By Mriganka Chandra*
Hello fellow Pet Parents!
We must all agree that travelling with our pets becomes an incredible experience for some of us while it is a downhill road for others. Like every child and every human, every dog is unique especially when it comes to travelling.
Travel anxiety can truly seize your dog in its poorest fits.
We must remember to keep calm and not push our panic buttons. As responsible pet parents, it is our utmost duty to treat the fear of travel in our pooches and make every ride and journey a delightful experience for them.
My first dog Panzer, a handsome Rottweiler, was always upset over the idea of long journeys or car rides, unlike my golden retriever. It was not a tough row to hoe to realize that it was not the apprehension of visiting the vet but Panzer simply did not appreciate the idea of travelling for some other possible reason.
But to deprive him of vacations and short picnics solely because of his anxiety of journeys seemed highly irrational to me. Do we ever think of abandoning our kids behind if they nag? Then why should our pets withstand the grief of being left home alone?
While there are a bunch of medicines that your vet can prescribe to calm your pooch down while travelling or during rides, some of them have the sedative effect, which makes your pooch sleepy most of the time. If I reach my destination and my dog is super sleepy, where is the fun in that? Even though I preferred to opt for those during long journeys but for the shorter rides, I surely wanted him to be awake and to rejoice with all his heart.
We attempted a few tricks with Panzer, which certainly helped us in the long run to eradicate his travel anxiety,
- We began by taking a halt after every 15 minutes to bring him down, make him walk and let him be on the ground as lowering the windows did not help in the beginning because he would still be anxious about being in the car.
- We played with him for some time in the house before we left to keep him in good spirits and energized for the trip.
- We kept making conversations with him by taking his name and showing him creatures outside the window throughout the ride, so that he felt like the centre of attention and felt loved.
- 3 days of the week, before his evening walk we would practice by taking him to the car, making him sit inside, treating him with his favourite biscuit and then getting him out. He felt he is being praised to sit properly in the car.
- We fed him light food and less water to keep his stomach light on the way because travel anxiety often leads to motion sickness.
- We ensured giving him enough space in the car with his favourite toy and blanket.
Panzer had a habit of being troubled by any speed breaker, a rumble strip that we had to pass through or even a patch of bad road. Since one cannot ignore these on roads, we started keeping him busy with a toy or treat the moment we saw that we were approaching one.
Ah! That undoubtedly reminds me to inform you that every pet with travel anxiety has distinct triggers and these triggers are precisely what our fight is against. Make it a point to notice the triggers in your pet and find ways to waver their minds about it. It could be speed bumps, cattle on road, other humans outside or marketplaces. Take help from treats, toys, car games for dogs and avoid that their attention shifts to these triggers when they pass across them.
Another important point to keep in mind is that all this is not forever. While every dog and their anxiousness levels are different, every ride makes them more comfortable and relaxed with the idea of travel and facing their triggers. The only trick is to keep patience with them and follow the right track. Ultimately, they get used to the idea and travel becomes easy. Even if they don’t, one can always take medical help and carry anti-anxiety medication or medicines that treat motion sickness.
It was always heavenly for me to travel and ride with Panzer and even though we had to be alert on the way but to see him play and run at the picnic spots once we had reached was worth every effort that we put in. After all, that is when we could call it a family picnic because the family would never be complete without him.
*Author is a 23 year old political science graduate, a teacher, a passionate dog parent, and a content writer, who finds solace in being surrounded by dogs and books at all times in life. Her blog ‘Paint it Olive Green’ represents her personal life experiences in the military surroundings, as a student and a dog parent. For any guidance on dog parenting, she can be reached on her dog blogging account on Instagram @dogistaan.