Planning a vacation and worried about leaving your dog home? Will they be sad? Will they be lonely? Well, it doesn’t have to be that way! We’re sharing our top 4 suggestions for helping your dog feel calm and comfortable while you’re away.
Dogs thrive with routine and familiarity. In fact, studies show that structured routines can help increase healthy sleep patterns, decrease the likelihood of developing depression and can reduce overall stress in daily life. With this in mind, we encourage you to schedule “practice stays” if you know that your dog will need pet sitting or boarding in the future. Those practice stays will give your pup the chance to experience a shorter version of the real-life care they might need in the future. Short practice stays can mean the difference between a fun “staycation” for your dog, or your pup feeling overwhelmed when you leave them somewhere new for the first time, with people and dogs they’ve never met before. That would be hard for anyone!
At Central Bark, our one-of-a-kind Day Care program requires a weekly commitment because we know that it’s healthier and safer for your dog to maintain a routine. The weekly routine will allow them to form stronger positive relationships with the people and other dogs they’ll be seeing while you’re away. Those strong connections, that we build upon weekly, will provide comfort for your dog, increasing the likelihood that your dog finds their time without you fun, instead of stressful. Practice stays and weekly day care visits mean that you get to know us too. This means YOU can rest easy and feel like family is taking care of your dog, not strangers.
A little enrichment can go a long way. Keeping your dog’s brain engaged with simple activities like working on food puzzles or meaty chews can help them relax. In particular, frozen food items, like stuffed Kongs, will allow your dog to practice self-soothing behaviors like licking and chewing. This self-soothing and food consumption will lead to a lower heart rate and greater levels of serotonin in their digestive tract, allowing them to be more settled in their environment. A stuffed Kong can be filled with anything that is safe for your dog to eat, with the most common filler being peanut butter! Offering your dog a stuffed Kong after exercise, training or playtime is also a great way to encourage healthy rest. At Central Bark you don’t have to worry about packing multiple Kongs with a jar of peanut butter, instead let us do the work for you. We have frozen peanut butter Kongs available to add on as a part of our Stay & Play, Sleepover and Day Care services to help keep your dog happy and relaxed while they’re away from home!
Send them with comforts from home. When your dog is away from home, be sure they still have the things they know and love. Send them with their favorite toys, a cozy blanket and extra treats you know they go crazy for. These items should be familiar and smell like home! New toys are fun and clean blankets are nice, but old toys and gently used bedding are like security blankets for your dog. Remember Linus van Pelt from Peanuts? Linus is Charlie Brown’s best friend who is seen carrying his security blanket with him everywhere he goes. That blanket provided him with a sense of safety when he felt like he was in a strange environment. Even though your dog may be familiar with the space, the extra ounce of comfort can really help increase relaxation and make their stay even better.
Consider additional support with calming aids. There are hundreds of treats and supplements on the market today that can help your dog feel calm during stressful transitions or events. Talk to your veterinarian and do some research if you believe your dog would benefit from some additional support. From probiotics and pheromones, to essential oils and herbal supplements, there are many different options available. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, talk to your vet about more options, then consider contacting a reward-based dog trainer to discuss a behavior modification plan for your dog.
When preparing for your next trip, keep these things in mind and do a little planning for your dog. A bit of daily enrichment, some healthy routines, and a few comforts from home will go a long way towards helping you and your dog feel relaxed the next time you are leaving town without them.
See you next time, at Central Bark!
Carla is an Operations Field Representative for Central Bark and co-owns a dog training and behavior consulting business, Good Karma Canine. Carla has three dogs Karma, a seven-year-old American Staffordshire Terrier Mix; Gypsy, a five-year-old Bull Terrier/Lab Mix; and Newt, a two-year-old Chihuahua.