We could all use a good vacation to relinquish stress and recharge. However, with plane tickets, trip itineraries, car rentals and hotel bookings, planning your vacation can be quickly become overwhelming!
Waiting until the last minute to figure out your pets’ care can leave you feeling stressed, and unfortunately, our animal pals pick up on our tension and take on that energy themselves. They require some planning and preparation for their staycation in order to make things as smooth as possible for them.
Here are 10 tips to help you reduce stress for your pets and make sure that they have a fun and carefree time when you travel!
Remembering to pack everything for your vacation can be a pain in and of itself. Don’t make it more stressful by packing in front of your pets. Just seeing a suitcase can send some poor beloved furkids into a panicked frenzy. It can be very triggering for them when they don’t know what’s going on- is Mom and Dad leaving or does it mean new surroundings for them? If possible, don’t let them see your bags at all – pack and transfer them to the car when they’re in the other room catching some z’s.
This following is my personal opinion, although I don’t judge. I recommend you don’t kennel your pets, unless you know they've done well in them in the past. Many do not do well in that environment, although some do just fine with it. Leaving your pet at a facility can expose them to illness and make them more susceptible to parasites. Many dogs who are not used to being confined or being alone for long periods can find this to be a very stressful and traumatic experience. Especially for those with separation anxiety, as they do not get much, if any, one-on-one contact with humans (strangers, no less) while being at a kennel.
We hate talking about it – but it needs to be said. Beware on-demand pet sitting apps. Sadly, too many horror stories saturate the internet every day about pets getting hurt while in the hands of inexperienced folks looking to make some extra cash. This often leads to multiple pets that they don’t know staying in their home all at once. Trust someone who is reliable, knowledgeable, and qualified, whether they be a professional company, family member, or friend who knows the dog well. An inexperienced and unskilled care provider can mean disaster to their or your home, pet's well-being, loss of valued items, and potential injuries to the provider that you could be liable for.
Just leave ‘em home. Traveling stresses out many dogs because they’re in a new environment and can often get carsick. Cats will often jolt out of the car no matter how careful you are! Let your pets enjoy their vacation where they're most comfortable - in their own home surrounded by familiar settings and scents. This will ensure that your dog stays in the comfort of their own home, on their normal eating, potty, and medication schedules, with a customized care plan for your pet. Having someone come to your home ensures your pet will have the TLC and happy play time they need and can greatly decrease stress to your animal by making things feel like just another day by helping to distract and lower separation anxiety symptoms for your pet.
If you’re not having a friend or relative provide care and opt for a professional pet sitting company instead, be sure to do a Meet & Greet first. Always have an initial meeting ahead of time with a reputable professional company that is fully insured, bonded, and licensed in Virginia Beach. This will help to ensure it’s a good fit for you, your pets, and the sitter before handing over your keys, and will also help your dog stay calm when the new sitter enters in your home; they've met them already and saw that you gave the ok. Ask them questions and share any concerns you may have. When choosing a professional pet sitter or dog walker, you’ll want to look at reviews as well as ask for references if you’re still unsure. Always trust your gut but most importantly, your dog’s.
Take your dog on a long walk before leaving on your trip. This will help things go smoother for the pets’ anxiety and keep you both healthy, as well as helps build trust. This will be beneficial to both you and your dogs’ stress level. He won’t have time to get lonely because you spent some one on one time walking and strengthening your bond just hours before. He won’t feel as hyperactive, or later destructive. Don’t forget to have the care provider come not too long after you leave so Fido doesn’t get too wound up or pent up and bored.
Leave dogs with plenty of chewtoys. Chewing is essential for a dog’s health and they have this urge no matter what the situation is, but the urge is most strong when they need an outlet. It’s up to you to provide enticing chewtoys so your pup isn’t getting into a frenzy and eating the leg of the living room armchair. Think Kongs filled with peanut butter, treats, dry kibble, bite sized vegetables, etc. Just stuff ‘em, freeze ‘em, then treat ‘em when you go to leave. Another good one is to buy puzzle toys and put in small bits of treat that they have to work to get out that will keep their time and brain engaged.
According to National Geographic, a brain-imaging study suggests that when your dog smells their human’s unique biological scent, the pleasure parts of its brain light up. What does this mean? Oxyoticin is the love hormone that binds humans and dogs together and mimics the human mother-infant bond. When your pet smells your scent, they immediately feel happier, more calm and comforted, and less stressed. Leave out your pillow or a t-shirt that smells like you. Better yet, let them sleep in your bed while you’re away.
Leave the TV on or soothing music on the stereo. Music can be very healing for humans and animals alike. You can play classical music or even purchase albums crafted specifically for nervous pets to soothe them during storms and the like. Many times, it assists them to drift off to sleep and helps to drown out background noises.
Take care of you! Try to keep your own stress at bay. Pets pick up on your stress levels and know when something’s up. Consider taking a walk with your buddy, deep breathing, meditation, lighting a candle, have a bath, have a cup of tea, etc. Help each other relax by spending time together and having some cuddles and oxytocin!
I hope that these 10 tips have given you some things to think about regarding how to reduce your pets' stress when you travel. When you think of things from their perspective, the choices on how to make things less stressful are pretty simple to implement. Make sure you choose that right person or company that you feel comfortable with and know you can trust to give your pet the high-quality care, love, and personalized attention that they deserve so they can enjoy a stress-free staycation while you have peace of mind. Give them lots of things to chew on and a nice environment to nap - they’ll be good! Wishing you the best!