Are you excitedly planning your summer vacation and want to bring your furry friend along for the ride? You’re not alone! According to a recent Kurgo survey, over 88% of people plan to bring their dogs on vacation this summer, and most of them choose to travel by car. However, what do you do if your dog isn’t a fan of car rides?
There are two main reasons why your dog might dislike car rides: physical discomfort or fear and anxiety. In this article, we will explore foolproof steps to help your dog overcome these issues and enjoy car rides with you. So, let’s get started!
If your dog experiences physical discomfort, such as car sickness, it’s essential to address this issue before anything else. Car sickness is common in puppies but often improves as they grow older. However, early car experiences can create a long-lasting association between cars and feeling unwell. That’s why it’s best to introduce your puppy to car rides early and continue throughout their lives.
Here are a few things you can try to alleviate car sickness:
Positioning: Motion sickness occurs when there’s a sensory mismatch between the inner ear and the eyes. If your dog can’t see out of the window, they may feel nauseous. Consider using a dog car seat that provides a higher vantage point or allowing your dog to sit in the back on a favorite person’s lap so they can enjoy the view.
Ginger Biscuits: Many dog owners swear by giving their dogs a small piece of ginger biscuit before traveling to alleviate nausea. Ginger is known for its anti-nausea properties. Just make sure to check the ingredients and avoid any harmful substances such as xylitol.
Fresh Air: Opening a window or two to let fresh air in can help your dog feel better. However, remember to keep your dog restrained and prevent them from sticking their head out of the window or jumping out.
Medication: If the previous methods don’t work, consult your veterinarian about anti-nausea medication for your dog.
Even after addressing car sickness, your dog may still associate car rides with feeling unwell. Whether your dog has a fear of travel or a generally nervous disposition, the following steps can help:
Fear & Anxiety
To combat fear and anxiety associated with car rides, you need to desensitize your dog to the experience and create positive associations with the car. The first step in stopping unwanted behavior is to remove the opportunity to practice it. Before starting the training process, block out a period of time when your dog doesn’t have to go anywhere by car. The duration required will depend on the strength of the behavior and the time you can dedicate to the training.
Treat Search in the Car
Most dogs enjoy searching for treats, and incorporating this activity in the car can help offset any negative associations your dog has with car rides. Additionally, sniffing reduces the heart rate and promotes a sense of calm in dogs.
Step 1: Park your car securely and open the doors. Scatter some tasty treats around the inside of the car. Allow your dog to enter at their own pace and explore the car freely while searching for treats. Resist the urge to interfere, point things out, or even praise your dog. Just let them focus on the task. If your dog only finds a couple of treats and chooses to leave, don’t force the issue. Bring them back inside and try again later.
If your dog refuses to get into the car at all, start by scattering treats around the car with the doors open. You can also place a few treats on the bottom of the door frame, allowing your dog to reach up and take them without fully entering the car. Gradually place the treats further inside as your dog becomes more comfortable.
It’s crucial to let your dog decide what they can handle at any given time. Their comfort and choice are vital in overcoming fear.
Step 2: Once your dog happily searches for treats inside the car, try sitting in the car yourself and close the doors while your dog continues the treat search. After your dog finishes, open the doors, and both of you can exit the car.
Step 3: If your dog seems relaxed with Step 2, repeat the process, but this time, start the engine without moving the car. If your dog appears uneasy, turn off the engine and repeat Step 2 a few more times.
Step 1: Is your dog comfortably searching for treats with you in the car with the engine running? Fantastic! Before moving the car, make the necessary adjustments for safety. You don’t want your dog moving around while you’re driving. Repeat Step 3, but this time, offer your dog a food-based chew, such as pizzles, cows’ ears, or moon bones. Chewing releases serotonin in the brain, promoting a happy and calm state. Once your dog is settled with their chew, try some slow movements in the car. Start by reversing out of your driveway, then drive back and allow your dog to follow you at their own pace.
Step 2: Gradually increase the duration of your drives, starting with short trips and gradually extending the time as your dog becomes more relaxed with each step. Begin with drives of less than a minute, then progress to one or two minutes, and gradually increase to 3-5 minutes or more.
And there you have it! By gradually counter-conditioning and desensitizing your dog to car rides using these foolproof steps, you can help them overcome their fears and enjoy traveling with you. During the process, remember not to push your dog beyond their trained limits. Avoid longer trips or taking them to frightening places like the vet or groomers, as this could undermine all your hard work!
If your dog tends to bark while riding in the car, check out “5 Steps to Stop Your Dog from Barking in the Car” for effective strategies to combat this behavior.
Steph Rousseau is a renowned canine behaviorist and dog trainer based in Dublin, Ireland. She is a member of the PDTE (Pet Dog Trainers of Europe) and has been invited to speak at various events around Europe. Steph shares her expertise on her website 1mquotes, where you can find more valuable information on dog training and behavior. Plus, watch out for her upcoming book later this year.
So, get ready to hit the road with your furry friend by your side. With patience and these proven techniques, you’ll soon have a happy and confident car traveler on your hands!