The 5 Stages of Dog Jet Lag

We humans expect to feel tired when we cross time zones, but how does your dog react?


When my pint-sized pooch, Luna, and I took off around the world last year, I never even thought about jet lag. I mean, I know that we humans have trouble moving from continent to continent. We wake up insanely early, can’t fall asleep, find ourselves starving at strange times of day…but it hadn’t even occurred to me that my fuzzy traveling companion might get off-cycle as well. And yet she did. Puppy jet lag hit her full force and with a cuteness and hilarity that us humans just can’t pull off.

Today, we’ve been traveling for just under a year. We’ve been to 10 countries on two continents and taken five international flights (and more than 20 train rides). So I’ve become something of an expert in puppy — and, let’s face it, human — jet lag. And I’ve noticed that said jet lag has a few distinctive stages — or at least it does when it comes to my dog.

Without further ado, then, here are Luna’s five stages of puppy jet lag:

1. Denial

Just as for most humans, the first stop of puppy jet lag is denial. Excited by the new smells and sounds and city to explore, Luna and I immediately hit the pavement, getting to know our new neighborhood on foot and pretending not to be totally exhausted.

We explore the bustling cafes of Italy, walk endlessly through the streets of Paris, take trips to the local grocery store, and unpack our things — all the while feeling great and thinking, “Aha, this time we have beaten jet lag!”

Around mid-to-late afternoon, this usually becomes hard to sustain. Luna starts yawning and shaking off more often, while I take deep breaths and sometimes give in to a need for coffee. Afternoon naps for both of us are inevitable.

2. Total Zonkage

The second phase of puppy jet lag involves the spectacular failure of Luna’s attempts to stay awake. I call this stage of the game — which hits by the late afternoon of the first day — Total Zonkage.

During this stage, Luna stretches out on her back, legs akimbo, eyes sometimes half-open, and falls into a deep sleep.

Aside from massive amounts of super-cute sleeping with her legs in the air, Luna’s Total Zonkage phase is characterized by needing to go out around 2 a.m. and bugging me to feed her in the middle of the night. Because, as we all know, jet lag is about more than sleep. It’s about all of our bodily rhythms — food and potty breaks included.

Luckily, I’m also wide awake and starving around 2 a.m. and I love taking middle-of-the-day naps in cozy rental beds or outdoor patios, so we’re in this thing together.

3. The Slightest Bit of Wakefulness…

In the third stage of puppy jet lag, Luna starts to wake up — not quite enough to rouse herself from bed, but enough to look quizzically at me as if to say, “It’s the middle of the night, you ridiculous human, why are you working? Also, what did you do to make the sun come up at such a weird time?”

She rolls over onto her belly and watches me intently for a while, eyelids half-closed and ears perked in a strange state of half-wakefulness.

But stage three doesn’t last long before she starts to get very, very sleepy again, allowing her eyelids to flutter closed. She rolls onto her side and gives in to the jet lag once again.

4. The Return to Totally Zonked

Stage four, unsurprisingly, is when Luna zonks out yet again, which makes for more super adorable photographs. This second Total Zonkage stage mirrors the first, with late night poop breaks and early morning wake-up calls and lots and lots of adorable sleeping.

Perhaps at this stage I should try to keep her awake, try to help her beat jet lag the way us humans do — by forcing ourselves quickly and mercilessly onto our new country’s schedule — but I can’t bring myself to disturb her. She looks too much like a fuzzy angel. In fact, it’s almost too bad when stage four is followed by …

5. Adjustment

Finally, after several days of mostly sleeping, Luna wakes up feeling totally ready to tackle Europe or Mexico or wherever in the world we are. She wants to run in the park, to hike into the forest, to lay in a patch of sun outside a Parisian café for hours. And I’m only too happy to oblige.

And thus begin the real adventures of any new place — the hiking trips through Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland, the long walks through Germany’s lush Black Forest, the quest for the perfect foie gras in Paris, or the beachfront relaxation of Sayulita, Mexico. Because after jet lag comes not only adjustment, but adventure.

(Until, of course, we take our next flight and find ourselves again in the cycle of zonkage.)

Have you ever traveled or moved with your dog? How does your pooch react to jet lag? Let us know in the comments!

Read more on traveling with your dog:

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