Travel anxiety in dogs stems from the fear of not understanding what is happening. If you are going to introduce your dog to an unfamiliar form of travel, you may find your pup suffering with some degree of fear or anxiousness — but there are lots of ways to help.
"Lockdown and then returning to work made a lot of dogs develop anxiety, especially separation anxiety when away from their owners, and many dogs are nervous travellers too," Shannon Keary, Digital PR Manager at Canine Cottages, says.
While some dogs love going for car trips, others are less than thrilled. Signs your dog may be feeling anxious about travelling on a long journey include:
Licking and biting
Ears pinned back
1. Choose your location carefully
Many dogs experience a combination of motion sickness and travel anxiety. When planning your summer staycation, it's a good idea to search for quieter locations away from busy areas that are not too far away. If you're renting a property, consider choosing a cottage hidden away in the countryside with plenty of room for them to run around.
2. Never leave your dog alone when travelling
You should never leave your dog unattended in a car, even on cool days. "When travelling to your destination, one of the most important rules is to make sure you never leave your dog alone in the car," Janine Pemberthy, Canine Behaviour and Training Manager at Battersea Dogs and Cats, says.
"Even with a window cracked open, cars become extremely hot in the summer, and it can take just 15 minutes for a dog to suffer from fatal heatstroke. Even in cooler months, leaving your dog alone can leave them vulnerable to theft, so never leave them unaccompanied."
3. Take plenty of water and treats
You can help reduce your dog's car anxiety by packing tasty treats and plenty of water. If you are traveling for many hours, ensure you are giving your dogs enough breaks and lots of snacks. Don't forget to reward them with treats if they are being good, too.
4. Create a safe space for your dog
From the car to your destination, create a safe space for your dog to relax. Some dogs can find new environments stressful, so don't forget to pack their favourite toy, blanket or food bowl to create a sense of familiarity.
"Once you've arrived, create a safe, quiet space in a less busy part of the property. This can be made with bedding, blankets and toys brought from home which will smell familiar and help reassure them that everything is OK," Janine adds.
"Make sure you're giving your dog plenty of love and cuddles which will also help them relax in the unfamiliar environment too."
5. Choose your accommodation well
When choosing the location for your next holiday, it's not just scenery and local hotspots that you need to consider: research whether it's something suitable for your furry friend too. Anxious dogs can sometimes run away when they are scared, so choose a location with an enclosed garden that is away from busy roads.
"If your dog is used to carpets rather than slippery wooden boards, choose a cottage with fluffy, carpeted flooring so it feels more like their space," Janine explains. "And if your dog sleeps in the corner of the room when at home, then find a cosy corner spot for the dog bed too."
6. Make time for walks
It's no surprise that dogs love walks no matter where they are. A great distraction for anxious pooches, exercise helps to release the feel-good chemicals in dogs, provides mental stimulation and offers the chance for socialisation.
Janine recommends keeping your dog on a long-line lead: "It's a good idea to make sure any dog has a solid recall, and will reliably come back to you when called, but this can be especially important with nervous dogs, especially before you head out and about together in new locations."
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