A life of constant change can be stressful for a fearful dog. New people, places, new sounds, smells and strange dogs, overloading their senses, and triggering their fight or flight responses. Traveling with your dog can be a great opportunity for training. Increasing his or her confidence, and patiently helping your dog overcome their behavioral challenges, will strengthen your relationship.
Your dog’s behavior may frustrate at times, but it’s important to remember that no dog is perfect. You’ll both benefit when you acknowledge your dog’s issues, and begin working with its limitations.
Every dog is motivated by something, and discovering what makes your dog happy can help you both through behavioral issues. Is your dog food motivated? Does he or she love to play ball, or have a special toy? Does your dog live for your approval? Finding that special thing to use as a reward is key to training. Help your dog to live the RV lifestyle with as little stress as possible.
Here are a few tips that can help you with your nervous or fearful dog.
- Have a dog crate. Your dog may need to have his “cave”, his special little safe space to retreat to when things get stressful. Having your dog in his safe space while driving can reduce stress for both of you.
- Play calming music specifically for dogs. During travel, or at any time your dog is agitated, you can play music with special sound therapy tones specifically designed to calm your dog. These tones are based in pleasant, classical piano music, and should not affect you, or your alertness.
- Get your dog a Thunder Shirt. The Thunder Shirt design applies a gentle, constant pressure to calm anxiety, fear, and over excitement. It’s useful during thunder storms, fireworks, separation anxiety, travel, vet visits, and much more. It requires no training, and no medication, so your dog stays drug-free.
- If your dog is a problem barker, instead of immediately reprimanding him or her, acknowledge what they are barking at; you can say something like, “I see those people! What are they doing? I see. Now calm down. Calm down”. Your dog believes it’s doing their duty as a watchdog, so release them from their duty, by acknowledging what they see.
- Walk your dog early and late. Get out while everyone is still asleep. This ensures you won’t meet too many people and other dogs, while walking around the RV park. If there is a popular spot for walking dogs, go in the opposite direction. Look for quiet trails and less popular grassy patches to meet your dog’s needs.
- Never leave home without treats! If your dog is food motivated, you can use food to redirecting their attention when faced with something scary. This will allow you to help your dog move past its fears.
- Notice how your dog calms him or herself, and work with that. Modify that behavior to help your dog cope with stressful situations. One example, throw a treat ahead on the ground, to get your dog to move past what’s scaring him. Over time, it will become a game they really enjoy.
- Make training a game that gives your dog what it needs. For instance, if they are afraid of other dogs, when you see another dog at a comfortable distance, ask your dog if they see it. When they do, say “YES!” and give them a treat. The goal is, over time, to reduce the distance that your dog needs from other dogs to feel safe. Eventually, this will resolve the fear of other dogs.
- Avoid the obvious triggers. Parades, pet-friendly festivals, and dog parks may be places you know you simply can’t take your dog. Leave them at home in the RV, as long as the weather permits.
- You can’t always have the whole trail, or park to yourself. If your dog is fearful of strangers, get your dog a Do Not Pet Vest to keep strangers from approaching your dog, and also don’t be afraid to tell strangers, especially children, not to pet your dog.