Staying Safe On The Road With An Anxious Pooch
Close to 1 million dogs in the UK display signs of a mental health problem, according to dog experts. Travelling with an anxious pooch can be a stressful experience for both owner and pet. Yet, British pet owners say they love nothing more than a staycation with their four legged companion. But just how do you keep an anxious mutt safe when travelling in the car together?
Although it’s not law, it’s highly recommended that dogs are kept in the back seat of the car when travelling. If you’re travelling with family or friends, get them to sit in the back alongside your dog and ask them to regularly stroke his coat. When a dog is petted by a familiar person, it provides comfort and reassurance which will help to ease any anxiety he may be feeling. Research also shows that stroking a pet is a therapeutic experience for both human and dog, so don’t be afraid to pull over to the side of the road for a cuddle during your journey. Massage has also been proven to ease anxiety in dogs. With this in mind, it’s worth taking a little time to massage your dog’s body before and during your drive to keep your furry friend’s anxiety at bay.
Use calming aids
If your dog is likely to get extremely anxious during your car journey, he may become a risk on the road as he could howl, bark, and whine. For both your safety and your pet’s safety, you may want to use calming aids or medication to make the trip as enjoyable and safe as possible. Popping a compression jacket on your dog which applies slight pressure to his torso will release happy hormones. You could also try giving your hound a natural supplement before you travel, such as magnolia extract. Speak to your vet too, as they may suggest temporarily using anxiety medication, such as Trazodone.
Monitor the temperature
If a dog’s body temperature increases by just 2 degrees Celsius they could start to show signs of heat stroke. An anxious dog will find it difficult to cope in a vehicle that’s too hot as they’ll gradually feel more and more ill. For this reason, you need to monitor the temperature of your vehicle throughout your entire journey. It’s best to keep the car as cool as possible, so keep the windows open at all times. But only open them a little as you don’t want your worried dog trying to scramble out of the window.
Give your dog space
The average Briton will spend 4 hours travelling by car to their holiday destination. This is a long time for a dog to be confined to one space. An anxious dog, in particular, will need plenty of space to rest, stretch, and relax in your car. Before you travel, check that your vehicle is roomy enough for your belongings, your dog’s essentials, your family, and your pooch. If it isn’t, think about larger brands of vehicles. A compact and small SUV provides good fuel economy, comfort, and plenty of space, even for large breeds of dogs. They’re often smooth to drive too, which is ideal when you’re travelling with a nervous dog.
Take rest breaks
Experts recommend that dogs are given a break from travelling in the car every 2 hours. However, it’s advisable to take a break more frequently if your dog is battling anxiety. During these rest periods, park up somewhere where you can safely walk and play with your dog, such as a park or field. Anxiety is known to cause excess energy in dogs, so you need to give your dog a chance to release this. A fast-paced walk, a game of fetch, a good stretch, some water, and a toilet break will help calm your dog significantly so that he’s ready for the next part of your journey.
Put the radio on
If your dog starts to get anxious in the car and it’s not possible for you to pull over to soothe him, put the radio on. Research has found that classical music, reggae, and soft rock all have the power to calm dogs down. These types of music even reduce barking, lower a dog’s heart rate, and bring down stress levels in overwhelmed hounds. Be sure to steer clear of music with fast tempos though, as these have been found to make dogs agitated and more anxious.
Provide mental stimulation
If your dog is bored in the back of the car, his anxiety will increase. To prevent this, provide things for him to do to take his mind off his worries. An interactive toy is a great way to entertain and stimulate your dog’s mind. Placing your dog in a car booster seat is good too as it allows your dog to safely see out of the window. There will be plenty of new and interesting things for your dog to see and take in as you drive, so this is an effective way to keep your pet happy.
Don’t leave your dog on their own
Anxiety in dogs is often caused by separation anxiety. If you hop out of your vehicle to pay for fuel or stock up on snacks, your dog’s anxiety could go through the roof and this will make calming him down difficult. When you’re travelling with a dog prone to anxiety, it’s best to travel with at least one other human companion as you can be sure your dog will never be alone. If this isn’t possible, do everything you can to reduce the likelihood of having to leave your dog in the car alone, such as using the bathroom before you leave home and filling up your car at the fuel pump rather than the indoor kiosk.
Travelling with an anxious dog can be a worrying time for both owner and their pet. Thankfully, there are plenty of things you can do to make your beloved dog’s road trip as fun and stress-free as possible.