Some dogs seem to be full of wanderlust – approaching each new adventure with confidence and gusto. Such dogs are a joy to travel with! However, we are not all so lucky to have canine companions that look forward to leaving the comforts of home.
When our pets dread hitting the road, it can hamper travel and close doors on opportunities to enjoy each other’s company. Whether you have a dog that is already anxious about travel, or you have a puppy that you want to train to enjoy new experiences, this article will explore some techniques to get your buddy in the mood to explore.
1. Associate car rides with good stuff.
Most journeys start in the car. If the only time your pooch gets in the car ends at the vet, then you are reinforcing a negative association with travel, priming your dog to start every trip on a sour note. Let’s face it, no one thinks going to the doctor is very fun, so why would we expect our dogs to look forward to that?
One of the most important things you can do to help your dog appreciate travel is to associate the car with as many positive experiences as you can.
- Make excuses to take your pal somewhere fun like the dog park or a pet store.
- Jump in the car and drive around the block with a handful of treats and reward often along the short route before returning home.
- Practice getting in and out of the car using clicker training to increase their confidence around the car.
2. Add canine adventure to every trip away from home.
When you are on the road, does your furry companion spend most of the time in a crate at the hotel? You can probably imagine this is not the kind of vacation that your fur buddy is going to look forward too.
When you are planning your trip, take some time to research dog friendly activities at your destination. It is particularly helpful to choose a few activities that will give your dog vigorous exercise so they can blow off some of that stress energy and relax back at the hotel.
For your next trip, look for:
- Nearby dog parks.
- Hiking trails.
- Pet stores that welcome visiting pets.
- Dog friendly restaurants.
- Dog days at local public swimming pools.
- Pet friendly attractions.
3. Bring all the comforts of home.
Make sure that you pack with your pup in mind. In particular, think about smells, comforts and favorite toys. When your dog has some familiar things in their environment, it can give them a sense of safety. In addition, be sure to leave some items of your clothing nearby if you have to leave your furry friend alone at the hotel.
- At least one blanket or bed your buddy sleeps on.
- Food and water dishes you use every day.
- 2-5 favorite toys.
- The crate if your pal is kennel trained.
4. Keep your own stress levels in check.
One of the most important things you can do to help your canine companion enjoy travel is to bring a good attitude to the experience. Dogs are extremely in tune with the emotional states of their pack leader. If you are bringing stress to the situation, then your pup is going to pick up on that and worry right along with you.
In some cases, this can be a downward spiral where a kind of stress feedback loop can really derail an enjoyable trip. Remember that you are setting the tone. Try to stay present and enjoy the journey for your dog’s sake.
5. Consult professionals if the issues are too severe for you to fix.
There is no harm in seeking help when a problem is beyond your skillset to address. Luckily, there are professionals that can help you with severe cases of pet travel anxiety.
There are two great reasons to start with your vet. The first is that they are able to prescribe safe and effective tranquilizers that can be an effective tool in addressing travel anxiety. Although pills are not a magic permanent solution, they can come in very handy for an emergency situation where travel is imperative.
Second, your veterinarian can probably recommend the right professional dog trainer in your locality. It can sometimes be difficult to find a great trainer that specializes in the kind of issues your dog is having. Your veterinarian can more than likely give you some great leads.
We hope this article has inspired you to help your furry friend get the most out of your travel adventures! Travel anxiety is something that can be addressed so that you and your dog can make the most of exploring new places.
Mat Coulton has worked with dogs for just under a decade and is the founder of WileyPup.com, a doggy lover’s website that provides great tips and advice for pet parents everywhere.