The holiday season is upon us, and many of us will be travelling to see family or to go on vacation.
For those of us who intend to take our pooches with us and therefore for sometimes long car rides, here are a few tips to make sure that your pooch is happy and de-stressed while travelling or placed in a new environment.
Signs of Stress in your Dog:
- Frantic or more-than-normal licking of the lips & excessive panting when it is not hot. These are very IMPORTANT signs that many non-dog owners, and even some dog owners, fail to realise & can lead to bad situations – even dog bites. They are usually a dogs first tell tale sign that they are extremely uncomfortable in a situation and therefore should be left alone (not petted). If the dog has been panting & licking his or her lips excessively- for no apparent reason such as temperature- and then they suddenly close their mouth tensely – this is usually a sign that they are getting ready to snap or bite.
- Shaking/Shivering/Excessive Whining
- Ears pinned backwards against their head
- Hunched or very low-to-the-ground posture
- Lack of Appetite or complete refusal of food. When a dog is nervous, scared, or uncomfortable they are incapable of eating – even treats – as they are so focused on what is making them scared.
- Digestive issues such as Diarrhoea or constipation. In our household Zeus ALWAYS reacts with his stomach – never constipation but always diarrhoea or even vomiting. For Zeus, as for many other dogs, the most stressful situations are when their owners do not come home for the night or they are away for longer periods of time with a temporary care giver. Dogs are like children, they suffer when their regular routines are changed.
- Increased sleeping.
How to help your dog de-stress
- Crate Training. I have always been a strong believer in crate training and Zeus was crate trained from the day that he arrived home. The fundamental psychology of the crate is that it mimics a safe haven that a dog in the wild would create for itself. When crate training has been done correctly, the crate becomes the dogs go-to-place when feeling overwhelmed, uncomfortable, or stressed. I would highly recommend it for dogs of all sizes. If your dog has been crate trained than make sure you take the crate with you on vacation, and also in the car, these are the times when your pooch will need it the most. There are many car harnesses that can easily be found on e-bay, amazon, and various pet sites that securely fasten your crate in the car with your dog in it. Make sure to also cover the crate with blankets or a duvet that have your scent on them.
- Making sure your Pooch has as little room as possible to move around in while in the car. If you’re dog has not been crate trained (to the point in which the dog will by itself choose to go in the crate when nervous) then you will need to consider another solution. IT IS NOT SAFE FOR YOU OR YOUR DOG TO MOVE AROUND FREELY IN THE CAR. Shockingly in a safety study done on dog car harnesses – only one harness on the market was found to pass all safety tests – this can be found here fully safety approved dog harness. If you would prefer for your dog to be in the trunk, then please please make sure that your trunk has been transformed to keep your dog safe & comfortable. The more space your pooch has to move around in, the more stressful the situation will be for him or her. To find various ideas on how to do so please check out halfords.com
- Distract your dog. Make sure that he or she has a toy or long-lasting treat that the dog can use to keep pre-occupied while on the ride.
- Avoid petting your dog when he or she is frightened, scared, or misbehaving. This is again a classic mistake that many pet owners make – when their dog displays fear, anxiety, aggression towards other dogs or people, or any other undesirable behaviour – one of the worst mistakes that you as a pet owner can do is to the cradle, cuddle, or pet your dog. Baby talk should also not be done. Essentially what this behaviour from your part will do – is reward the dog for being scared or anxious and therefore this behaviour is likely to become permanent. It is also signalling to your dog that there IS actually something wrong. The best thing to do is ignore your dog physically when they are showing signs of stress, and allow them to go to a safe place by themselves. As cruel as it may sound – but this actually shows your dog that there is nothing to be worried about because you are not making a big deal about it.
- Mask your own behaviour. Always remember that words with your dogs have no importance – it is all about the energy that you emit. If you are scared, your dog will be scared. If you are happy, content, and comfortable – the chances are so will be your dog.
- Talk to your Vet before travelling. There are many natural relaxer supplements available for dogs that can help them to calm down in abnormal, stressful, or unusual situations. These can be anything from plug-in pheromone diffusers or zylkene supplements.
- TRAIN YOUR DOG. Ultimately this will be your solution to all of your dogs problems. Dogs that are not properly trained, or have not been taught how to communicate with a human (this can only be done through training), are much more likely to get scared or anxious.
As with most situations that you and your dog will encounter – your own behaviour, attitude and energy will play such a vital role in how your dog behaves as well.
Try to focus as much on yourself as on your dog. If you are anxious before a trip – because you have so much to be thinking about or doing etc. – your dog will absorb your energy. If you are able to control your emotions and your feelings, you will make a massive difference on your pooches mental state of being.
Happy travelling and and remember to stay calm this Holiday Season.
Love, Zeus & Anna 💜