Sometimes it is just unavoidable that you have to travel with your dog. You can’t leave it home alone and dog kennels aren’t exactly great. However, many dogs do suffer from travel anxiety, and that’s no fun.
How do deal with dog travel anxiety is what we are going to be discussing in this article.
Try to Be With the Dog a Lot
One thing that will help reduce anxiety in your dog during traveling is if you can spend as much time with the dog as possible.
When it comes to car travel, this could be as simple as having two people in the car. Obviously, one person needs to be driving the car, but the passenger could sit in the back with the dog.
Having somebody familiar close to the dog, somebody who can pet and soothe the dog will go a long way in relieving anxiety.
However, this gets a bit more difficult when airline travel is involved. It might not be a problem for smaller dogs, because most airlines will allow smaller dogs to travel in the passenger cabin with their owners.
However, this is a much bigger issue for larger dogs, which in most cases will be required to travel in the cargo hold.
Therefore, if you have a large dog breed, if possible, traveling by car is going to be the better option. When it comes to long flights, dogs in cargo holds will most likely suffer from fairly severe anxiety.
Get Your Dog Used to Being Crated
Usually, the No. 1 thing that is going to cause anxiety in dogs when traveling is when they need to be in a crate.
In most cases, your dog will need to be in a crate or in a carrier. It is never a good idea to let a dog roam free in a moving car. This can be very dangerous for the dog, especially if the driver has to hit the brakes real fast; a free-roaming dog in a car can also be a danger and may cause accidents due to distracted driving.
Moreover, when it comes to airline travel, whether the dog is traveling in the passenger cabin or in the cargo hold, a crate is usually always required.
Seeing as crates and carriers are very often a source of anxiety for dogs, you will need to get your dog accustomed to the carrier well before you plan on travelling.
It’s a good idea to crate train your dog well before planning to go on any kind of trip that will require your dog to be crated for the duration.
Crate training a dog is not overly difficult. Simply start by keeping the crate in a room in your home for a few days, and make sure the door is open. Place the doggy bed or blanket near the crate and keep moving it closer to the crate over the period of a couple weeks.
Eventually, you should be able to put the blanket or bed in the crate, and the dog should go in there of its own accord. If your dog does go in the crate on its own, never lock the door on it.
Remember, this is supposed to be fun and relaxing for the dog, not a punishment. A good idea is to start with the roof of the crate detached, and then over time, as your dog gets used to the crate, put the lid on it.
Exercise Prior to and Whole Traveling
If you have a dog that is prone to travel anxiety, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to start traveling without having first exercised the dog.
A dog that doesn’t have much energy and is tired from exercise is going to be a lot less anxious during travel. Here we are not talking about a quick walk around the block.
Instead, you want to do something like throwing a ball repeatedly or going for a heavy run, something that will really drain the dog of energy.
Moreover, if you are going on a very long trip, don’t do the whole journey in one go. The longer your dog is trapped in the crate without being let out, the worse that anxiety is going to get.
So, try to let the dog out for a good walk or even a run every couple of hours at the least. This will help drain the dog of energy and keep the anxiety to a minimum.
Try to Maintain Comfortable Travel Conditions
Ok, so maintaining comfortable travel conditions for your dog is going to be near impossible if you are traveling on an airplane.
However, if you plan on traveling by car, there are a few things you can do to control the environment and make it as comfortable as possible for your dog.
To avoid unneeded anxiety, one thing you should never do when traveling with your dog in a car is to listen to music, especially at high volumes.
Dogs don’t know what music is and it will make them nervous. Furthermore, just try to maintain a decent temperature in the car, which for a dog means not too hot, plus cracking a window for increased air circulation doesn’t hurt.
Treats and Feeding
The next thing to consider when traveling with a dog which suffers from travel anxiety is feeding.
Now, bringing along a couple of your dog’s favorite treats will help cut down on anxiety, just something tasty they can munch on and keep themselves occupied with, such as a bone. Food always seems to help, and this true for dogs and people alike.
However, something you do not want to do if you have a dog with travel anxiety is to feed them a large meal or give them lots of water before a trip.
This is especially important when it comes to long trips. Anxious dogs with lots of food and drink in them, when it comes to trips, are likely to get ill, or may vomit or suffer from diarrhea in the car, and nobody wants that.
So, give your dog a little something, but don’t feed it a large meal before the trip. Large meals should be avoided for at least 6 hours before any prolonged journey.
No, it probably won’t help reduce anxiety, for but for anxious dogs, it will help prevent them from making a smelly mess in the car.
Something that will help reduce travel anxiety in dogs is if you bring along familiar items from home. Anything that will remind your dog of the comforts of home is fine, and the more the better. This means that you should bring along some of your dog’s favorite toys and a its blanket too.
Just think about yourself and having anxiety. When you miss home, it always helps to have some reminders on hand. Putting a soft blanket, your dog’s blanket, complete with the smell of home and all, should help to reduce travel anxiety.
Try Some Practice Runs and Slowly Increase Duration
In terms of traveling with a dog, whether you know that it suffers from travel anxiety or not, something you should do is practice.
If you put your dog in a crate and go for a 12-hour drive right from the get-go, chances are that at some point, the dog will suffer from anxiety.
Therefore, it’s always a good idea to start with a drive around the block, then a couple hours, then half a day, and so on and so forth.
If your dog has never been on a long car trip before, if you start off too heavy in the beginning, the chances of your dog becoming anxious are much greater than if you ease into it over time.
Anti-Anxiety Medications, Pheromones, and Homeopathy
Finally, to help reduce travel anxiety, something else you can try doing is using medication or homeopathic options.
Here we are not going to get into specific options, but there are plenty of light tranquilizers and anxiety-reducing medications which a vet can prescribe for extreme cases.
However, it is recommended that you try all other options before resorting to medications.
On that same note, many people also swear by homeopathic or natural anxiety-reducing foods and treatments, something else you could look into.
Some people even attempt to use pheromones, which can be purchased for this exact kind of thing. Once again, this would be a last resort, but for people who have dogs with extreme travel anxiety, it might be an option.
The fact of the matter is that many dogs suffer from travel anxiety, especially young dogs who have never gone through the process before.
Therefore, anything and everything you can do to make your dog feel more comfortable should be done. It will make it much easier on your dog and on you as well.