Top tips for taking a nervous dog on holiday
Vacations are a great opportunity to relax and unwind, but for dog owners leaving their beloved pets behind, they can be a source of stress. 36% of people feel less anxious with their dog by their side, so for many the prospect of a pet-free holiday is not a happy one. If you opt to take your dog with you on holiday, you face the challenge of introducing them to new environments that they might find overwhelming. To prepare for a vacation with an anxious dog, try these four tips to make the process as calm as possible.
Choose the right accommodation
Noise sensitivity is the biggest cause of canine anxiety, so you can minimise stress for your pet by making sure that your holiday accommodation is quiet. This might mean avoiding inner-city apartment buildings or hostels with shared spaces. You will also want to make sure that any outdoor space is fully enclosed, with high, secure fences so your dog can’t escape if they get spooked.
Take rest stops during travel
If you know your dog is a nervous traveller you’ll want to choose a destination that isn’t too far from home, and plan plenty of stops along the journey so that they have time to stretch their legs and relax. After each pit stop, you may want to offer treats to serve as positive reinforcement, and help them to feel more comfortable with the process of getting in and out of the car.
If you have a particularly long journey ahead of you, you’ll want to prepare well in advance. You could do this by creating visual barriers in your vehicle, in order to see if overstimulation is the source of your pet’s stress. Alternatively you could try removing visual barriers, such as providing a booster seat to a small dog so that they can see out the window, as some dogs may feel calmer when they have external distractions to focus on.
Take your dog’s bed and some familiar items
Sometimes pet-friendly rentals will provide dog beds, but to help your dog to feel at home, it’s best to take their usual bed with you. Their bed will smell like them, like you, and like home, which will help them to feel more comfortable. You may also want to consider putting the bed in a quiet corner where they can have a view of you, since they’ll likely want to stay as close to you as possible. It can also be helpful to bring your dog’s favourite toys or a blanket from home – dot them around the room to help your dog to see the area as a safe space.
Maintain your usual routine as much as possible
You’re likely to have a daily routine with your pet when it comes to food, exercise, bathroom breaks and bedtime. This works well because routines help dogs to predict what’s going to happen next, which creates a sense of security. For this reason, it’s best to avoid any significant, sudden changes to your dog’s routine that may cause them to feel nervous. Try instead to follow your usual routine as much as possible on your vacation to help your pet to settle into their new environment.
Holidays with dogs don’t need to be stressful
The more you travel with your dog, the less afraid they will become of new experiences – and the more wonderful adventures you’ll be able to share together.