Few things are more disheartening on a dog-friendly vacation or road trip as when a dog is fearful, has gastric upset, or becomes nervous far from home.
Using our nearly 20 years of dog-friendly travel experiences, here are five time-tested dog-friendly travel tips to turn any road “warrior” into a road “warrior:”
Car Aversion: Never force or make a travel fearful dog to “face their fears.” This will only reinforce fears, can lead to extreme anxiety, panic, and cause an accident. The tips in this article are for dogs that are fairly accustomed to road travel. Using Pavlov’s principle, if the only time a dog experiences the car is to see the vet, both vet and ride can become unpleasant experiences.
Consider the shelter rescue dog. Someone more than likely drove the dog to the shelter and that was his or her final experience with transportation. Be patient, take your time, and learn more about travel training.
Storm Warning: Ba-boom and crack sure know how to rain on an otherwise happy road trip with Rover. When blue skies turn grey and become thunderous and lighting-filled, we recently discovered a safe anxiety-suppressing solution. Dexter is thunderstorm-fearful, and we’ve used the Anxiety Wrap with intermittent success in the past, but on a recent car trip I did not pack it.
I received a sample of Travel Calm product from Earth Heart a few weeks ago. Being the over packer that I am, this two ounce spritzer sounded like a good “just in case item.” When traveling this weekend from Indiana to Iowa, a thunderstorm engulfed the skies. Dexter was a bit nervous in the car and started with the drooling, panting, and general uneasiness. I sprayed a bit of the product onto my palms and then on rubbed it on Dexter’s outer ears and abdomen. Within a half hour, he was napping next to me in the back seat as the storm continued. I plan to try this product during storms at home, too. Notably, his fur wasn’t sticky, the scent was light and pleasant, and didn’t flare his allergies.
Stable Stomach: My dogs have always felt the car was a home away from home because I structure it that way, including portable kitchen cupboards aka treats from home in Ziploc bags. Dexter is a foodie so we stock up on his favorite doggie delectables each trip. Changing your dog’s diet and sharing fast food can lead to stomach upset and potentially trying to find a vet in an unfamiliar area. In our goodie bag this go round are Zuke’s treats where we found some price slashing at Oliver’s Pet Care, Pupzelles from Giggy Bites, and freeze-dried liver treats from Gimborn.
Scents that Soothe: Anyone remember the Michael Keaton hit movie from the 80s’s, Mr . Mom? His son had a comforting blanket called a “woobie (pronounced wuh-bee) and my dogs have always had one. Take it with you when traveling and don’t wash it pre- or during travel. Familiar scents a vehicle more like home sweet home.
Déjà Vu: Upon arrival and check-in to any hotel, as I unpack, I strategically place my dog’s toys, bowls, and chew treats in various spaces (just like at home). When you unpack, you like the feeling of unloading and settling in to the room, right? So does Fido. Dogs are family members. Unpack and set him or her up to settle in with you. Oh, and bring the blanket/woobie from the car. Consider it Fido’s wireless signal, as it roams where he does. Reinforce the comforts of home from road to room and back.
Tree Mail: Make plenty of Disneyland stops along the way. Does your dog need to relieve himself every few hours at home? Implement the same schedule when traveling. At each rest stop, make the experience the greatest place on earth. As a friend once told me when training Dexter to pee outside, “act like he just won Westminster every time he pees where he should.” If pit stops are positive ones, Fido will want to please. Plus you can get some fun bonding time in along life’s roads.
Enjoy, buckle up, and wag on!