Time out – a necessity when travelling with a dog

Mr Tilly is over four now. He’s a delightful dog who enriches our lives in so many ways. When we decided to get a canine companion four years ago, we decided we’d get a puppy from a responsible breeder. We loved the idea of getting a rescue dog, but recognised that a lot of rescue dogs come with emotional baggage from their early life experiences. Being 25 years between dogs, we made a commitment that this new addition to our household would absolutely be our last pet. If our pet was to develop any emotional problems then it had to be of our own making. That meant a rescue dog was out.

First we chose the breed, one that wasn’t to big, and one that didn’t shed. A small sized Labradoodle fitted the bill. Next we chose our breeder, Eungai (pronounced Yoong Guy) in Kalamunda, Perth. Eungai is a small, accredited breeder, and research indicated that Mandi from Eungai gave her puppies the best start possible to develop into healthy, well adjusted dogs. So far so good…..

Mr Tilly came to us approximately four years ago. He was perfect! He still is – almost. I say almost, as we have, somehow, allowed him to develop one little bit of an emotional problem. This first became evident when we were staying at our sons in Katherine two years ago. We decided on a day out at a National park, so gave Tilly his usual treat when leaving him home, and left him safely inside our son’s home with the air conditioning running. We came home to one very stressed dog, and a slightly torn up house. He had strewn rubbish all around the living area, and had torn up the vinyl by the front door. We were shocked! He had never displayed such behaviour before.

We’re two years on from that now, and he’s come away with us on most of our caravan trips, We’re realising he’s very anxious when separated from us if he’s away from his home environment. Most people who travel with their pets are able to live their lives much as they do when at home. They take good care of their pet’s needs, exercise and mental stimulation, food, and plenty of love. In return they can turn the TV and air conditioning on in their van, kiss their fur balls goodbye and toddle off for a swim in the pool, or a meal out in the evening at a nearby restaurant. Not so Mr Tilly….. we’ve tried having drinks at a neighbouring caravan. He whined, barked and generally threw a tantrum. We’ve tried going a little further away, in the hopes that once we were out of sight and hearing, he’d settle down. No such luck. It’s clear we have allowed him to develop what’s commonly known in dogs as, separation anxiety. A problem he deals with reasonably well in his own home, but he’s clearly very stressed when we’re away from our own bricks and mortar residence

Now we have clearly recognised we have a problem, we need to work out what to do about it. Hopefully he’ll still be travelling with us for at least another ten years to come. It’s important for us that we can have a little bit of ‘couples only time’ in the coming ten years when away from home. And it’s important that he isn’t overly stressed when we take a few little breaks away from him. Any suggestions will be most welcome.

In the meantime, we did make use of a dog sitter that came highly recommended here in Broome. He might not be happy, but we could at least make sure he was safe, and had some good, caring company. Simone has a home based dog grooming business and also does doggie day care. Her home is very secure, and she has two well adjusted friendly dogs of her own. Dogs are cared for in her home and get the run of the place just like her own dogs do. They’re even allowed on her sofa. (Contact me if you would like her contact details).

We booked him in for a day so as we could make use of some much needed, time out. Simone exceeded any expectations from the recommendations. She is just lovely, and clearly loves dogs. I gather Tills wasn’t excited about being left, but it sounds like he stayed calm, and didn’t wreck havoc, or scream the place down. At one stage he went missing, a search found him comfortably curled up on the main bed – sounds like he even started to settle in….. it’s a start. We did have a great day out on the ocean on Karma IV. More about that next time…..

13 thoughts on “Time out – a necessity when travelling with a dog

  1. Just remembered – when we were initially trying to train our girl not to go beserk when we both went out, I used one of those indestructible rawhide curled up bone things, and filled the cracks with peanut butter. That seemed to distract her while we actually went, and then I think she came to associate us going with treats!

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  2. Dogs are wonderful companions. They love being around their own pack. Some cope without their pack if that is their routine. I think being retired gives the dog an idea you are always going to be around. Separation anxiety is common. Does he like bones? I guess it is a problem to have a stinky bone in the caravan, but chewing relieves a lot of anxiety and is a treat.
    Can you give him a bone – even a composite bacon flavoured bone like chew ( from pet store), dipped in peanut butter? And gradually increase the time you spend away from him? First five minutes, then ten, etc. Taking the bone/chew away when you come back? Our pups love chewing plastic milk bottles – they make a fun noise pushing them around on the tiles – or a cardboard box to chew up.

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    1. He does have a bone most mornings, but we always stay near by just in case a piece comes off and he chokes on it. We may try one of the plug in pheromone thingies – I think it’s called Adaptil. It’d just be nice to get an hour at the pool together, or an hour or two in the evening. We’ll work on it. Pleased we found the sitter in Broome though. That’ll be a big help.

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      1. My vet recommended we use an Adaptil collar and plug in device simultaneously. One without the other doesn’t work as well, according to her. But the collars are expensive and only last one month.

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      2. I’d have to give some thought. I remember trying something similar with a cat we were fostering. There may have been a marginal improvement, but not enough that I could definitely pinpoint to pheromones.

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      3. He’s even a little anxious when even one of us out. He’ll sit on the sofa looking out the window watching for the missing person to return – the pack has to be together! I think I’ll work on that first. Mind you, in his own home he’s ok when we go out. We just give him his treat and say goodbye. According to the neighbours they know when we’re returning because that’s when he starts barking, never while we’re actually away from the house. He has to welcome us home with whoops of joy and backflips.

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  3. Have had our stumpy tail cattle dog for over 10 years now, since she was 4 months old. Came from family where changed circumstances meant they couldn’t keep her. Like Mr Tilly, she is a people dog – happy just to be wherever we are, and no problems. But, like him, separation anxiety. She copes at home, trained to focus on stuffed treat ball, not us going. But has been known to lift off the roof with howling/screaming at dog wash service, ditto vet if we have to leave her. It is, really, normal dog instinct to be a pack creature, not solitary. You are his pack! I think you will just have to keep on using dog sitters….Might be worth finding someone in a caravan park who is willing to try the experiment of whether he would settle being minded by someone else in that setting? Some doggy travellers like to do a pet minding swap, to enable a dog free day out, sometimes. Good luck.

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    1. Yes, our vet recently said that all dogs have separation anxiety, they just show it in different ways. Anyway, we’ll give it a shot at settling him down a bit more. Maybe a bit of age together with a bit of training may help. Without that, I’m pleased to have found a sitter here in Broome that I’m happy with.

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