Roadtripping with an anxious dog
Having a high-anxiety dog can add challenges to travelling, especially if leaving them with a sitter or kennel doesn’t feel like the right choice. While pet-friendly vacations may make trips more enjoyable for dog owners, it's crucial to ensure our furry companions are also happy and stress-free during the journey. Learning how to best accommodate our dogs on the road can be overwhelming or alternatively, can appear much easier online than it really is, especially when faced with behavioural challenges.
Sticking to routines
For dogs, routines are paramount and sticking to them can alleviate travel stress. I aim to keep Ivy’s evening and morning routines as close as possible to what we do at home. Since she always gets a walk after breakfast, I make sure to do this no matter what environment we’re in which also helps her be much more at ease for the rest of the day. Later on, having downtime when she can rest and nap also prevents her from getting overtired and makes a huge difference in her overall behaviour.
On the road
As someone who loves adventuring and making the most of my vacations, it can be easy to get caught up in getting to the next destination while overlooking downtime. In the early days of our adventures together, I used to feel like a car ride should, in theory, be a good opportunity for Ivy to rest, but we often both arrived at our destinations tired and stressed–me from driving and her from the stress of being in the car for too long. Taking frequent breaks and allowing extra travel time can be beneficial for both dogs and their owners, to decompress and feel more relaxed along the journey. We may be able to function just fine on a marathon road trip, but dogs need far more rest and sleep than humans do to feel (and behave) their best.
Choosing dog friendly accommodations
Paying attention to seemingly minor accommodation details can make trips far more enjoyable for everyone. I always choose vacation rental homes when I can as they tend to have far less environmental stimuli than hotels and motels. If I have no vacation rental options, motels with private access to outside are easier to manage than hotels with busy hallways, lobbies, and elevators. If I have no choice but to stay in pet friendly hotels, I call and book over the phone so I can request a room with access to a stairwell with a back door, ideally with a patch of grass nearby so I can come and go and take Ivy out for pee breaks with minimal exposure to triggers. Since Ivy is fairly sound sensitive, always having background noise on like a sound machine, music, or the tv drowns out the environmental noise so she can be more at ease.
What to pack
To make Ivy feel more at home in unfamiliar places, I like to pack some of her favourite things. Since she’s particular about eating, her food and water bowls are essential, along with her most-loved toys, a blanket that smells like home and her own dog bed.
Training for new places
Bringing Ivy's bed along is crucial, as it enables her to settle in unfamiliar environments using the "place" cue, and helps her relax away from home. As far as dog training goes, “place” has arguably been the most important for all forms of travel. I like to keep the introduction of new places and situations positive and reward her with plenty of treats, play, praise, and affection on our adventures. This has helped her learn to love travelling as much as I do as every positive trip we have together has contributed to the next one going even better.
Supports for dog anxiety
When working to improve our dogs’ anxiety or reactivity, speaking to a veterinarian is a must to rule out any related underlying health issues and provides an opportunity to ask about supplements or medications to administer regularly or as needed in extra stressful situations. Your vet may also be able to refer you to a veterinary behaviourist and reputable dog trainer in your area to support your dog in living their happiest life.
Getting your dog more comfortable with travel
Thanks to these practices, Ivy and I have been able to travel more and improve her general well-being significantly. Ivy’s anxiety used to be a huge barrier to travel because I didn’t want to cause her too much unnecessary stress in the pursuit of adventure. Starting small with our road trips and slowly and expanding our travel plans at Ivy’s pace has been imperative as we can comfortably do so much more now than when we started out.
As more and more people are travelling with their furry companions, it’s important to check in and ask ourselves if bringing our dogs along for the trip we have in mind is really in their best interest. If not, adjusting our plans so that everyone can have a positive and stress-free time is well worth it.
Want to see more of Allie and Ivy's adventures? Check them out on social media instagram.com/ivyinthewild
Thanks to our guest blogger Allie Dexel for sharing her experience with an anxious pup. Check back soon as we share more from Allie on adventuring with an anxious dog.