Riding in Cars with Dogs

In very young dogs, or in dogs unaccustomed to riding in a vehicle, carsickness is not uncommon. The dog may tremble, salivate, and/or vomit. Most dogs outgrow it. Unfortunately, before they have a chance to outgrow it, some dogs begin to associate the car with the feeling of being motion sick, and get nervous just getting into the car. This nervous anticipation leads to queasiness, which in turn perpetuates the problem of getting sick in the car.

The following strategies should put your dog on the road to enjoying car trips. It is best to do them all; you’ll likely find your dog will be over his problem in a week or two:

  • Set up a crate for your dog to ride in. Cover it with a sheet so that he can’t see the world zipping and bouncing past him. Make sure there is airflow along the bottom third of the crate so fresh air reaches him.SickCar
  • Secure the crate so it is stable. It should not tip or slide (use bungee cords, and/or a towel folded underneath the crate to make it level).
  • 15 minutes before each car trip: a) feed your pooch a couple of ginger snaps, which can help calm the tummy, and b) spray the crate bedding (limit bedding to an old towel at this point) with Comfort Zone D.A.P. (dog appeasing pheromone).
  • Start with *very* short trips (no more than 1/2 a block). Drive the short distance, then allow your dog to exit the car and do something he loves, like take a walk or play a game of tug. Then drive the short distance back home. This will help car rides become the tip-off to him that good things follow.
  • Extend the distance as long as you are successful (meaning he does not get sick and seems relaxed and drool-free).

And, of course, do not punish your dog for getting sick in the car. Not only does that make no sense (would it help you get over motion sickness if someone scolded you?), but it could also make it worse, since your dog would have something else to fear associated with the car.

It is better to go on a series of “fake” short trips that predict a happy event, rather than going on only necessary trips that result in car sickness. Sometimes it takes just a couple of weeks of this approach to get a dog happy and relaxed riding down the road. If a crate is not a good long-term solution for car rides, please consider using a doggie seat-belt for everyone’s safety and to instill good car-riding habits.

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