Road Trip: Helping Your Anxious Dog in the Car

car rides - crateWe all love our dogs and look forward to taking them places for their enjoyment, but sometimes traveling with your pup can be difficult if your dog shows signs of stress, barks out the window or even vomits. Working to solve your dog’s issues in the car can be beneficial to both you and your pooch.

Try to determine what it is about the car that is causing your dog’s stress. Though you may never know what the exact issue is, there are always methods of improving the car ride. Start by getting your dog used to the car. Whether you have a puppy or an older dog, there are steps that you can take to help them adjust.

Puppies. If you have a puppy that is in his or her socialization window, which is before 20 weeks, it’s important to get your dog in the car as much as possible. Bring your puppy with you when making short trips. If you are running to the bank or picking your kids up from school, take them with you on these trips to get them used to the car. With puppies, you have the added benefit of adding different environments to his or her repertoire. Every new place you go together is a new environment that will help increase their confidence outside your home.

Adult Dogs. This process can be slightly different when dealing with adult dogs. For dogs that are afraid of the car, short trips as simple as driving around the block are key. Just once around the block and heading back home can help your dog better adjust to the car. It’s also important to end the short car trip with something that your dog loves, like a long walk. This method can also work for a dog that gets an upset stomach when riding in the car. The idea is to keep the ride short, and again end it with something that your dog goes crazy for, like a walk. This needs to be continued until your pet seems better adjusted, and then you can begin longer trips with your dog. This process can be done with any dog that is having any type of problem in the car.

Easing Stress. If your dog is clearly stressed out in the car, the best thing you can do is work on it over time. Start by getting them used to the car when it’s stationary.  Feed them treats or meals inside the car without going anywhere so they can get used to being inside.

However, if you are looking for other things to help, they could benefit from the following:

  • A Crate: Crates are a great tool for the car and can take some of the stimulus away that could be causing your dog’s stress, like movement or sounds outside window. They can also serve as a safety measure; keeping your dog in a crate or in a single position through the use of a seat belt can help reduce risk of injury should you have an accident or even just need to slam on your brakes.
  • Pheromone Remedies: There are pheromone sprays similar to ones that a mother dog would naturally produce in order to help calm her puppies. These “Rescue Remedies” can be sprayed in your car, or mixed in with your dog’s food, in order to help your pooch calm down. Remember that it’s not a cure, but it might help your dog quite a bit.
  • Thundershirt: The Thundershirt is designed to help calm your dog by making them feel more secure. It’s important to first put the Thundershirt on a few weeks prior during feeding times and other random “good” times. You don’t want to just use the shirt as a way to calm your dog down. If you only put the shirt on the dog when they are going in the car, they will begin to associate the shirt with the car, which could hamper its effectiveness.

Car Sickness. If your dog vomits in the car, there are steps that you can take in order to prepare them for the car ride. Don’t feed them before they go for a car ride, and make sure they aren’t consuming a large quantity of water before getting into the car. Keep a cleaning agent with you just in case, and remember that it is easier to clean up if your dog is in a crate. Even if your dog doesn’t throw up, they still might be suffering from motion sickness, and still feel nauseated.  Watch for drooling, trembling or a hunched posture. A vet can tell you about medications that may remedy this problem.

Remember to address the issues that your dog has in the car before your trip. You should never address an issue while you are driving; not only does it put you and your dog in danger, it also endangers other people on the road! By addressing your dog’s fears and stress prior to the trip, you can help improve the car ride for yourself and your dog, and move on to enjoying going out and about together!

Source: ASPCA