Travel anxiety in dogs is a significant concern for pet owners planning to hit the road with their furry friends.
Dog anxiety that manifests from travel can appear as anything from mild apprehension to full-blown panic attacks, depending on the severity of the situation they find themselves in.
It’s not just limited to long trips either; even short trips to the vet or to visit the local dog groomer can cause distress in some pups.
So, if you’re planning on taking your dog on an adventure but are worried about the potential mayhem looming on the horizon, you’re going to need some handy advice and practical solutions.
Let’s explore the reasons behind this unease and discover practical strategies to help manage your dog’s travel-related stress.
What are the Causes of Travel Anxiety in Dogs?
Just like we humans, dogs can also experience travel anxiety for a variety of reasons, and these can vary greatly.
It’s only through understanding the fundamental cause of your dog’s travel anxiety that you can better help prepare them for your next big adventure.
Causes of travel anxiety to look out for include:
The most common cause of pet travel anxiety has got to be noise sensitivity. The sound of car engines, honking horns, or other loud noises can make your already nervous dog feel overwhelmed and scared.
This may be especially scary if your dog has had bad experiences with loud noises in the past, such as fireworks or thunderstorms.
If dogs don’t feel very secure while traveling, they may become overly anxious or even aggressive.
This is because they feel exposed to potential danger and will become extremely defensive.
Anxiety while traveling has its issues, but motion sickness is, perhaps, one of the most problematic concerns when on the move.
If your dog gets sick easily, they may associate motion sickness and travel anxiety with riding in the car or other vehicles.
This feeling of unease can trigger your dog’s anxiety and cause them to dread being inside a vehicle.
It’s wise to be aware of this possibility so you can take steps to help prevent motion sickness before attempting to set off.
This could mean giving your dog natural treatments for motion sickness or, in extreme cases, getting advice from your friendly neighborhood veterinarian.
A good tip is to feed your furry friend several hours before a long journey, and this will reduce the messy risk of your dog becoming ill while on the move.
Fear of the Unknown
Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock may boldly go where no man has gone before, but try getting your travel-anxious pooch to visit strange new worlds. It’s just not going to happen.
For some dogs, travel anxiety manifests as fear of unfamiliar environments or people, especially unfamiliar sounds and smells.
You can’t possibly predict every sound or smell your dog may encounter, but you can try and desensitize your furry friend to things like traffic, boat, train, or airplane sounds.
Be aware that to your dog, being surrounded by multiple strangers in a vehicle could cause your furry friend intense distress, and your dog could react badly.
Visiting new, unfamiliar places can also be incredibly stressful and threatening, and this is why it’s a good idea to introduce your dog to new places gradually.
A big factor that may play into your pet’s anxiety is age.
Adult dogs, and especially older dogs, are more likely to have difficulty adjusting to unfamiliar environments, changes in routine, or lack of familiarity with the car or plane they are traveling in than younger pups, who tend to be more adaptable.
If your dog has had a bad experience with traveling before, they may associate any future adventures with that traumatic event.
This type of conditioned response can manifest itself as anxious behavior when seeing or approaching a similar vehicle again.
Dogs that have not received proper socialization as puppies may be uneasy when meeting new people and encountering unfamiliar environments.
This apprehension can appear as fearfulness when being taken away from the comfort of their home.
Dog owners in these situations need to remember that, just like children, socializing puppies early is key.
Generalized Dog Anxiety
When venturing away from home or into new situations, some dogs are naturally more anxious than others and may need extra reassurance.
Dogs that are prone to fearfulness or shyness around sounds, strangers, or other animals are likely to feel uneasy when traveling as well.
If your dog has only recently started exhibiting signs of travel anxiety, it could be linked to a general feeling of unease surrounding unfamiliar places and people.
It is possible that genetics could also play a role in how your pup reacts to traveling.
Your dog’s breed might predispose them to certain behaviors. Herding breeds, such as Border Collies, often have higher energy levels and can become stressed if not given enough mental stimulation throughout the day.
Toy breeds such as Chihuahuas have been known to have higher levels of stress hormones than larger breeds which may gradually increase the feelings of unease while traveling.
Lack of Early Exposure to Traveling
Travel anxiety could stem from a lack of exposure to travel during your dog’s early life.
If your puppy has anxiety, it may be because they didn’t get used to traveling as a puppy, then traveling may seem scary and unfamiliar.
It’s important to introduce your pup to car rides and other forms of travel at an early age so that they can become comfortable with the experience over time.
If your dog already has health issues such as motion sickness or arthritis, travel anxiety can get worse due to the physical discomfort associated with traveling long distances in a travel crate.
It’s important to make sure your pup is healthy before traveling and to always consult with a veterinarian if you have any questions or doubts about their physical condition.
Your vet may also recommend possible treatments that could help make travel more bearable.
The Symptoms of Travel Anxiety in Dogs
There are many signs that indicate anxiety. Here’s a list of common symptoms of travel anxiety in dogs:
- Excessive panting and drooling.
- Trembling or shaking.
- Pacing back and forth.
- Hiding under furniture or behind doors.
- Refusal to move.
- Trying to escape an enclosed space (like a crate).
- Increased heart rate.
- Vocalizing, such as whining, crying, barking, growling, whimpering, and yelping.
- Inability to settle down once they arrive at their destination.
- Vomiting while traveling or after arrival at the destination.
- Aggression towards other animals or humans while traveling.
- Urinating or defecating during travel or shortly after arrival.
If your pup is exhibiting any of these signs, it’s important to take action in order to reduce their anxiety.
Types of Travel That Scare Anxious Dogs
Here’s a list of the potential places travel anxiety might cause an issue:
Dog car anxiety is probably the number one form of travel anxiety.
The motion of car travel can cause motion sickness and nausea, as well as other physical discomforts that can add to their anxiety.
Long car trips, such as the kind experienced when traveling for camping, caravanning, or RV vacations, can be overwhelming for many pups due to the unfamiliar environment, confined space, and lack of access to potty breaks or exercise opportunities.
If your dog associates the car with car sickness or has a fear of travel, it may help to give them something like CBD oil or a calming chew before you leave, so they have time to relax prior to the drive.
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Flying can be particularly daunting for dogs due to the unfamiliar sights and smells inside the plane cabin as well as turbulence during the flight.
Since pets must stay in their carriers throughout most flights, it means that your pup will be cramped in their carrier for an extended period of time. This can add even more stress to your already anxious pup!
If you plan on flying, it’s important to make sure your dog is as comfortable as possible with their carrier before boarding the plane. Try to also bring along familiar items with you onto the flight, such as favorite toys and blankets that will help your dog to relax and feel secure for the journey.
Train Rides, Ships and Ferries
Traveling via rail can often involve loud noises and sudden stops, which aren’t ideal if your pup is prone to anxiousness while traveling!
Cruise ships tend to involve extended periods in confined spaces without any real opportunity for exercise or potty breaks. The motion of the boat can also make already nervous dogs quite queasy.
If you plan on taking your dog by plane or train, it’s vital that you ease them into it slowly.
Try taking shorter trips first, so your dog becomes accustomed to the sounds and smells they’ll experience. It will also help you judge whether they are comfortable in their carrier or crate before embarking on a much longer journey!
Help Your Dog Prepare to Travel
Stop dog anxiety from overwhelming your furry friend when traveling by planning ahead. Dogs feel more secure, and their anxiety may be less problematic if you’ve covered the basics in advance. Here are some handy travel tips to help you prepare:
Identify Your Dog’s Triggers
When preparing to travel with a dog that has anxiety, it’s a good idea to identify what triggers their anxiety.
- Could it be getting in the car or other vehicles?
- Is it the sound the car makes?
- Maybe it’s separation anxiety, such as when leaving your dog at the airport if they’re flying cargo?
- Just the act of traveling in the car, plane, or other transportation?
- Car sickness or motion sickness?
- Or is it the unfamiliar environment once you arrive?
Knowing what causes your pup’s anxiety may help you plan ahead and let your dog get prepared for what lies ahead.
Create a Safe Space
Creating a safe space for the trip in the form of a crate or carrier can help ease some of your pup’s stress when traveling.
Bring along items like their favorite blanket or toy that will provide reassurance when things become overwhelming during the journey.
Pack Comfort Items
Along with creating a safe space, bringing comfort items like treats and chew toys work to distract your pup.
They provide positive reinforcement and help to keep your dog calm during extreme periods of distress while traveling.
Puzzles or interactive toys are another great method of distraction for your dog that is worth keeping in your armory and may prove to be a lifesaver during long journeys.
Training & Desensitization
If your pup has severe travel anxiety, consider desensitizing them traveling before going on any long trips by taking short trips to familiar places they enjoy visiting.
You can also use positive reinforcement techniques such as clicker training or praise to encourage calming behavior while traveling.
These techniques will help build confidence in your furry friend, so they don’t feel quite so scared when they’re on the move.
Using Natural Remedies for Travel Anxiety In Dogs
If your pup is still experiencing anxiety during practice trips, consider using natural remedies such as CBD oil, essential oils, or calming treats designed specifically for pets who experience travel anxiety.
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Another great method that can provide fast, effective relief from Travel anxiety for dogs is an anxiety vest such as the Thundershirt.
Created with patented technology, Thundershirt’s soft and comfortable fabric applies gentle pressure that has been scientifically proven to lower stress levels in dogs. It does not restrict movement or cause discomfort, but instead provides calming reassurance similar to being hugged. This hug-like pressure on the body is known as Deep Touch Pressure (DTP), and calms dogs who suffering from all types of anxieties such as separation anxiety, travel, noise, general phobias, panic attacks and more.
We’ve done an in-depth article on this amazing device, which you can find here.
These kinds of products have all been proven effective in helping dogs relax before long trips and can help reduce stress levels during nerve-wracking situations like traveling via road, rail, sea, or air.
Traveling with Dogs That Suffer From Anxiety
The last thing you want is for your dog’s anxiety to flare up and become a significant issue while you’re on the move, so here’s a list of practical things you can do to make your trip go a lot easier.
Preparation is Key
The best way to ensure a smooth journey is by preparing ahead of time.
This means researching pet-friendly hotels or places to stay if you’re traveling by car and ensuring your pet has up-to-date vaccinations and paperwork for traveling abroad.
Check that you’ve packed all the essentials, such as food, water, toys, and treats.
Make sure that you provide somewhere comfortable for your dog while in transit. If you are flying with your pup, make sure they have a cozy carrier or crate and plenty of room to move around inside.
If your furry friend gets anxious during car rides, it may be beneficial to invest in a pet-specific seatbelt harness or carrier for added security.
You should also take note of any pet-friendly rest stops or parks along the way so that your pup can enjoy a welcome pee break and some energy-burning exercise.
What to do if Your Dog Experiences Motion Sickness?
Always take preventive measures before you begin your journey. It could save you from a messy incident when you least need it.
Make sure your pup has plenty of water available at all times during the trip, and feed them no less than two hours before departure so their stomach will not be empty, but it won’t be overly full.
If your dog gets car sick and you’re going on a longer car ride, plan for frequent stops along the way for exercise and potty breaks.
Be sure to keep air circulating throughout the vehicle if possible. Open windows or use an air conditioning system if available.
If your pup does experience motion sickness during travel, there are steps you can take to reduce their discomfort:
- Give your furry friend time to rest after each stop by providing a comfortable spot where they can lie down and relax.
- To help relieve any nausea your pup may be feeling, try feeding them a small amount of food or some calming treats while they are resting. This can help to let your dog’s stomach settle until they feel better again!
- Speak in a calming voice to reassure your dog that everything is alright, while petting them will provide comfort between stops.
If you know your dog goes into a blind panic due to extreme anxiety during travel, it might be a good idea to speak with your veterinarian for more drastic ways to help. They may also recommend medications to help your dog if their anxiety is severe and getting out of hand.
Be Calm & Consistent When Dealing with Canine Travel Anxiety
The most important thing that you can do for your dog is to stay calm!
If you start to panic, it’s game over!
Dogs can sense when their owners are feeling stressed or anxious, so it’s vital that you don’t project those emotions onto your nervous pal during your travels.
Be consistent in your behavior because inconsistency can ramp up your already anxious dog’s stress levels. Remember, if your pup is feeling scared and uncertain, it’s likely that they will act out in some way.
Give them lots of affection and stay patient.
Provide Plenty of Breaks
When you hit the road with your faithful companion, it is important to provide frequent breaks, so they have time to get out of the vehicle, stretch their legs, and find the nearest fire hydrant or bush for a quick pee.
Taking regular breaks will also give your furry friend an opportunity to sniff around and explore!
You should also consider taking your pup for short walks during these essential stops, it’ll keep their mind occupied, and its great exercise too!
Talk To Your Vet About Travel Anxiety In Dogs
There are always extreme cases of anxiety where nothing seems to work. This is where talking to your local vet may be beneficial.
Vets may recommend short-term anti-anxiety medication or recommend supplements like CBD oil for ongoing issues.
Behavior modification from a dog trainer may also be recommended. They may suggest treating travel anxiety using techniques such as desensitization training or positive reinforcement methods.
No matter what advice a veterinarian gives you, it’s important to follow it closely.
Keep Their Routine
Just like people, dogs love routine and structure in their lives, and this is especially even welcome when traveling!
To transition your dog into a new environment, stick to as much of their regular routine as possible. This includes feeding times, walks, and so on.
Keeping as much of your dog’s routine intact will make it easier for them to adjust while on vacation. They will have something familiar that they can rely on, even if everything else around them isn’t quite so normal yet!
Final Thoughts About Travel Anxiety In Dogs
Traveling with your faithful dog can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it’s vital for their mental and physical health to take the necessary steps to ensure their safety and comfort.
- To keep your anxious dog on an even keel while traveling:
- Do your research in advance.
- Pack all the essentials your dog needs.
- Keep them entertained during transit.
- Take preventive measures against motion sickness.
- Above all, stay calm throughout the journey.
With these tips in mind, you and your furry best friend are now prepared for any eventuality that comes your way.
So, buckle up and get ready for your next big adventure!