There was about 10 years of my corporate career where I was racking up the sky miles. I was traveling consistently….some trips I would be gone just a couple of days and some were for several weeks. It didn’t matter how long the trip was though, the look on my dogs face when I got that suitcase out, never failed to break my heart.
My female yorkie, Sofie, is bonded to me something fierce. Her initial reaction to the trigger of impending abandonment (however temporary) is always one of complete rejection. First she ignores me, then she won’t leave my side. But, after years of having to leave my fur-baby behind I discovered some routines that have helped alleviate her doggy stress.
Now, dog stress can look very different from dog to dog. But here are generally some things to watch for: digestive issues (diarrhea or constipation), decrease in appetite, isolation, increased sleeping and aggression…and pouting. Lots and lots of pouting.
Tip 1: The longest goodbye - setting out the suitcase a few days in advance
I’m no dog whisperer, so please don’t ask for the psychological breakdown behind this advice….but it seems to me like if I set out my suitcase a few days in advance, my little foof princess isn't as stressed out when it comes to the actual day of departure. So, I began setting out my suitcase randomly, even when I wasn’t traveling. This got her used to it as a more standard object around the house and I found that eventually the suitcase wasn’t a stress trigger for her!
Tip 2: Stay calm - they feel your energy
On the day of travel, it’s important to keep your energy level even keeled. Animals quickly pick up on our emotions and if you’re feeling anxious or stressed, they’ll begin to feel the same way. So, play it cool. Lastly, dogs are creatures of comfort and lovers of routine…on your departure day, try to stick closely to the same daily patterns that they’re familiar with to avoid unnecessary confusion.
Tip 3: Mix things up - vary your schedule
The same way we tricked Sofie into accepting the suitcase as an every-day object and not one tied to her humans leaving….we’ll also vary our routines to do the same thing. As healthy and comforting as routines are for dogs, if they don’t have varied experiences, every time something new happens they’ll immediately begin to stress about the situation. Desensitize your dog by mixing up your daily routines. This is a quick and painless way to combat separation anxiety.
Tip 4: There’s no place like home - familiar item
If your dog is heading to a dog-sitter or kennel, sending them with a blanket or toy that smells like home can be tremendously calming. If they’ll be staying at home with someone, consider leaving something that smells like you for them to snuggle with. Sofie is only about 7 pounds so my favorite hoodie is the perfect clothing item for her to cuddle up with while I’m away!
Tip 5: Exercise
Just as exercising helps us humans relieve stress and fight anxiety, it does the same thing for our furry friends. Take a brisk walk with with your pup, consider using a weighted vest to tire them out. Naturally setting up your dog for their “down time”, helps eliminate the onset of separation anxiety.
When all else fails try a calming aid. You can get all-natural, safe sedatives at your local pet store or consider talking to the veterinarian who is familiar with your pet about prescription options.
What are some ways that you've found to help calm your pets when you're preparing to travel? Drop your tips in the comments below, I would love to hear from you!