Caring for a Pet in the Submarine Force: The Ultimate Check List & Tips for Seperation Anxiety

two long coated brown and black dogs

It comes as no surprise that being a member of the armed forces or even a family member of those who serve our country comes with a lot of stress. There is a great unknown territory when it comes to dates, travel times, and how much time you’ll get to spend with your loved ones at home. Having a friend, furry or not, to come home to can make all the difference in the world. Whether it’s the wagging tail that greets you at the door or the touch of a gentle lick on the cheek that lets you know they love you unconditionally, our pets deserve the world and we, their caretakers, deserve a pat on the back for holding it all together.

April 25th is National Pet Parent Day, a day to remember why we brought home that special someone from the shelter or why we rescued them when they really rescued us. I know personally, my spouse always asks about the dog when he’s gone so I make it my personal goal to spend as much quality time with our pup and keep life as normal as possible. He is more than a pet, he’s, my family.  

 As a dog handler and trainer, I wanted to share some general tips to keep in mind:

An A+ Pet Parent Check List:

  • Make sure they are up to date on shots. This includes Rabies, Distemper, and Parvovirus. Other vaccines to consider are Lyme Disease (tick-borne), Leptospirosis (an infection that can be passed from pet to owner), Bordetella (to combat Canine Cough, often required for daycare and boarding facilities), and Canine Influenza. 

**Ask your vet if your dog is at risk for any of the non-core vaccines to see if it’s something you should consider. Maintain up to date copies for your records and certificates.

  • Ensure that your dog is on monthly heartworm and flea and tick prevention. Heartworms are acquired from mosquito bites. Be sure to consult your vet about the different forms of flea and tick prevention to see which one is best for your dog’s lifestyle.
  • Consult your vet about proper nutrition. There has been a lot of buzz about recent studies linking grain free foods to DCM. Talk to your vet about the benefits of grain free or grain inclusive diets.
  • Check to see if your local or city governments require a pet license. Often, they require proof of rabies certificate.
  • Read up on the leash laws of your area. Many places require dogs to be on a leash during certain hours and in certain places. Respecting these rules means respecting your fellow pet owners.
  • Consider Pet Insurance. Pet Insurance is very helpful for those times when something out of your control happens and you have to rush your pet to the vet. There are many different companies so make sure to do your research and create a list to compare the Pros and Cons of each. USAA offers great insurance for its servicemembers.
  • Make sure your pet has proper identification. It’s important to make sure they are Microchipped and have the proper tags on them in the event that they may stray from home.

Because we love our pets and they love us unconditionally, it may be hard for them to adjust to the constant in and out schedules that the military life is full of. Here are some tips to help reduce stress for you and your pet:

Tips for Separation Anxiety:

  • Keep their scent. Before your active-duty spouse leaves, gather a few of worn their t-shirts (I like to use his undershirts) and place them in Zip-Loc bag to keep the scent. Regularly let them have one of the shirts in their bed or crate, scent is their strongest sense of smell and it will help them remember!
  • While dogs may not be able to tell time, they thrive off of a consistent schedule. Make a routine and try your best to stick to it. A normal day to day routine will help the adjust to having your service member in and out.
  • Be sure to set time aside to try something new or do their favorite activity in order to keep the excitement up! Who knows? Maybe you’ll discover a hidden talent or a cool trick!
  • Enroll them in a doggie daycare to let them play with their friends and socialize!

With the warmer months ahead, consider making fun pupsicle recipe:

Homemade Celebratory Pupsicle Recipe:

What You’ll Need:

  1. A broth of your choice (Chicken, Beef, Turkey, etc.) *
  2. Ice cube tray
  3. Fruits or Veggies: Blueberries, Apples, Carrots, etc.
  4. Plain Greek Yogurt, Unsweetened
  5. Peanut Butter**


  1. In your ice cube tray, fill each compartment (about 3/4s full) with either broth, yogurt, or peanut butter.
  2. Place small piece of fruit or veggie into each compartment, press to bottom with finger if needed.
  3. Freeze in your freezer until solid.
  4. Serve up the goodness!

*Low sodium or sodium free is better!

**Avoid peanut butter that contains Xylitol!! This alternative sweetener is toxic to dogs.

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