Dog travel anxiety is a common issue for many pet owners. Travel anxiety can be incredibly disruptive to your dog and to you. In fact, many dogs run away on vacation or during travel because they’re feeling anxious.
So what can you do for your nervous pup? Here are 4 tips for managing dog travel anxiety, whether you’re going on a road trip or just taking a quick ride to the park.
How do I know if my dog has travel anxiety?
First, observe how your dog behaves in the car. Does he or she become agitated or act out-of-character?
If you’re not sure, here are a few signs your dog might be experiencing anxiety during travel:
- Drooling excessively
- Pacing the vehicle
- Acting agitated
- Unable to relax
- Shaking or quivering all over
- Trying to escape the vehicle
Tips for managing your dog’s anxiety on the road
It’s important to manage your dog’s travel anxiety. Let’s look at a few methods that may help calm and soothe your pup on the road.
1. Identify whether your dog is getting carsick
Many signs of carsickness in dogs overlap with the signs of travel anxiety. Unless your pet is vomiting on road trips, it might be difficult to tell. Talk with your dog’s veterinarian about their symptoms–your dog may need medication or supplements to help alleviate their carsickness.
Some common, over-the-counter (OTC) treatments for carsickness in dogs include Benadryl, Bonine, and Dramamine. Nutritional supplements such as CBD and ginger are also popular among pet owners. Your vet may also prescribe a medication called Cerenia, which is a non-sedative treatment for motion sickness that helps prevent vomiting.
Always consult your vet before giving your pet any medication or supplement. Keep in mind that treating motion sickness may not alleviate your dog’s travel anxiety completely. Most likely, they now associate the car with feeling sick.
2. Practice exercises that desensitize your dog to the car
You can do exercises with your pet to help desensitize and counter-condition them for travel. This may involve spending short periods of time in the car with your pet at home, before you try taking them away from home again.
Here’s one method of desensitizing your dog to the car:
- Spend time sitting in the car with your dog while it’s not running. Give your dog a reward when they behave in a calm or relaxed manner.
- Next, sit in the car while it’s running. Again, reward your dog for calm behavior.
- After that, you can take your dog driving for short distances. Go someplace close to home, like the park, and take your pup for a walk (or another activity they enjoy).
- Increase your travel distance over time.
As you help desensitize your dog, have patience. Every dog is different, so the length of time will vary from one dog to the next.
3. Help your dog feel more secure in the car
Some dogs feel less anxious about travel if they’re snug and secure in the car. There are several options for helping your dog feel more comfortable:
- Have them wear a ThunderShirt or other deep-pressure garment for anxiety
- Buckle them in with a dog seat belt or travel harness
- Place their crate in a safe place inside the car and have them travel in it
4. Medicate your dog for anxiety
There are a number of anti-anxiety medications your vet may prescribe for your dog’s travel anxiety. Among these are Buspirone, Clomipramine, Dexmedetomidine, Ativan, Xanax, and Valium. Unless your dog experiences anxiety all the time, your vet will want to treat them for situational anxiety.
Treating travel anxiety can help prevent escape attempts
When a dog is feeling stressed or anxious–especially away from home–they’re more likely to attempt an escape. It’s nerve-wracking for your dog to go missing on vacation, so you want to help them feel as comfortable as possible.
Your dog’s anxiety can also cause you to feel anxious. One way to give yourself peace of mind is by protecting your dog with a Huan Smart Tag. Huan alerts your phone automatically when your dog is detected away from home or away from you–which is incredibly useful for those road trips when they’re feeling extra nervous.
Learn more about Smart Tags below!