It’s the American dream to ride the open highways with a dog by your side.
Sometimes that dream can be different than expected. If you have a dog who’s sensitive to car rides, you may have noticed habits like whining, panting, or pacing. Car anxiety for dogs is relatively common, but there are some strategies you can use to make sure your dog is comfortable…and that you are too.
Prepare for the Ride
Preparation is the key to…success? Is that what they say? If you can get your hands on a seat protector before you bring your dog along, that’s ideal. It’s a great investment if you plan to take car trips often and want to keep your car from getting messy. Just in case of vomiting, drooling, or excrement, you’ll also want to bring along spot cleaner, paper towels, gloves and maybe a pee pad. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Consider a Crate
If you have the room for a reasonably sized crate in your car, you should consider it. The safety of a crate helps a lot of dogs feel less nervous about car travel. Be sure you place the crate on a level surface so your dog doesn’t have to sit slanted. Wedge or tie it down to avoid shifting during travel.
Not only is a crate a decent way to calm your pup, it is also the safest way to travel with a dog in the car. (Bonus…it’s also a great way to keep hair, drool, and muddy paws off of your upholstery!)
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Teach Your Dog to Love the Car
If your dog is consistently anxious in the car, it may be that he associates it with bad memories or just has no frame of reference for it at all. Try reframing the car as a positive, exciting place to be.
At first, try tempting your dog into the car with a treat. Once she eats it, coax them back out and deliver lots of praise. After a few times, when she’s enjoying her treat, turn on the engine but don’t go anywhere. Repeat a few more times where each time you take another step, eventually heading out on short drives.
Go Someplace Fun
It could be your dog hates the car because she’s only ever in it to go somewhere she hates, like the vet’s office or the groomer. This problem is relatively easy to solve, and trying can be a lot of fun for both of you.
First, start seeing a mobile veterinarian at home. This will keep your dog from associating the car with a trip to the loud, smelly vet’s office. Next, try to balance out the “have to” trips with trips to places that are more fun, like the dog park or the beach.
All that said, if your dog is suffering from truly serious motion sickness or anxiety, talk to your vet. There are medications available to help alleviate both so the car doesn’t have to be a place you and your dog dread.