Some say dogs love unconditionally. But there is one condition that may get your furry friend resenting you just a little – car trips. If getting in the car causes your dog to pant and cry, then your furbaby may be struggling with car anxiety. While anxiety in dogs is concerning, it can also be frustrating when you need to take your dog to the groomer or along for a family vacation. Easing your dog’s travel anxiety may take some time and effort. Plus, if your dog is feeling sick during car rides, then helping them maybe even more complex. With some patience, praise and relaxing supplements, you can help calm your dog. If you want to take your furry friend for a ride but dread your anxious dog whining, keep reading to find out why your dog may be struggling and how you can help your dog.
Why do Dogs Get Car Anxiety?
It can be challenging to pinpoint why your dog is scared, while recognizing their fear is a more straightforward task. Whining, crying, cowering, drooling, incontinence, shaking, lip licking, trying to escape or restlessness are some of the ways that you’ll know your dog is unhappy to ride in the car. Your dog may hate car trips for one (or all) of the following reasons:
Many dogs struggle with motion sickness. Puppies have underdeveloped inner ears that affect their balance. This immature condition can cause car sickness but can improve as a puppy gets older. The unusual motion inside the vehicle or the sight of outside scenes flying by can also cause nausea.
Some dogs have a negative association with vehicles because the car often delivers them to a vet visit. Since the vet may not be their favorite destination, a car ride will become negatively associated with an uncomfortable medical checkup. Rather than making a vet trip the only reason you put your dog in the car, take your dog for drives more often.
The trauma of a car accident can also cause your dog’s car anxiety.
If your dog suffers from anxiety caused by loud noises, driving in a car cause trigger panic. The sounds of traffic or the engine may be too overstimulating compared to their usual serene environment at home.
How to Overcome Dog Car Anxiety
Many dogs need some convincing that a car ride is not the worst thing in the world. You can try some of these tricks yourself or take on the services of a certified dog trainer or veterinary behaviorist if your dog has extreme anxiety.
Start When They’re Young
The best time to enforce good behavior and positive emotional responses is when your dog is young. Puppyhood is a crucial time for socializing your dog and exposing them to everything in your world – loud noises, the vet, car trips, groomers. If a ride in the car is a fun, reward-filled occasion, then your dog may take the chance to jump in even if you don’t invite them to.Visit your pet store to find some fun toys that can stay in the car so that they have a comfy space for car rides.
Make the Car a Place They Want to Be
Desensitizing your dog to its greatest fear takes some effort. For example, your dog may be terrified of its dog carrier, or maybe a car driving into your driveway is enough to scare them. Counter conditioning is the process of changing the emotional response (mild anxiety) and the behavioral response (crying or trembling) with a desirable reaction.First, you need to identify when exactly your dog starts to show their fear. Is it when you grab the car keys? Do they dislike their pet carrier or seatbelt? Or do they resist jumping into the back seat? Start at their first trigger and create a positive associating with that problem by giving them a high-value treat or praise as they approach their fear. Once they’re comfortable with the first hurdle, they move to the next until they can approach the car with ease.From there, you can repeat the steps of preparing for a car trip with the car door open. Use your dog’s favorite toys or toss treats onto the seat to encourage them to enter. Remember that if your dog is hesitant, then it will only harm to force them. Call it quits for the day and try again later when your dog is in a joyous mood.Once your dog enters the car happily, spend some time in the driver’s seat and start the engine. As your dog graduates to the next step, you can attempt some short trips. Choose a destination that will please your dog – the beach, the park, or wherever they love to run around. Gradually increase the duration of the car rides if your dog is relaxed.
Reward Calm Behavior
Once your dog has made a positive association with car rides, continue to reward calm behavior. Remain playful and sing your dog’s praises every time you take them for a drive. Since so many dogs struggle with obesity in their later years, try to find alternative ways to reward your dog rather than always offering food. For example, you could scratch them where they love it, praise your dog, or give them their favorite toys.
How to Prevent Motion Sickness for Your Dog
Motion sickness is a horrible feeling, and your dog cannot tell you when they feel car sick. While vomiting is an obvious indication of motion sickness, other symptoms to look out for include lip-smacking, excessive drooling, yawning, or vocal signals. Here are a few things you can do to make your dog more comfortable and hopefully eliminate motion sickness.
- Make sure there is fresh air. Open the window a little so that your dog is still safe but has access to a cool breeze.
- If it’s hot outside, set the temperature in the car to be cool with a gentle blast.
- Make your dog face forward, rather than out the side windows. You can use a doggy seatbelt to force them to remain still.
- Looking out the car window may be causing motion sickness. Try putting your dog into a travel crate so that they cannot see outside.
- Placing your dog in the front seat may help them to remain calm and help with the movement. Make sure you turn off the passenger airbags for their safety.
- Avoid giving your dog food or water before car trips.
- Before longer trips, take your dog for a walk and let them run off some excess energy. If they enter the car tired and de-stressed, they may not react badly to the movement.
- Drive carefully – a gentle ride will help your dog.
- For extreme cases of car sickness, your vet can prescribe some
Using a Calm Vest on Car Rides
If you’re looking for a drug-free solution to ease your dog’s anxiety then a Calm Vest may be a great solution. A Calm Vest (also called a pressure jacket or anxiety vest) is a vest that you strap around your dog’s torso and chest. The vest applies gentle pressure around your pet’s body, much like a hug. Anecdotal testimonies from pet owners have reported on the effectiveness of these products for treating travel anxiety.When shopping for a Calm Vest, you want to choose a breathable material, like cotton. If your dog will be wearing the vest for a long car ride, then something that’s easily adjustable with velcro straps is a top choice.Your dog can also use the Calm Vest for other situations that cause anxiety.
Other Measures to Prevent Your Dog’s Car Anxiety
Are you willing to try everything so that your dog can enjoy riding in the car? Have a go at these other measures to reduce your dog’s fear response:
Natural Calming Supplements
Your vet may prescribe some anti-anxiety medication for your dog if they suffer from severe anxiety. While occasional medication can be helpful for lengthy travel, it may not be the best for everyday trips. Side effects of anxiety medication for dogs include behavioral changes, depression, lethargy, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, Increased respiratory rate, rapid heart rate, fever, or serotonin syndrome.More and more pet parents opt for natural calming remedies like Cannabidiol (CBD) because the side effects are much less severe. Read Lindsey’s success story of how Honest Paws CBD changed car trips for German Pointer, Thea.CBD may calm your dog during a car ride without adverse side effects. CBD often causes sleepiness in dogs, but it will also support their immune system, promote healthy joints, and help with occasional stiffness and soreness. By giving your dog CBD oil or CBD calm bites or soft chews forty minutes before a ride in the car, your pet can enter the car with a calmer demeanor.
A study by the Sydney School of Veterinary Science and other studies has observed the effects of calming music on animals. In their notes, they stated that “animals appear less stressed or anxious when exposed to classical music…the addition of classical music as an enrichment of environments in which animals are confined or potentially under stress is a relatively inexpensive and easily implemented enrichment.”If you’re planning a road trip that’s expected to last a few hours, make sure you add some soothing music to your puppy’s playlist.
Keep Them Contained
Securing your dog in a comfortable and safe space in the car is not only safe for them but for you as the driver. Dogs are just as susceptible to injury during car accidents and leaving them to jump and bounce around is nonsensical. Most dogs travel better if they’re contained in a pet carrier or a harness. Larger dog breeds can be secured with a clip-in harness, while other dogs or smaller dogs can sit in a doggie car seat or an enclosed carrier. To reduce anxiety in the car, make sure your dog is comfortable in its carrier before a trip. If they regard their crate or dog bed as a safe space, then they may be brave when it comes to jumping into the car.
Our Final Thoughts
Curing your dog of their xenophobia (the fear of driving) is not a quick fix. If the problem persists, contact your vet for advice or anxiety aid suggestions. When it comes to hitting the road, do what you can to make dog anxiety in car trips a thing of the past. Positive experiences, fresh air, calming aids, and a secure seat in the car will do wonders to ease your dog’s car stress. From short rides to epic road trips, we hope you get to travel with your four-legged pal soon and that your dog’s anxiety takes a back seat.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I calm my dog’s anxiety in the car?
If you’re looking for a drug-free solution then a Calm Vest may be a great solution.
Why is my dog anxious in the car?
Your dog may hate a car trip because it makes them feel car sick. Stress, traumatic memories, or the fear of loud noises may also trigger anxiety in your car-phobic dog.
Why does my dog pant and shake when riding in the car?
If getting in the car causes your dog to pant and cry, then your furbaby may be struggling with car anxiety.
What can I give my dog for anxiety while traveling?
CBD oil from hemp may calm your dog during a car ride without adverse side effects caused by anti-anxiety medication.