How to Prevent Travel Anxiety in Dogs
There are a few stereotypes that come to mind when it comes to dogs and travel. The idea of a dog getting excited over a ride in the car, or just being able to go anywhere with their owner is the picture we’re often given. But, that excitement in dogs isn’t always the case. The prevention of travel anxiety in dogs is something that any owner with a worried or anxious dog needs to know.
- FACT – 3.5 million dogs suffer from travel anxiety disorder in America.
No matter your destination, keep your dog’s comfort in mind. Even if they seem like they might be ‘mellow’ at first, long journeys can trigger worry along the way. Whether it’s by plane or car, taking your dog with you on your travels can be a big test for both of you.
Why does my dog pant so much in the car? Do you fear that your dog might be showing more signs of worriedness? It’s important to know what you can do to alleviate their stress. Traveling with nervous dogs can make for a negative experience for everyone. You need to look out for the symptoms. Once you’re in the know, there are also plenty of solutions you can put in place to provide some comfort for your four-legged friend.
Table of Contents:
- 1 Advice on Preventing Travel Anxiety in Dogs
- 1.1 Dog Travel Anxiety Symptoms
- 1.2 Why Do Dogs Get Nervous When Traveling?
- 1.3 How to Calm Down Your Dog’s Travel Nerves
- 1.4 Hitting the Road or Skies with Your Dog
Advice on Preventing Travel Anxiety in Dogs
If you’re prone to getting car sick, or sick on a plane, you might have a better idea of why your dog feels so anxious. Dogs can be become car sick, too. So, it’s not always fair for us to assume they’ll be ‘fine’ with travel. Nerves pop up for a variety of different reasons. Identifying those reasons is the first step in alleviating your dog’s stress.
Before you can soothe your dog’s nerves, however, you have to know how to differentiate between excitement and worry. Keep in mind that traveling on a plane, and travel in a car can be very different experiences for your pet. They may react calmly toward one, but show concern toward another. However, the symptoms of anxious behavior should remain relatively consistent, no matter what. If a dog is uneasy, they’ll let you know one way or another. With that in mind, knowing possible symptoms of stress can be a huge benefit.
Dog Travel Anxiety Symptoms
If you’re getting ready to hit the road or the skies, be aware of the following symptoms. If your dog is showing signs of more than one, there’s a good chance they’re nerves are taking hold. Be aware of when these behaviors start, and especially if they intensify on your travels. While most of them simply add extra stress, there are a few that can be harmful to your dog.
Most dogs pant regularly. But, if your dog is frantically panting as though they can hardly catch their breath, it’s a sign of anxiety. Keeping an eye on this behavior is important. Panting is a method dogs use to cool down their bodies. If your dog is under a lot of stress, they can become overheated and dehydrated easily. Be sure to have some water around to keep them hydrated if the panting becomes excessive.
Just like people, dogs can be restless when they’re uneasy. They’re also very intuitive and can pick up on things quickly. If you’re setting your dog up to travel, and you find they won’t stop pacing, there’s a reason for that. If your dog can’t sit still, it’s clear their worry is keeping them from doing so. A calm, happy dog doesn’t pace back and forth like a dog experience stress.
Shivering & Shaking
Shaking is not only a sign of anxiety but genuine fear in dogs. You may have more than just jitters on your hands if your dog is trembling at the idea of travel. They could be extremely frightened of the idea. This kind of fear tends to lean toward the idea that your dog associates travel with something traumatic.
Many dogs drool, but excessive drooling isn’t normal. This is a similar symptom to panting. Your dog could be drooling purely out of stress, or because their anxiousness is making them feel physically ill.
Some dogs are more vocal than others. Whether you have a dog that typically barks or not, if you find they’re exceptionally vocal before travel, take it as a sign that they’re trying to tell you something.
If you’ve ever been so nervous that you’ve given yourself a stomach ache, you can put yourself in your dog’s position. Anxiety can make your dog queasy, to the point of actually getting sick.
It’s a common stereotype to say pets urinate when they’re nervous. But, in many cases, it’s true. If your dog is housebroken and seems skittish enough to urinate, you know there’s a problem.
As a pet owner, you’ll likely be able to tell better than anyone if your dog’s behaviors are ‘off.’ Noticing these signs should be relatively easy. Your dog doesn’t want to hide the fact that they’re nervous or scared. Any one of these signs, or a combination, can be a clear indicator of nerves and fear.
Why Do Dogs Get Nervous When Traveling?
There are many different reasons as to why dogs experience travel anxiety. Sometimes, it’s nothing more than a personal issue. Some people are afraid to fly because they have a fear of the unknown. Dogs can be the same way when it comes to traveling in any capacity. Has your dog had any experience traveling in a car or plane? If not, it shouldn’t be far-fetched to assume they could have some unsteadiness about it, at least at first.
Some dogs will show fewer signs of nervous energy the more they travel. It can take some time to adjust. If your dog is new to traveling, and they seem anxious, try to ease them into it. It could simply be that they’re dealing with unfamiliar actions. After awhile, that restlessness could simply fade away as they become more experienced with travel.
If your dog is familiar with travel and still has some uneasiness, think about their past experiences. Many pet owners make the mistake of only traveling with their dogs when necessary. That essentially means trips to the vet, the groomer, etc. More often than not, those quick trips aren’t fun for the dog. If your pet associates traveling with going somewhere stressful or scary, they’re bound to get upset about it.
Some experiences and associations can be even more severe. If your dog has ever been in an accident or has been in a car that has had to jolt to a stop, they can carry that memory with them. A dog being jostled around while traveling isn’t that uncommon. That can be a traumatic experience that can induce plenty of tension and stress.
Again, you’re likely to know your dog’s specific situation better than anyone. Whether they’re inexperienced, or nervous due to circumstance, it can be heartbreaking for you, and unhealthy for your dog to work themselves up over travel.
How to Calm Down Your Dog’s Travel Nerves
With so many dogs suffering from anxiety, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of ‘treatment’ options. Just as each dog can react differently to traveling, they can act differently to solutions. If one of these doesn’t work right away to calm your dog, go ahead and try another until you find the one that is most effective in calming your canine.
Toys, Clothes, & Trips
Just as your dog can develop a negative association with traveling, they can develop a positive one, too. This all depends on the reinforcement you provide. Try giving your dog their favorite toy, or an item of clothing that smells like you. If they have something familiar and comforting next to them, they may not feel so nervous about the unknown.
You can also change the association with short trips. Prepare your dog for travel by taking short trips with them to ‘fun’ places. A dog park, a local hiking trail, etc., are great spots. If your dog can associate traveling with heading somewhere exciting, they’ll be happy to head along with you wherever you go! Not only does this practice make them more familiar with traveling itself, but it lets them know it can even be fun.
A dog who has just given birth releases a certain kind of pheromone. This scent instinctually calms her newborn puppies. Because it works so well and so naturally, this pheromone has been copied. You can purchase a synthetic spray, or even collars containing it. It’s a natural calming approach that your dog might be able to relate to easily.
Security & Surroundings
It’s important for your dog to feel safe. Whether you’re traveling on a plane, or in a car, restraining your dog somehow can help them to feel more secure. Their crate from home, a travel carrier, or a harness can give them a sense of safety. Most dogs don’t like to be in open, exposed areas when they’re unfamiliar with their surroundings. Providing an enclosed space that they’re familiar with can help to settle anxious behaviors.
You can also work to offer calmer surroundings for your dog. It might sound strange, but some dogs respond well to soft music. Certain scents can also be calming, or even just some fresh air. You might notice any of these things working to calm your dog’s nerves, even on accident. So, be sure to pay attention. The slightest changes in surroundings can either help, hinder.
Medication typically isn’t the first choice for pet owners. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s necessary to alleviate your dog’s restlessness. And, with so many dogs suffering from restlessness, there are different medications to choose from that have been successful. The most common types of medications given to dogs with uneasiness are:
Before you give your dog any type of medication, it’s imperative to talk with your vet. They’ll be able to tell you the best type of medication for your dog’s situation. Beyond that, they’ll be able to let you know what medications are safe, and which to steer clear from.
The medication you choose should factor in the symptoms your dog expresses. Let’s say your dog is prone to vomiting when they’re stressed. An antihistamine may be more effective in settling their stomach than an over the counter dog sedative. However, if your dog’s behaviors are more sporadic (pacing, barking, etc.), a sedative may be your best option. These are all things to discuss with your vet. The best type of medication is the one that can deal with your dog’s symptoms directly.
When dealing with any medication, be sure to follow instructions clearly. Some medications can actually cause sickness if not given properly.
Hitting the Road or Skies with Your Dog
No matter how you travel, bringing your dog with you will probably add a bit of extra stress. But, if they’re nervous and anxious, it can make the experience ten times worse. It’s clearly not uncommon for dogs to experience uneasiness with traveling.
But, this commonality has created many options to prevent travel panic in dogs. The best thing you can do is to pay attention to your dog’s specific symptoms. Perhaps helping their nerves could be handled by something as simple as a few short road trips. On the other hand, you might find medication is required. No matter how slight or extreme, it can be difficult to see your dog showing anxious behaviors. Before you start any kind of treatment, talk to your trusted vet.