According to Scientific Reports, nearly 72.5% of all dogs suffer from at least one behavior that is anxiety related. Noise sensitivity was the most common across all breeds, affecting 32% of dogs. Other anxieties included fear of other dogs, strangers or new situations. As travel involves new experiences, new places and new faces, it is in the best interest of both of you to know how to deal with an anxious dog.
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. New experiences, environments, and the unknown can combine to create an uneasy situation for both you and your dog. Don’t despair! Following these 6 anxiety-relieving methods should equip you with everything you need to calm an anxious dog in no time!
What to Look for
There are certain behaviors common to anxious dogs: excessive licking, yawning, panting, trembling, shaking, wining, barking to name a few. Loss of appetite or the onset of destructive behavior are others. Watch for a tail tucked between the legs, ears pinned back or a crouched position. These are signs that your dog is upset, and they should require a response on your part.
Have you ever come home excited and full of energy? Chances are that 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; it was because you were excited, it made them excited. Conversely, if you slumped open the door and groggily entered your home completely unenthusiastically, your dog would slowly but surely start to feel sad alongside you, attempting to comfort 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 confused 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 likely 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. Put items in the crate that are familiar to them such as bedding, favorite chews or a “used” t-shirt of yours, the scent of which will comfort them.
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! It will make the dog feel more at home, and help you have more control over your anxious dog.
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 and do not respond to your commands.
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 would 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 their 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, all-natural pet calmers, 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, and the FDA has announced that selling CBD pet products on-line and in stores is considered illegal at the federal level. Should you decide to try it, research your supplier carefully and test it at home 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 a pet is almost like traveling with a child: you need 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.
Madison Adams is a beauty and lifestyle blogger who is just as focused on her next lavender latte as she is on writing. Using her psychology degree, she likes to draw on human insights to make her writing (and life) more impactful. When she’s not writing, Madison can be found being walked by her giant labradoodle, Grover.