Taking your dog on vacation with you can be a really fun and memorable experience.
However, if your dog is not used to traveling, it may not go as smoothly as you anticipate.
Dogs new to traveling may find it stressful at times. Whether travelling by car, train, bus, or airplane, dogs can quickly become anxious.
The unfamiliar surroundings, smells, and experiences can confuse them and make them uncomfortable.
This stress and anxiety can have a negative impact on their health, behavior, and their enjoyment of the experience.
If your dog isn’t having a good experience, it’s likely that you are not either.
I’ve been traveling with my dogs for over 15 years and have taken many dogs on first-time trips.
Below are my tips for helping your dog stay calm and content while traveling.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links (Amazon Associate or other programs we participate in). As an affiliate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.
Keep to the Same Routine as Much as Possible
When you’re traveling, it can be really hard to stick with your normal routine. However, your dog will feel more comfortable if not everything is unfamiliar to them.
Keeping to your dog’s usual daily schedule is a great way to help them feel comfortable when away from home.
If you take them out to potty every 2-3 hours at home, try to do the same when staying at a hotel or friend’s house.
If you normally feed your dog at 6 am and 6 pm, try to stick to these times when you travel.
The more things you can keep the same for your dog, the less likely the changes will upset them.
Stick with the Same Food
In most cases, your dog doesn’t need special food when they travel.
Sticking with the same food you feed at home will help make sure they don’t get an upset tummy. It will also be another thing from home that is familiar to them.
Some dogs get an upset tummy when traveling. Feeding them the same food they get at home can help minimize any issues.
There will be some cases where feeding a different food while away from home is unavoidable.
For example, if you feed raw at home but don’t have the access to refrigeration on the road or need to bring freeze dried food on a backpacking trip to save weight.
If you can anticipate the need to switch foods while traveling, start rotating the new dog food with your dog’s normal food two or three weeks before your trip.
If you can’t, you can just try to feed the new food without a transition. Be aware it could upset your dog’s tummy though and they may not like it.
On the other hand, switching to the new food could go smoothly.
Bring Familiar Items From Home
Your dog will feel more comfortable away from home if you bring a few familiar things for them.
These items from home will smell smell familiar and give them some comfort.
Consider bringing their favorite dog bed or blanket to snuggle in.
Make Sure Your Dog Has Access to Plenty of Water
At home, most people leave a water dish out for their dogs. This means a dog can drink whenever they are thirsty.
When traveling, constant access to water is rare.
Dogs can quickly become dehydrated when they’re hot or stressed, so make sure to always have a water bottle with you, or stop at water fountains along the way, and give your dog regular opportunities to drink.
Bringing your dog’s bowl from home to keep out where you are staying can help provide familiarity and remind them where they can find water.
When travelling, water may be less available for your dog. Make sure you give plenty of water breaks to keep them hydrated.
However, if you are constantly on the move, or out for the day, that won’t address the need for regular water breaks.
For those times, I suggest you bring a collapsible silicone travel pet bowl.
Provide Plenty of Walks and Leg-stretches
When planning your itinerary, schedule regular time slots for exercising your dog.
Try to include at least one extended walk a day, and several additional opportunities to stretch, run and sniff the air.
The exercise will help burn off nervous energy and the enjoyment will divert attention from the strangeness of the circumstances.
Offer a Cozy Corner
Provide your dog with their own space away from the central activity but where they can still see you.
Familiar smells can be very comforting to your dog. Bringing along something from home is a way to help them keep calm.
Bringing your dog’s bed or blanket is the first step to creating a comforting space. The familiar feel and smell can help calm your dog.
If you have a travel bed prepared instead, let your dog familiarize themselves with it before the trip, within the familiar setting of your home.
If you’ll be staying in a hotel or house, and your dog is crate trained, consider bringing their dog crate with you. This can create a “safe cave” for your dog to hide out in.
If you are taking a road trip, make a “nesting” spot for your dog in the car so they know they always have a protected space for them.
Even bringing a blanket, cut off a piece of blanket (if space is limited), or mat from home to place on the floor of wherever you will be hanging out for a while can help your dog settle down.
Provide Your Reassuring Company and Contact
Your dog will need extra reassurance from you while away from home, particularly during unsettling, multi-stage travel processes.
They’ll want to hear your familiar voice and feel the caress of your hand, and your scent will be even more important to them, so stay close at hand during these times, even if you have other people in your party.
Consider Providing a Little Help if Needed
Despite your best efforts, dogs who are naturally nervous or uncomfortable with travel may have a hard time dealing with all of the constant changes and unfamiliar surroundings.
Don’t be afraid to explore supplements to help them relax.
Two of my favorites – the ones that work best for my dogs – are calming chews and CBD.
If your dog is very nervous, there are supplements available that can help them feel calm.
Specifically, I use:
CBD for dogs
I’ve tried about 10 different kinds of CBD products with my dogs. Each brand uses a different strain of hemp (and some brands use multiple different ones – whatever is cheapest at the time) so they can affect each dog differently.
HempMy Pet CBD Dog Treats provides the desired calming effect for us.
With all hemp CBD dog products I’ve tried, I need to give my dogs a larger dose than listed on the package to see results (at least double – if you are giving your dog more like me, it may be more cost-effective to just buy the 5mg CBD dog treats).
Also, it’s most effective when given at least 45 minutes to the anxiety-triggering experience.
Composure calming supplement
For very minor stressors, I sometimes us a different kind of calming treat as an alternative to CBD.
VetriScience Composure Calming Support for Dogs is the only natural supplement, besides CBD, we’ve tried that actually had any measurable affect.
As with the above, I need to give my dogs a larger dose than listed on the package at least 40-minutes before the stressful situation to achieve the desired calm state.
There’s nothing like having your best furry buddy for company on vacation, especially when they’re quiet, calm, and well-behaved.
With your contented dog at your side, you can enjoy your travels to the fullest.
You also don’t need to worry if your dog is being well taken care of, or getting into trouble, while you are gone.
The above tips will help ensure your faithful canine friend is enjoying the trip as much as you are.