Planning on traveling with your dog – where your dog will have to get used to a new place to stay? Perhaps it is a vacation or you’re going to visit someone for an extended stay. Make sure the experience is a positive, happy one for both humans and canines alike. I recently traveled across the country to California with Rosy to stay in a townhouse for a month that we had never been to before. Here are some photos of her enjoying the new sights and smells of being at the ocean.
A change of location can be exciting for a dog but also anxiety producing – especially if they experience being left alone by you, too fast and too long in a strange place – like a hotel room or if you’re staying in the home of a friend or family member. When you leave them there alone, your dog does not know initially, that they are not being abandoned in this unfamiliar place – even if there are other people around. By the way, hotel’s complain and have policies against guests that leave their dogs alone in the rooms barking non-stop. When you hear that, it’s a dog experiencing separation anxiety. I never left Rosy alone in the hotel rooms we stayed in as we drove across the country.
When traveling with your dog, you’ll want to take steps to make sure you do not create separation anxiety where there was none before.
Speaking of the topic in general, in the last episode of Raising Your Paws Podcast, number 45, I spoke with Nicole Wilde, professional dog trainer, behavior specialist, and author of the book, Don’t Leave Me! Step by Step Help for Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety. We talked about separation anxiety – what it is and what you can do if your dog has a problem with this. Listen to the episode here.
When moving into a new place temporarily, (or permanently) prevent it from occurring.
1. At first your dog may follow you around everywhere you go in the new location needing to keep you in sight. This is fine. Let them. Rosy does not do this at home as she is not the kind of dog that has to be near me every second. However, last summer when we moved into the new house in Illinois, she did this the first day as I was unpacking and then recently, in the California townhouse, the first few days, as I was getting settled she was like velcro – she would follow me up and down the stairs and even peek to see where I had gone when I visited the bathroom. I did shut the door and she soon learned I’d reappear.
(For moving into a new home – to hear everything to do to ensure an easy transition for your pets, listen to podcast episode #22.)
2. Plan to stay home at the new place with your dog for a number of days. You want to try NOT to leave your dog alone for long periods of time in an unfamiliar place. This may mean ordering in food at the hotel, taking your dog with you, or arranging fun things to do so you’ll be at the house for a few days. In my case, when I moved into my new home last summer, I took a week’s vacation – it wasn’t only for Rosy – I also needed the week to unpack and attend to other business, but it greatly benefited her. Here in the townhouse, during the first few weeks, when I needed to leave to run some errands, I took her with me. In places she could not accompany me, since it was the summer, I left her in the locked, air-conditioned car. The car is a safe, familiar place for her and she is very used to being in it for short periods of time, alone.
3. Get your dog used to you leaving the residence in small little steps.
a. On the first day – practice going out the door you’ll use the most and then immediately come right back in. Do this a number of times. In California, when I arrived, I had to unpack the car and so I went in and out of the door into the garage at least 20 times. At first, I left the door hinged open so Rosy could see me. By the end of the day, after going in and out so many times, I was able to shut the door in between my trips and she would be in the family room, waiting, but relaxed. I also got her used to my raising the electric garage door – moving the car out, and then coming right back in.
b. With any other doors of the house – practice going out and coming right back in . You will start increasing the length of time you spend outside of the house. 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes. If there is a screen door they can look out and see you when you start this process, it is helpful. Rosy would watch me as I wheeled the garbage cans out to the end of the driveway or visit with some of the new neighbors. Then I started shutting the outer door, so she could not see me when I was outside for 15 minutes. After the first week, she no longer would be waiting at the door, but lying down in the living room, secure I was coming back.
c. When your dog seems at ease, then you can extend the time and leave for an hour or two. Give your dog a Kong toy stuffed with frozen canned food, pumpkin or plain yogurt for a lovely distracting treat while you are gone for longer periods. And, when you leave, act normal – not guilty or anxious yourself. Don’t make a big deal out of saying goodbye to them – just a casual “see you later,” and when you return, keep it calm – offer the same routine greeting you normally would.
Full Show Notes for Raising Your Paws Episode 45.
Does your dog have a separation anxiety problem? Not quite sure what it is or what to do about it? Nicole Wilde, professional dog trainer, behavior specialist and author of the book, Don’t Leave Me! Step by Step Help for Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety, explains that there is hope and help for you and your dog to alleviate the numerous challenges that result from a pup who becomes severely anxious when left alone.
Then, I’ll share a few more unique ways in which dogs apply their noses to assist fire and termite inspectors as well as beekeepers.
Resources for the episode.
Link to order Nicole Wilde’s book, Don’t Leave Me! Step by Step Help for your Dog’s Separation Anxiety.
Here are links to the organizations, Nicole mentioned to find a behavior specialist if you would like help dealing with your dog’s severe separation anxiety.
Source for the story about dog’s smelling arson and insects: “How Dogs Think” By Stanley Coren.