Holiday solutions for your separation anxiety dogadmin
It’s that time of year again, the weather is getting warmer and we’re all longing for a well-earned vacation. And no one deserve a holiday more than youif you share your life with a separation anxiety dog!
But how on Earth can you ever consider a holiday when your dog can’t even really cope with you being out of the room?
Well, first of all you need a holiday more than anyone, and secondly, with a bit of planning ahead a wee break isn’t too far fetched an idea. No really!
How NOT to holiday
Whatever stage you are at with your dog’s separation issues, I am sure your long term dream is to fix that problem once and for all and put all that anxiety behind you. With that in mind, probably the biggest holiday no-no is upping and leaving your dog without warning (which I am sure goes without saying but I’m saying it anyway, just in case!).
This means not leaving your dog at home but also includes leaving your dog in a boarding kennels and might even apply if you have a home boarder in mind. Kennels are intensely stressful for dogs, and whilst it is theoretically possible that a separation anxiety dog will enjoy being kennelled, I haven’t met any. Family, friends, sitters and home boarding are much more suitable for separation anxiety dogs, but your dog will cope much better if you help them get ready to spend time with someone else.
Plan and Prepare
Whatever you decide to do, the best way to ensure everyone has a great time is to plan well and then prepare and even train for the scenario.
By definition, dogs with separation anxiety are, well, anxious. A lot of them are also control freaks with trust issues. For a dog with separation anxiety and especially if they are part way through a separation training programme, too many changes can erode their confidence and crumble progress faster than you can say adios!
Don’t let that put you off though – broadening your pup’s horizon can actually help treat their separation anxiety by building their circle of trust to include other people. Introduce time with other people by setting up opportunities for your dog to dip one of their cute little toe beans at a time and build things gradually.
A good home boarder or pet sitter will be happy to have a few hours trial, and from here you can try a trial night. Yes, it may cost a wee bit more but it’ll be cheaper than more behaviour consults, and having peace of mind will ensure you get some time out to relax too!
If you are planning on taking your dg with you, make sure you book carefully to ensure you’ll not end up leaving them alone in a strange place. Look for dog friends cafes and eateries, and activities your dog will enjoy too.
Holiday tips for owners with separation anxiety dogs
- Take them with you! I know, this sounds obvious (and you may legitimately want a break from them, which is healthy!). There are lots of great dog-friendly holiday options from hotels and B&Bs to renting a camper van or even camping. Holidaying with friends and relatives may also be a good option. If you live in Scotland the options really are endless!
- Have a “staycation” – I am sure people are sick of hearing this after the pandemic, and like me are dreaming of far away shores. But you would be surprised how good a vacationing at home can really be. Turn off the phone, shut the laptop and plan a few days of doing things you and your dog really love. Take the pressure off if you’ve been undertaking training, and just take a break. Sleeping and undertaking activities that you enjoy will help you and your dog feel more relaxed.
- Save money by taking short, local breaks. If you haven’t left your separation anxiety dog for a long time (or ever!), then taking a wee short break and leaving them with friends and family will give you a much needed break. If you’re already spending a fortune on day care for your pup, this is also a good money saving option, and you can even ramp up the luxury a bit because you’re paying for fewer nights.
- Build up to bigger trips.Staying locally or just booking a night or two away to begin with will let you and your dog test the water before heading away on a bigger trip or further away. If your dog really struggles with being away from you, start with tiny trips out of the room/ house whilst your dog sitter feeds them lots of their favourite foods. Every dog is different, so don’t be disheartened if they can only do a few minutes just now, as long as you work below their threshold and make positive things happen when you’re away, you will gradually build them up.
Can my dog do separation anxiety training whilst on holiday?
I frequently get asked by clients whether they can continue training whilst on holiday with their dog, or whether their family/ dog sitter should carry on with the separation training programme whilst they are away.
The answer in 99% of cases is no. This is because things are going to be very different to the training scenario you’ve been working on, which means there’s a good chance your dog will struggle. Successful separation training means setting your dog up for success, but there’s another good reason not to train too.
If you have a dog with separation anxiety, you are a superhero dog owner. Your whole life takes place around your dog’s separation anxiety and you spend an awful lot of time and energy worrying about your dog. It is therefore essential you take a break, recharge your batteries and focus on you for a change. You’ve earned that holiday, so whether it is for a few hours or a few days, hang up your training hat and enjoy it!