Nothing beats a road trip with your loved ones. Yes, that includes your pets. And, while some dogs can be conditioned to enjoy the ride, some may take time to no longer have bouts of fear in a moving car.
Anxiety is but a normal feeling for humans and pets alike. And although we may know of physical manifestations of anxiety in our dogs, we may not truly know how to be in their shoes that we may even dismiss these seemingly distressed behaviors. Negative associations to car rides such as these being trips to the vet are just one of the causes of anxiety more timid dogs have a hard time getting over with, but are there more we need to know about?
In general, a dog’s anxiety is triggered by unfamiliar situations — noises, strangers, and at times, objects they have yet to fully have a mental grasp of because they’re not used to seeing it at home, a new robot vacuum cleaner, for example. Other times and just like humans, dogs are very susceptible to separation anxiety. They are triggered by circumstances such as abandonment, the death of family, or being left alone at home. You see, even these furry cheerleaders or savage babies, if you will, have their days, and going with you on a drive could be one of those days.
A dog’s anxiety presents a spectrum of symptoms from milder ones like panting, drooling, yawning, obsessively pacing with an apparent restlessness, and peeing or defecating more than they regularly do to howling, barking, visible trembling to more aggressive and destructive behaviors. Less noticeable signs are perked up ears, widely opened eyes with the pupils dilated, and even excessive shedding usually observed when they’re in the vet. Dog parents have to watch out for these symptoms when taking their pup on its first car ride.
The good news is there are ways you could help your dog ease their anxiety before and during road trips. The key takeaway of all the tips we’re about to impart is you have to gently accustom them to the new environment by reassuring them that your presence will keep them safe. So, here go our friendly tips:
Tools to Help them Feel Safe and Comfy
As dogs connote pet carriers to being brought to the vet, you can help them get over this by placing a comfortable bed inside. On the day, leave a trail of treats leading them into the carrier. Desensitize them of their usual traveling fear and get them more excited each time by using new treats.
To add to their comfort and safety, you could get them a dog seatbelt. Securing them with a seatbelt will also help you stay safe if they ever start being restless or aggressive. You could also provide them toys specifically for the ride to incentivize them to conquer their fear of traveling. Toys like plushies they can chew on or more engaging ones that dispense treats with their hard work are good examples.
Start with Short Trips
A good start for any new rider is by taking brief and slower drives. You can drive them anywhere familiar, like the neighborhood or places you walk them. Depending on your dog’s preference, you may let nature’s breeze in and allow them to take in the view by opening your window or keep it shut when they don’t seem curious.
Gradually, go further, like somewhere downtown. As with not suddenly shifting gears, it’s also best to keep windows shut to keep the city’s bustling sounds mummed to not overstimulate or intimidate them. Pat them for comfort from time to time.
And, although this is an isolated case, if you’re moving somewhere remote permanently and transporting your dog separately is inevitable, you can rely on pet transport service providers to give them painless land travel. They can accommodate your pet’s specific needs, yes, even how many times you need them to stop for your dog’s pee and potty breaks. So, you can be assured that they’ll return to you like you never left them.
Use Calming Medication and Other Supplements
There are medicines you can buy over-the-counter, like diphenhydramine, to help calm your dog when they’re anxious. If your dog suffers from severe anxiety disorders, you can always count on their vet to prescribe medications. If necessary, the doctor could also prescribe antidepressants.
You could also have your dog try clothes that constantly and gently press on their torso, much like a swaddle keeps a baby comfortable. Aromatic oils such as lavender, music like soft rock, and ambient sounds are also proven to help your dog calm down. Having these gizmos within reach in your dashboard compartment and the music playable anytime in your car could make a big difference in how your dog perceives the ride.
New experiences are one of the major causes of a dog’s anxiety and, with the tips we shared, you can train a dog to be more receptive to these. Keeping our advice in mind, you can now travel feeling less stressed because your dog isn’t feeling threatened anymore. Try one, if not all, today, and you’ll notice how your furry buddy will find road trips more enjoyable.