Karen B. London
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Suitcases Stress Dogs
Packing no fun for anybody

A friend of mine posed the question, “Am I the only crazy lady who has to pack bags for a trip in secret so the dog doesn’t have a meltdown?” The answer to this is, “No!” Many of us have watched our dogs become nervous as we pack, or even as we pull the suitcase out of the closet.

Even if dogs are comfortable in a kennel or at a friend’s house when their guardians must travel without them, it has to be unsettling for them not to know what’s happening. When the suitcases come out, the dogs don’t know whether it’s a trip they’re going on or not. They don’t know where they will be staying, especially if several home-away-from-homes are options.

I used to travel a lot during the four years that my husband and I lived 1300 miles apart. As the first sign of a trip, my dog began to watch me even more intently than usual. I always imagine a cartoon bubble over his head that read, “Uh-oh, I don’t like the looks of this at all.”

And this was a dog who was adored at the place he stayed when I was away and loved to be there. When I dropped him off, he would trot away with one of the staff, bouncing happily with joy. He was so enthusiastic about the love from the people and playtime with his dog friends, that there was not so much as an ear flick in my direction. It used to make me feel bad, even though I know that I was lucky to have a dog who was well adjusted and able to handle such transitions.

I know some people never travel without their dogs, and those dogs may just be excited when they see the signs that travel is imminent. How does your dog act when you start to pack?


Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

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Submitted by Jules | August 24 2012 |

We often take our dogs wherever we go, when we travel, though occasionally we can't and have friends that care for them when we are gone. No matter, though, because every time we take out a suitcase, or often even a gym bag(!), all three dogs try to get into the suitcase. They want to be packed! It is difficult to pack when the dogs are around, so I try to pack when the dogs are out of the room.

Submitted by Amber | August 31 2012 |

My dog has her own suitcase and knows when she is coming along. I even have her select which toys she wants to bring. If I am only packing my suitcase she is sad but she knows what I mean when I say it is a "Stay Day" and accepts it.

Submitted by Adrian Meli | August 31 2012 |

My dog sleeps in the suitcase the night before :-)

Submitted by Charlie | August 31 2012 |

Our dog will see the suitcase. If it is my husband's then she is fine as he travels a lot. If it is mine a much bigger issue. She will climb on the bed and watch then start clawing at the clothes or me. Once I'm done she will not leave my side and whines if she can't find me. My husband has to take the suitcase to the car because if I try she stands in front of the door so she can get to the car before I do. I've had to sneak out once to leave. My husband said she sat in the closet under my clothes and whined for the rest of the day. Unconditional love or she just doesn't like my husband:)

Submitted by Waverly Curtis | September 1 2012 |

We almost never take our Chihuahua with us when we travel so he sees the suitcase as a time he will be missing one (or both) of us. When the suitcase comes out, he starts to follow us around, staying within a few feet of us, and watching us with sad eyes.

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