Taking an Anxious/Stressed Dog on a Summer Holiday

border collie in car looking worried

Dogs are part of the family, and we want them to share the fun of a summer holiday. However, such a dramatic change in routine for an anxious dog could be highly stressful and distressing.

Identifying stress in a dog

There are many different signs that a dog is stressed, but remember that some are very subtle and also that different types of dogs display different types of body postures. For example, in most cases, a tail tucked down between the back legs is an indicator that a dog is stressed but greyhounds carry their tails naturally in this position.

Stressed curly haired dog showing whale eyes and panting

The most common signs of stress in dogs are:

  • Tail tucked under or lowered
  • Pacing/unable to settle
  • Hunched posture
  • Licking lips
  • Leaning away
  • Ears back
  • Lips pulled back into a grin and exposing teeth
  • Yawning
  • Tension lines around the brow, similar to frowning
  • White of the eyes showing

This list is not exhaustive so for more information check out our blog Identifying Signs of Stress in Dogs.

Dogs with travel anxiety

It is important to make sure that your dog is familiar, happy and relaxed about the mode of transport you are going to use. Are they comfortable on a train, in the car, on the ferry? To minimise any anxiety, you should introduce your dog to these situations, your dog needs to feel safe and secure and be safe and secure. Remember not all dogs will be suited to these types of transport.

If your dog is travel sick then your vet may be able to help with medication, and make sure that you don’t feed your dog prior to setting off. But if your dog has severe travel sickness it may be kinder to find someone familiar to look after them whilst you are away. If this is the case, you should make plans prior to going on holiday to leave your dog with the person they are going to stay with for short periods of time and get them to accompany you on a few walks.

border collie in car looking slightly stressed

To help reduce anxiety and stress during the journey, remember to let your dog relieve themself before getting in the car, and make sure they have a chance for a comfort break if the journey is very long, (don’t forget the poo bags!).

Your dog should be safely and securely restrained whilst travelling in a vehicle. By law, you must not transport your dog in a way that may cause an injury or unnecessary suffering. Don’t forget to make sure there is plenty of ventilation and you have water for your dog.

Changes in routine can lead to a dog becoming stressed

Taking your dog on holiday seems so simple but you should consider several things before embarking on a two-week break to the coast. The first one is ‘will my dog enjoy the time away from home?’ some dogs may find it difficult to adapt to changes in environment and routine.

A dog lacking in confidence may not be able to cope with meeting new people, dogs and exuberant children. Making your dog face these new situations could be unbearable for him/her and an inappropriate reaction could result in tragic consequences. You can help by indicating your dog isn’t comfortable around other dogs or people by using specific leads/ collars.

Older dogs and those with health problems can become very disorientated and may become anxious and fearful in new environments. They no longer have the safety and security of familiar surroundings and normal routines. Sight-seeing and exploring means the family could be constantly ‘on the go’ and an old dog or a dog with health problems may simply not have the stamina to cope with the increase in activity. To leave him or her in an unfamiliar and strange place may be very bewildering. The car is not an alternative as we all know the dangers of leaving dogs in cars during the summer months.

older labrador sat in long grass

To help your dog settle into their holiday home, put your dog’s bed in a quiet area and allow your dog to settle into the new surroundings. It is going to be a busy couple of weeks and your dog will need to have a safe area to relax in. Try to stick as much as possible to your home routine (at least for a couple of days). This will help your dog to adjust to their new surroundings.

During your holiday your dog will have much more time with you than normal so you should allow time when you get home to accustom your dog to being left alone again.

Keeping a dog’s diet consistent

Anxious dogs can often suffer from tummy upsets and therefore it is essential that your dog’s diet and feeding regime is not interrupted and remains consistent. This is particularly important when feeding Breakthrough Dog food as a change in diet could result in a deterioration of behaviour. Make sure you have enough food for the length of your stay and for when you get home. To work out how much food you are going to need you can always call the Breakthrough helpline: 0808 168 3344.

Don’t forget that although the family may be having lots of ‘treats’ don’t be tempted to share that ice cream or burger with your dog. A lot of rich food can result in digestive problems and if using Breakthrough dog food you should only be using TrainUp treats to ensure the balance of the key ingredients is not disrupted.

When the weather is hot many dogs have a reduced appetite. Don’t be lured into adding things to your dog’s food to make it more palatable especially when feeding Breakthrough. If you need to encourage your dog to eat then you can add tuna brine (not the tuna!!) or the water from some boiled chicken.

General tips for holidays with dogs

Check that your holiday destination is dog friendly and that there are no specific requirements in relation to dogs. After all, if your dog chases cats, it’s too late once you arrive to find out that the owners have two resident cats!!!

Although your dog is microchipped, all your details will relate to your home address, so you should make sure you get an identity tag with your holiday address and your name and mobile phone number, so that your dog can be reunited with you as quickly as possible should he/she go missing while you are away.

Get the contact details of the local vet- you then won’t be panicking if you need their help.

Don’t let your dog off the lead until you have explored the area, there may be hidden hazards and/or livestock. If in doubt keep your dog on the lead.

Avoid stress by keeping your dog on a lead while exploring new areas

There may be occasions when it is not safe or suitable for a dog to join in with some activities such as fun fairs, boat trips etc. Be prepared for one of the family to take your dog for a walk rather than leaving him/her in the car. You have made the decision to bring your dog with you on holiday so make sure that he/she has a great time as well as you!

Is taking your dog on holiday with you the best option?

The choice of whether you take your dog on holiday, or leave them in kennels or with a family member will depend upon your dog’s specific needs. If having considered all this, you feel that your holiday might be too stressful for your dog, then it might be better to leave him/her at home, being cared for by a responsible adult either within your home or at theirs.

You could consider boarding kennels but these can also be very stressful for dogs which are not comfortable around other dogs or those which have a very strong attachment to their owners. If you opt for boarding kennels make sure you have taken your dog for short stays (maybe just a couple of hours at first) so they can become accustomed to the environment and learns that they haven’t been abandoned!

Dog in a kennel


Summer holidays should be fun for everyone, including your dog. So make sure you all can enjoy your time together. Make special memories!

Dog looking out a window to a beautiful landscape, a shop now button and the Breakthrough TrainUp Treats

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