Taking a vacation when you have a dog can be a challenge, as often it is not possible or convenient to take them with you. However, when you have organized the practical aspects of your dog’s care and accommodation while you are away, you need to consider how they will cope emotionally. You cannot explain why you have gone away or that you will be coming back, and if they are staying in unfamiliar kennels, it can be a potentially upsetting time for your dog. It can be less traumatic for the dog if you hire a pet sitter to stay in your home with them, as at least their surroundings will be familiar.
To minimize the negative impact on your dog, here are some ways to prepare them for your absence.
Spend some quality time with them before you leave
In the days leading up to your trip, try to set aside some extra time to spend with your dog. Whether you take an extra walk, play with them, or spend some cuddle time on the sofa, the more your dog gets to see you, the better.
Meet with the person or team who will be caring for your dog
If possible, you and your dog should meet with the person or people who will be caring for them while you are away. If the dog recognizes the person, they will feel more comfortable and, hopefully, less anxious. This will put your mind at ease that your dog will be cared for by a competent and caring person and allows you to share any important information.
Tell the sitter(s) about your dog’s personality and any potential issues
If your dog struggles with anxiety, make sure the sitter knows about their symptoms and potential triggers. For example, separation anxiety is a common issue for many dogs, so if possible, the sitter should avoid leaving them alone for long periods.
Make sure they have familiar items
If the dog is staying somewhere that they are not familiar with, be sure to send them with some home comforts. This might be their bed, a blanket they are used to sleeping with, a favorite toy, or some clothing that smells like you.
Get some exercise before you leave
Exercise is key to ensuring a happy and calm dog on any day, and it is particularly crucial on a potentially stressful day like your day of departure. Try to take your dog for an extra-long walk and play lots of games before you leave, as this will boost their endorphins, reduce stress, and tire them out, ready for a nap.
Use anxiety supplements/products
Some owners find that CBD dog treats or diffusers which release calming pheromones into the air can reduce anxiety in dogs, as can wearing a coat or t-shirt, which applies reassuring pressure around their body. There are also lots of toys that are designed to distract and entertain anxious dogs by rewarding them with treats when they solve puzzles and/or chew them enough.
Be strong when you leave them
If you are feeling anxious or sad about leaving your dog behind, your dog is likely to pick up on those feelings. When you leave, try to be calm and in control of your emotions as this will help them to feel there is nothing to worry about.