safe and comfortable while travelling?
Sue: You can get a cage for the back of your vehicle that gives the dog as much room as possible. In both our cars this cage can come out if we need it to. It’s pretty good that I can leave the back of the car up, lock it down and lock the car and know that the dog can’t climb out a window, but there’s plenty of airflow. I also have some battery-operated fans, so if it is warm, I can add them to the back of the door and help airflow.
ROAM: What do you do about sleeping arrangements?
Sue: If you don’t have an area like that in the back of your car, or don’t have the dogs sleep in the caravan, like we often do, you can get folding metal cages that are quite secure and most dogs will be quite happy in there. You can get them used to being those cages so that it’s their space and becomes their kennel.
If it’s a dog that might tend to guard the caravan at night, I’d be sleeping it inside so you’ve got more chance of being able to just tell it to be quiet if it barks after hearing something. If it was an area with a lot of snakes, then yes, the dogs would be inside with us, or up in the car.
ROAM: What sort of mistakes do you see other pet owners make when travelling with them?
Sue: Most people I see travelling are fairly responsible. There’s the odd one that’ll just let them walk around with the lead off around the campsites. If there’s no other dog there, that’s usually not a problem, though. In different states the laws are a bit tougher and people can get in trouble for very minor things if someone complains. You have to be aware that not everyone likes dogs. And you absolutely must clean up after your dog or I’ll race over and embarrass you.
ROAM: We’ve talked a lot about the practice and challenges of travelling with a dog. But what are some of the greatest pleasures of travelling with them?
Sue: Oh, having your mate with you and being able to enjoy them, like if there’s a beach you can have them off lead and running around, or going for a swim with them in the river. Being able to pick up the ball and play with that. And I’m sure they enjoy it. You can see their faces when we pack the car and the disappointment if they’re not coming along. Often when we’ve come back they’ll sulk for a couple of days.
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