Travel Anxiety in Dogs

Dog sat in car panting

Car rides can be very stressful for some dogs, this can occur for a number of reasons such as fear of the car, motion sickness, and noise.

Common symptoms

  • Refusal to enter the car
  • Excessive salivation
  • Trembling
  • Panting
  • Barking
  • Whining
  • Vomiting
  • Urinating/soiling
  • Yawning or Lip-licking

Before the car journey

It is important the dog understands a positive association with the car. For instance, frequent trips to the park, play areas, visits to friends, or nature walks can help establish this connection. By associating the car with enjoyable outings, it becomes a place where good things happen.

Understanding that dogs have varying preferences, some may prefer to remain calm and relaxed, finding solace in hiding within the car. Others might benefit from having a travel buddy initially, someone who can sit with them, offer reassurance, and provide love and attention while you’re driving.

Begin with very short journeys and gradually increase the duration as long as the dog remains calm and relaxed. This gradual approach helps build their confidence and comfort levels with car rides over time.

Addressing your dog’s anxiety even before the journey begins is essential. Each step should be taken slowly, and rewards should only be given when the dog is relaxed and calm. Progress to the next phase only when they’re comfortable with the current one.

  • Begin by rewarding your dog for calmly observing the car from a distance without reacting
  • Spend time interacting with them from afar to help them feel at ease
  • Reward any positive interest in the car
  • Encourage, but don’t force, them to approach the car
  • Reward them for passing the car in a relaxed manner
  • Maintain positive reinforcement as they approach the car and when you open the doors

Once your dog appears relaxed around the exterior of the car, gradually introduce them to the interior. Offer consistent rewards in short intervals. Start by encouraging them to enter the car while the engine is off, praising and rewarding them for remaining calm or sitting.

You may need to repeat these steps several times until your dog builds confidence. Only when your dog is relaxed and comfortable should you attempt sitting in the car and turning on the engine.

border collie in car looking worried

Being comfortable and safe

Properly restraining dogs in vehicles is essential for safety and security. Options include a seat belt harness, a dog cage, a pet carrier, or a dog guard. It is important to introduce these to the dog before approaching the car and have several positive associations so the dog feels comfortable wearing them or being in them.

  • Ensure the vehicle is well-ventilated
  • Stop for exercise and toilet breaks every two hours
  • Place towels over the cage or back window to reduce overstimulation but ensure ventilation
  • If your dog experiences travel sickness, avoid feeding them three hours before the journey
  • Offer familiar and comforting items such as a special blanket or favourite toy to create a cosy environment during car rides
  • Play soft or soothing music
  • Provide a supply of water

We strongly advise consulting your vet for a check-up to ensure there are no underlying health concerns. Additionally, consider contacting a local accredited trainer or behaviourist to help design a specific plan for your dog’s needs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *