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The PupJoy Post

How to Overcome Your Dog's Fear of Car Rides

This is a guest post from Alison McEvoy at ipupster.com.

Hiking can be a great way to relieve stress, relax, and detox from a busy life style.  Surrounded by nature, no busy streets or loud traffic to distract you from your thoughts, it’s the perfect escape.

Chances are, there’s another member of your house that would love to hit the trails with you. Instead of taking your dog for a quick jaunt at the park, why not take him with you on your next trek?

But what if you have a dog who is terrified of car rides? Driving with Fido can easily turn treacherous for you, him and everyone else on the road. An unhappy dog, a messy car, or both… as dog owners we know this plight only too well.

If you find yourself limited to how far you can travel then you’re probably also committed to finding a solution to help your furry friend overcome his fear of travelling in the car.

Recognising the Culprit

The first step is to identify if your pup’s fear of the car is triggered by motion sickness or anxiety. These are the main two reasons behind your pooch being unhappy at the sight of your vehicle.

Just like humans, our four-legged friends can be troubled with motion sickness. This is caused by a disturbance in the nervous system, particularly the organ that is responsible for maintaining equilibrium in the inner part of the ear.

This organ regulates body balance. So if your dog is having a hard time adjusting to the road trip, then his nausea is caused by a disturbed balance organ. Just like a human would.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is considered to be the real reason for making dogs show symptoms of discomfort in the car.

While both can be attributed to making you dog feel uneasy about travelling, there are ways in which we can spot and pin point the root causes. Motion sickness symptoms are easily identifiable, such as disorientation and vomiting.

Anxiety symptoms can often be seen in your dog as soon as he hears keys jingling or an engine starting. This sets off a chain reaction resulting in your dog running away or whining and barking incessantly.

Is Fido Car Sick?

Since so few dogs suffer with motion sickness, see if you can spot any of the following symptoms in your dog when the vehicle is moving:

  • Overall feeling of nervousness
  • Excess Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Jumping around
  • Looking sad
  • Whining and showing signs of restlessness

How about these tell-tale signs when he is about to enter the vehicle?

  • Terrified of entering the car
  • Gets stressed and agitated
  • Setting off and avoiding the vehicle altogether.

This condition may not improve over time and what generally happens is that your dog will associate the feeling of nausea every time he gets into the vehicle and will naturally avoid it.

With that said, some of these signs and symptoms go hand in hand and can also be attributed to your dog having a phobia of cars and NOT necessarily motion sickness.

I believe anxiety can be attributed to that first trip when as a puppy he was taken away from the litter and to your home. As this is such a fragile period in their life, separation anxiety sets in and driving for miles on end can leave him traumatized. And so naturally future car journeys begin to get associated with fear and stress.

So how can you spot the difference between anxiety and car sickness so you can begin remedy the situation and turn this experience around for Fido?

What Can I do to Help My Dog?

Hopefully if you recognise some of the signs and symptoms mentioned above, you can begin to address them and find a workable solution. Here’s a couple of them to help make the car ride as comfortable as possible for your dog.

Motion Sickness Driven

Food: Ensure Fido travels on an empty stomach and avoid feeding him approx. 3-6 hours before the road trip.

Dog Crate: Using a travel crate will stop your dog from being thrown around and can also be a safe place for him to get sick if he needs to.

Dog Harness: Same idea, restraining and reducing movement especially when you’re taking corners or driving speedily will help make your pup feel less sick.

Windows: Roll down your windows to a few inches to stop getting the car from getting too hot and stuffy inside which can onset the feeling of sickness.

Anxiety Driven

A little dog training, some patience and time will help your dog get over his phobia of cars.

Conditional Training: With your engine shut off and still parked in the driveway, place your dog in the back of the car and let him spend some time alone with his favorite dog toy or chew bone to help distract him.

The treat or toy will help create a positive experience and make the car ride stress-free. Once they are calm, jump in the driving seat and remain there for a few minutes. Finally, then turn on the engine and go for a short drive. After the trip, reward him by playing his favorite game with him or go for a quick walk. Rinse and repeat!

Medications: Speak to your veterinarian about calming supplements or opt for natural remedies to reduce any adverse reactions. This will help calm Fido down ahead of the road trip.

It may seem time consuming and arduous but these steps will reap benefits in the long run and make journeys and adventures paw-friendly and enjoyable for both you and your pooch.

Here are some other useful resources and helpful tips to help you and Fido along.


Traveling With Your Dog
Dogs and Motion Sickness
Canine car sickness: What to do about it

Ali is a lifelong dog enthusiast and is a pet parent to a Scottish Terrier named Pebbles. When Ali isn’t hanging out with Pebbles she writes at http://ipupster.com/

Photo Credit: Pexels/Unsplash