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With the holidays right around the corner, many pet parents across the country are making or finalizing their travel arrangements. Part of those arrangements includes determining what to do with their pets while they're away.
Some pet parents may board their dogs (and other pets), while others might hire a pet sitter or ask a trusted friend or family member to check on them. However, these options aren't always possible or ideal.
For many pet parents, the best solution is to bring their dogs with them while they travel. But visiting an unfamiliar house filled with new people excited to be spending time together during the holidays can cause a lot of canine anxiety. Pet parents may need to take some time to learn how to introduce a dog to a new house before they depart.
Anxiety can cause dogs to act out of character. They may refuse to eat, have accidents indoors, or cower in fear. Some canines become destructive, aggressive, or exhibit other behavior issues when anxious. Fortunately, there are a few things a pet parent can do to help their dog adjust to the new home and ensure they have a more enjoyable holiday season.
Toys can help a dog feel more at ease. A dog's favorite toys have their scent (and scents from home) on them, which can provide a sense of comfort in an unfamiliar environment. Pet parents can also use them to encourage play time or reward positive behaviors.
An old shirt, blanket, or bedding with a pet parent's scent and other scents from home can also help a dog feel safer and more comfortable in their new surroundings.
Another option for pet parents to consider is a pheromone diffuser or collar. These products, which offer an alternative to prescription medications, contain natural scents that mimic the dog-appeasing pheromones female dogs emit during lactation. For many dogs, they can provide anxiety relief and promote a sense of calm.
Pet parents can plug a diffuser into a wall outlet in their temporary room (or any room their dog will spend a lot of time). A collar allows the dog to take the calming pheromones where ever they go. Alternatively, pet parents can use a pheromone spray on their dog's blanket or bedding.
A clearly defined safe space gives a dog somewhere to go when they're overwhelmed by holiday activity. However, a quiet room may not be enough in an unfamiliar environment for a dog adjusting to a new home, even if a pet parent places familiar bedding and toys in it. A crate may provide a more comforting retreat and help avoid separation anxiety.
If pet parents haven't already, they should consider crate training their dog before leaving so that the dog understands the enclosure is a safe space they can go when stressed. Pet parents should bring the crate with them and set it up in a quiet area of their host's home, such as the room they're using during their stay. They can add a favorite toy and blanket for extra reassurance.
Stress can trigger indoor accidents. Pet parents can reduce the risk of house training issues by setting and maintaining a consistent bathroom routine as soon as they arrive at their holiday destination. If possible, they should keep the same schedule they follow at home and add additional breaks just in case. No matter what, they should be consistent to help minimize their dog's stress.
While pet parents may eat foods during the holidays that they might not typically eat at home, it isn't the time to change their dog's diet too. Stress from travel and unfamiliar places can trigger digestive upset in canines, and feeding them a new brand of dog food or human food can make it worse.
Familiar foods can help keep digestive issues to a minimum. They can also provide a sense of normalcy in a place where little else is the same. Pet parents might also want to pack their dog's usual food bowl and water bowl for familiarity.
Pet parents can ease some of their dog's anxiety by introducing new people one at a time. They should monitor their dog closely during all introductions and allow breaks when they notice any signs of stress. They should do the same during holiday celebrations, too. Again, keeping their crate in a quiet room will give the dog a calm environment to de-stress.
Traveling can be stressful enough for a dog. A lack of a consistent, predictable routine may lead to uncertainty, fear, and even greater anxiety.
Dogs are creatures of habit. Pet parents should do their best to keep the same feeding schedule and bathroom routine they follow at home. When a canine sees their activities are the same despite their new location, they're more likely to regain their sense of normalcy and feel less anxious.
Along with providing consistent bathroom breaks, pet parents should take their dogs on frequent daily walks during their holiday stay. Walks offer plenty of time for dogs to explore their surroundings and become familiar with them. They'll also provide physical and mental stimulation, which can ease stress and anxiety and allow for some quality time between human and pet.
Pet parents should reward positive behaviors with treats and plenty of praise. For instance, they can provide rewards (verbal or food) when a dog goes to the bathroom outside, curls up in their bed or crate, sits calmly in a situation that might otherwise cause excitement, or performs any other desired actions. By commending their dog's behavior, pet parents can create positive associations that may help a dog feel less stressed.
While holiday travel can be stressful for everyone, it can be particularly anxiety-inducing for dogs. Learning how to help a dog adjust to a new home by packing familiar items, taking introductions slowly, and maintaining their usual schedule will allow pet parents to make the trip a positive experience.
For additional help with pet stress and anxiety, pet parents can always contact Fuzzy. In only a few minutes, they can connect with a professional vet online 24/7 for tips, calming product recommendations, and other holiday help. Enjoying the holidays happily and safely with pets has never been easier.