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Calming your dog’s anxiety can be nearly impossible when you don’t know how, and seeing them in a state of panic can leave you feeling anxious too. Traveling is bound to make anyone anxious—human or pet. New experiences, environments and the unknown all can combine to create an uneasy situation for both you and your dog. But, following these 6 anxiety-relieving methods should equip you with everything you need to calm your dog in no time!
Have you ever come home excited and full of energy? Chance is your dog was just as happy and excited as you were! That’s not because your dog got the e-mail about how you’d been promoted at work—but because you were excited it made them excited. Conversely, if you slumped open the door and groggily entered your home completely unenthusiastic, your dog would slowly but surely start to feel sad alongside you and might even begin whimpering.
This same principle applies to anxiety as well. If you’re anxious—they’re anxious, and if they’re afraid and you react explosively it only amplifies their fear. So, remember to maintain control of your emotions, even if you’re anxious, and your dog will mimic your composure.
There are so many benefits to crate training that it’s no wonder practically any dog trainer worth their salt recommends it. When a dog is feeling anxious having a safe place for it to retreat and settle down is crucial. Try placing their crate in the corner of a room with a blanket wrapped around it to block out light.
Having their crate associated with safety and with the darkness blocking out any excess stimuli, it becomes the perfect place for an anxious dog to go. When traveling, especially in the car, bring the crate along with some toys to distract them. It will make the dog feel more at home, and help you have more control over your pooch.
Don’t Reward Bad Behavior
We’ve probably all done it at some point. Your dog’s been barking for ten minutes straight at your neighbor moving the lawn and you give them a treat so they’ll stop. Maybe they were scared, and you just leaned down to pet them. Sound familiar? While it may be convenient or comforting for us to have these quick fixes, it teaches our pet that their behavior isn’t just okay—but we approve of it, even reward it.
But just because you shouldn’t give them positive reinforcement doesn’t mean you should ignore them either. It’s especially important to have a handle on your dog’s behavior while traveling. Airports and new places can be overstimulating environments, and you can easily lose control of your animal if they have no discipline.
Train your Dog
There are quite a few resources for training your best pal, and spending at least 30 minutes a day training them is never a bad idea. The saying “old dogs can’t learn new tricks” isn’t exactly true—it’d be more accurate to say, “old dogs rarely break old habits on their own.” Regardless of the age of your dog, you can always begin training. Hiring a trainer is never a bad idea, especially if you don’t have the time or energy to fully train your dog. That way, when they’re feeling anxious you can regain control and have their undivided attention on you instead of the object of anxiety.
If they’re anxious around other dogs—socialize them. Bring your dog to doggy playdates and slowly work up towards going to the dog park. Driving in cars are scary? Simple—take them on short one- or two-minute rides and reward them frequently with treats, slowly working up to longer drives.
The idea is this: find what provokes anxiety in your dog and slowly expose them to those situations until they realize there’s nothing to be afraid of. With travel, it can be hard to familiarize them to places like airports, but finding similar situations can work just fine. Taking them to a busy outdoor shopping center, or a place with lots of action will work just fine.
If you’re still having a difficult time calming your dog’s anxiety, consider seeing a vet and asking about other options, including Benadryl, CBD oils, and prescription anti-anxiety medication. Your vet may not recommend some of these treatments because of legal restrictions (namely, the FDA hasn’t approved some), but there is a growing pool of anecdotal evidence that natural remedies like CBD oils do the trick.
CBD has no known potential for overdose, but its effects in dogs aren’t thoroughly-researched yet. However, since CBD can’t get your dog (or anyone) high, and there have been zero documented cases of bad side effects, it doesn’t hurt to try it out! Test it before you travel with your dog to make sure you know the optimum dosage, because too much can make your dog sleepy, which is no good if it’s too big to carry through an airport!
Traveling with an animal is almost like traveling with a child: you have to keep an eye on them, they require extra luggage and planning, but they can make your trip a lot more worthwhile and memorable. If you follow these tips, you are sure to have a more relaxed and enjoyable trip.
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