Dogs and travel anxiety
Our dogs trust us but sometimes they simply don´t like something they’re going to have to do. Travelling can be one of the things that dogs hate the most.
Your best friend doesn’t understand you’re taking them with you on holiday or out for a day trip for their enjoyment. All they know is that they have to get into that little metal box and it’s not going to be fun.
So what can you do if travelling with your dog is unavoidable? This article will show you how to help a dog with travel anxiety, so everyone has a relaxing time.
Why do dogs suffer from travel anxiety?
Whilst some dogs love a trip out in the car, on a train or bus others have an enormous fear of travelling.
Dog travel anxiety can be because the animal doesn´t understand what is happening and may associate travelling with a previous bad experience. They may have been sick on a past journey or have been left alone, not knowing if their owner will return.
Just like people, dogs can suffer from travel sickness. Whilst this may be due to an imbalance in the inner ear, it could also be from habit. Your dog remembers they don´t like going in the car and their reaction is to vomit. They’re not doing this on purpose, it’s just their way of showing they’re not happy.
Another reason for dog anxiety in car travel could be that your dog has been in a road accident. You may not be aware of this if it happened before you became their owner and they may have suffered physical and emotional trauma.
If your dog has the free run of the house, they could be scared of being in the small space of a vehicle as they can´t escape. This feeling is similar to a human panic attack when we experience the ‘fight or flight’ syndrome. All dogs should be restrained in a moving vehicle for their own safety, but they may find the dog seat belt or cage restricting and try to escape.
A previous trip to the vet may also be a reason your dog feels stressed about travel. They might associate going anywhere near the car with pain or a distressing experience. If they don´t like the vet or the car you have a double problem to deal with.
One of the other main reasons travel can be a problem for dogs is that they can link it with being separated from you. This could be due to a stay at the kennels or with friends when you’ve been on holiday in the past. A little patience and understanding will be needed to convince your dog they’re lucky to be coming with you this time.
The signs of dog travel anxiety
As well as being sick a dog may show other signs of not wanting to join you on the trip. These can be:
- severe shaking
- pulling on the lead
- running away and hiding
- putting their tail between their legs
- becoming aggressive and even biting
- incessant barking
- panting excessively
Learn to recognise these signs and make the journey a fun event, rather than something that will cause stress for everyone. You’ll need patience, but your pet will eventually get over their dog anxiety while travelling.
How to help your dog overcome their travel anxiety
There will be times when your dog has to travel in the car or on public transport, whether to visit the vet or for a longer trip. If your dog is happy, you’ll be happy too so it’s important to do all you can to get your dog used to travelling. Here are some ideas to help calm dogs with travel anxiety:
Practise with short trips
The objective is to get your dog to love travelling and see it as a treat. If you’re taking them on holiday with you, or on a long journey, a few short trips out before the big day should help to alleviate their fears. Keep the window open so they get plenty of air and can sniff the exciting new smells.
Stop for plenty of breaks
Break the journey up into chunks so your dog knows they’re going to be stopping for a comfort break and run around. If they aren´t prone to travel sickness give them a couple of small treats each time you stop, to reward them for good behaviour. Don´t forget to always offer your dog water at every stop.
Keep feeding to a minimum
If you’re heading on a road trip and are likely to be driving for a long time, it’s a good idea to only give your dog a small amount of food before you leave. Or better, don´t feed them until you arrive at your destination. Even if your dog doesn´t suffer from travel sickness they may still get an upset tummy if they travel soon after eating.
Coax your dog into the car gently
If your dog starts trembling the moment you get near the vehicle give them a treat when they get to the door. Don´t force them in but allow them to enter in their own time. This could take a while and you may need to practise before the journey. Give them another treat when they jump in the car. If you have a small dog lift them in slowly. Speak calmly to encourage them to enter the vehicle and praise them when they’re in.
Don’t make your dog wait
If you’re going on a long trip, make sure everything is packed before your anxious dog gets in. Loading luggage around a dog can make them feel even more stressed. Even though they’ll be strapped in or in a cage make sure they have plenty of space around them to see what’s going on. If they’re travelling in a dog car seat or cage give them a familiar blanket or item of clothing that smells of you. Don’t use toys or chews when travelling as there is a risk of choking.
What to give dogs for travel anxiety?
If you’ve tried all the above but your dog still appears anxious you may be asking, ‘What can I give my dog for travel anxiety?’ You may even be worried that they will harm themselves or break out of the cage or seatbelt while you’re driving. This could be potentially very dangerous to the passengers and your pet.
To solve this problem you may wish to consider medication. There are plenty of medications available to calm your dog before travelling. Created especially for nervous dogs, these medications can be natural or prescribed by your vet.
Using a natural medicine will avoid side effects, such as vomiting and should relax your dog without them feeling sleepy.
A good ingredient for dog travel anxiety medication is Lactium®. This milk-derived product is completely natural and an ideal way to soothe your dog in a gentle way. Used in combination with the advice above Lactium® can be indispensable when it comes to travelling with an anxious dog. To discover which products contain Lactium® and may help your dog with its anxiety please contact us.
Find out about helping a dog with anxiety and the use of Lactium® here.