Being spontaneous can be really fun —a last-minute cook-out, a weekend getaway or even just going out after work. The problem? Your dog has no idea what’s going on.


Routines are how pets understand the world.


They tell them what’s supposed to happen next and how to respond if they want to participate. Without structure, dogs feel a bit freaked out. They’re sensitive to everything going on around them. It’s not just that dogs are wary of new people and new places. They also pick up on mood changes, especially yours.


If you’re overly excited at an event or experiencing anxiety on a trip, your dog will notice it in your posture, energy and tone of voice.


Basically, it signals them that not only are they in a different situation than usual, but that you’re different too. And since you’re the center of their universe, this immediately puts them on edge. Pets aren’t just sidekicks, they’re animals with minds of their own. And if you pay attention, you’ll see the signs.


  • Pant
  • Pace
  • Tremble and cower
  • Avoid touch
  • Hide
  • Refuse treats or meals
  • Experience diarrhea or vomiting
  • Lick or yawn excessively


  • Seek attention
  • Approach groups
  • Sniff or lick people
  • Nudge people and makes body contact

To reduce stress, keep the four most important pet routines constant.

 New situations are part of life, and your dog wants to be along for the ride. That said, if you can manage to keep certain parts of their usual schedule in place, they’ll be much happier and calmer.

  • Mealtime

Serve food in a bowl that suits their needs, plus give them a little privacy.

  • Bedtime

Always travel with a bed that fits their sleep style to create a familiar sleep environment.

  • Exercise

Keep walks and playtime on their usual schedule, and bring a back-up collar and leash just in case.

  • Comfort

Make sure they have the toys and treats they love.


It’s okay to make plans. But the key is to plan ahead.

With a little (or a lot of) prep, you can make sure your pet has what they need, when they need it.  Here are a couple of common schedule change situations and ways you can be ready.


Going to be out late?

  • Before you leave, make time for a walk with your pet or arrange for a friend to walk them. Lack of exercise is one of the biggest causes of stress for pets.


Having a cook-out or party?

  • Stick to your dog’s food and exercise routine before and after the event.
  • Make sure your dog has a safe place to escape the crowd.
  • Remind guests to give your dog space and to please not feed the dog people food.


Taking a trip with your dog?

  • Book hotels in advance that are pet-friendly.
  • Pack calming aids in case of anxiety in a new place.
  • Make sure their food will travel well, and if not pick a substitute.
  • Bring their bed so they’ll have a familiar sleep environment.
  • Bring their favorite toys for additional comfort.


Going on a trip alone?

  • Give your dog time to get to know their caregiver.
  • Customize a guide so the caregiver knows everything your dog needs.
  • Stock up on food and treats in advance.


Having houseguests?

  • Make sure your dog’s bed and food area remain private.
  • Remind guests to let your dog get used to them, especially children.


Taking a day trip to a beach, lake or park?

  • Make sure pets are allowed and follow all rules.
  • Bring a leash.
  • Consider a travel playpen — it provides shade and a safe place for your pet to relax.
  • Don’t forget a life vest for your pet if you take them swimming.
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