August 12, 2018
Calming an Anxious Dog on Vacation
Many dog owners come to think of their K9 friends as an essential part of their families. For some of us, our dogs are our closest friends, for others, they are our children’s first friends. Either way, our dogs are as much as part of our families as the human members. We love them, we enjoy them, we confide in them, we take comfort from them, and we need their companionship. They are more than pets. They are our very best friends. Loyal and loving, dogs are fabulous, and many families simply wouldn’t be the same without their furry friends.
So, it’s only natural that we should want to take our dogs on holidays with us. When it comes to smaller animals, they can be transported without much fuss, for example, a hamster can run around on its wheel anywhere. Taking a dog away with you is different. Although it makes the trip complete, there are more considerations to take into account, but we simply wouldn’t enjoy ourselves as much without them. Your dog will love the change of scenery too. They’ll have new toys to play with, new people to pay them attention and new locations to explore. They’ll love it, and their excitement and enjoyment are infectious. But, what should you do if your dog is a little anxious?
Like people, dogs are all different. Some, love going to new places and have no trouble at all settling in when sleeping in a different place. Others, struggle. They feel anxious and afraid. They find it hard to settle and stay calm. As an owner, this can be frustrating. Your usual loving and gentle dog can suddenly bark more, have trouble controlling their bladder, go off their food, snap at people or shy away from attention. But, you shouldn’t let this stop you from taking them away if you want to or need to. Instead, find ways to help your dog adjust and relax in their new surroundings. So that you can all have a fantastic trip together, as a complete family, without feeling as though someone has been left behind.
Remember, it’s Normal
Even the calmest, most easy-going dogs can get a little nervous or overexcited when it comes to travelling somewhere new. It’s important to remember that this is normal. You might find that a dog that you’d expect to be calm and happy suddenly becomes nervous and upset. A dog that often gets upset in new situations might completely surprise you and love every second. You might even find that their mood and temperament changes. A quiet and shy dog might suddenly become playful and excited, or a usually excitable dog might spend their time sitting quietly looking around, taking it all in. Remind yourself that these changes are only temporary and merely give your dog the time that they need to adjust.
Don’t Get Angry
The very worst thing that you can do is to get angry. Remember, in many ways dogs are very much like children. They find change frightening and scary. If they are upset, you getting mad at them will only make things worse. Think of them as a child, be understanding of their needs and don’t get angry if they are louder or more unsettled than usual. Stay calm, speak to them in a quiet and soothing voice, and try to stick to a routine as much as possible.
Give Them Lots of Attention
Again, like children, our dogs love attention. Especially when they are in a new situation or location. Your dog might be worried that you are leaving them, especially if your vacation means spending time apart or introducing them to new people. They might fear that this is their new home without you.
Reassure them with lots of cuddles and stroking, lots of playtime and long walks alone. Try to give them plenty of love and attention, so they know that all that has changed is your location. If you are staying with family or friends that aren’t used to your dog, or around a lot of strangers, it’s often a good idea to introduce them slowly. Start with a hello and walk together. Then, let them stroke and offer more affections as your dog becomes more relaxed. Back off if it all seems too much and let your dog’s responses guide you.
Take Home Comforts
Home comforts are an excellent way to make a different setting feel more like home and to normalise the experience. Large dog beds are often perfect if you travel by car. They give your dog a comfortable bed for the journey and help them to feel more comfy and settled in your accommodation. It’ll smell like home and quickly help them to feel safe. You could also take their usual lead, favourite toys and snacks and even the towels and blankets that they are around at home.
Find the Right Location
Of course, your choice of destination is limited if you are taking a pet. Not all hotels and resorts allow animals. But, there are plenty that do. Lots of campsites accept dogs, have plenty of dog-friendly facilities and are great places to relax with animals. Caravan parks and even some hotels also allow pets. Just make sure you check before you book. It’s also worth looking into the local area. Are there plenty of open spaces nearby for walks and exercise? Are there dog-friendly eateries and attractions? Make sure there is a lot that you will be able to do. Especially if you are also travelling with children.
It’s not just the holiday itself that can cause anxiety and upset. Lots of dogs are nervous about travel. Start taking your dog out in the car more beforehand, to try and normalise car travel and get them used to the sensation and sounds. You might want to offer them treats to make it an exciting experience, and make sure that you don’t go far straight away. You might even want to just sit with them in the car without moving the first few times, then slowly start increasing time in the car. Whatever you do, never force them in, and always make sure they can get comfortable.