For a dog with car anxiety, a car must seem like an incredible rocket ship hurtling through time and space. In just a few minutes, they could end up at the vet’s office, at the pet store, at Grandma’s house, or at the park.
Perhaps that’s why a car ride turns your dog into a shaking, drooling, vomiting mess.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. With some strategic exercises and a bit of patience, you can teach your dog to look forward to having fun adventures, no matter where your car takes you.
Signs Of Car Anxiety In Dogs
Most dogs get excited when it’s time for a car ride, but dogs with car anxiety experience stress that may make you avoid taking them out altogether.
A dog with car anxiety might:
- Pant heavily, even if it’s not hot inside the car
- Drool excessively
- Whine or cry
- Lose control of bladder or bowels
- Flatten ears
- Tremble or shake
- Try to run away when it’s time to go for a ride
Safe Gear To Help With Car Anxiety
Your dog should always be confined or restrained during car rides, even during short trips around the block. An unrestrained dog will slide around every time the car stops or turns, which can exacerbate motion sickness and anxiety.
Restraining your dog also prevents fatal injuries should you ever be in a car accident. Only a few companies make crash-tested car harnesses and carriers. Crates, kennels, and other products restrain your dog, but they may not protect them in an accident.
Even a cheap seat belt harness attachment is better than having your dog loose.. A loose dog increases your risk of an accident as you may be driving distracted. A small dog can fall into the driver’s side footwell and prevent you from braking. If you let your small dog sit in your lap, the airbag will almost certainly kill them if deployed.
If you’re pulled over when your dog is unrestrained in the car, you could get hit with a careless driving ticket, even if your region does not have laws specific to dogs being restrained in cars.
Preventing Motion Sickness In Dogs With Car Anxiety
Dogs, like people, get motion sickness because, though they’re sitting still in their seat, their inner ear and their eyes are telling their brain that they’re moving. These conflicting messages can make it difficult for them to find their center of balance, and they can feel dizzy as a result.
Most of the time, motion sickness subsides when your dog becomes accustomed to riding in the car. Until then, you can manage it through natural or conventional methods.
Ginger is a natural, effect antiemetic. You can give your dog a ginger treat shortly before the car ride, or even sprinkle ground ginger over their food.
TTouch For Car Anxiety & Motion Sickness
Tellington Touch or TTouch, are techniques used to help animals get relief from anxiety or illness by applying gentle, even pressure to acupressure points on their body.
For dogs with car sickness, “ear work” can be amazingly effective. You can try stroking your dog’s ear from base to tip, gently holding the ear between your thumb and fingers, or making small circles around the base of each ear.
Going For Pleasure Rides
You can use counter-conditioning and desensitization to help your dog have a positive association with your vehicle.
Start slowly by having your dog simply sit in the car for a few minutes while it’s parked. While your dog is strapped into their seatbelt or harness, offer them a few treats if they are not too overstimulated to eat. Pet them and talk to them quietly.
Then have someone help you by driving around the block while you sit with your dog in the back seat. Just as before, comfort your dog and keep them calm.
When your dog is comfortable with going for a ride around the block, try taking a short trip to a place they love, like a nearby park or a dog-friendly shop. Your destination should be fun and exciting.
If your dog’s car anxiety stems from traumatic experiences at the veterinarian, you can also take steps to work on their vet anxiety. It would be overwhelming to work on both at the same time though.
After your dog becomes fairly good on pleasure rides, you can try going to the vet for simple “hello” visits. Your veterinary clinic will probably not mind if you take your dog into the office area for a few minutes so the staff can give your dog love and treats.
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