Help your pet to enjoy going places with our tips to ease dog travel and car anxiety. Our Yorkie Max hated car rides as a puppy. His life with us started with a six hour road trip home from the breeder. Looking back, we wish we had taken a little time to let him get acquainted with us before heading out on the highway. The trip left a lasting impression. Max associated car rides with big changes. He feared where he was going next and whether or not he would ever return home.
Associate car rides and travel with fun destinations
Dogs who go in the car only to visit the vet and groomer are less likely to enjoy car rides (unless your pet happens to like seeing the vet and groomer). Take your pet for rides to desirable places like the park or pet store on a regular basis. Our Yorkies enjoy going through the bank drive through where they receive a treat. This will help your dog develop and maintain a positive association with travel. If you have a puppy, start with short rides around the block to acclimate him or her to the car. The short rides also help to reassure your puppy that he or she will be returning home.
Anxiety and Comfort Aids
Giving Max a doggy car seat made the biggest improvement in his travel anxiety. The seat boosts him high enough to have a view out the window. The view and a little fresh air from a slightly open window eliminated his fear and motion sickness.
Some dogs enjoy having a view, while others prefer to sit lower and not be able to see their surroundings. For the latter group, a lower pet car seat or a carrier provides a sense of security. You can use a purse style carrier, a traditional pet travel bag, or a dog crate.
- Bring your pet’s comfort items like a plush toy or small blanket with a familiar scent. You can also give your pet a t-shirt you have worn to snuggle. This is helpful for dogs who feel most comfortable touching their humans and who do not like to be separated even a few inches in the car for safety reasons.
- Play relaxing and soothing music in the car. Studies have shown that classical music can calm dogs. We enjoy the “Through a Dog’s Ear” CDs, including the “Driving Edition.”
- Try a collar or diffuser with dog appeasing pheromones that help relieve stress and anxiety naturally.
- The Thundershirt is an anxiety wrap that gently applies pressure to your pet’s torso, helping alleviate fear and stress. Some dogs are comforted and feel protected wearing any type of clothing.
- Rescue Remedy oral liquid made specifically for dogs is another alternative to help calm your pet. Made from flower essences and is alcohol free.
Change your Car and Travel Routine
Dogs are smart and respond to cues, or prompts. The simple act of picking up car keys may trigger anxiety in dogs who do not like riding in the car. Changing small parts of your routine and the cues for fear may help your pet travel easier. Try parking your car backwards in your driveway and getting in using a different door. If you usually exit your home through the front door, try going out the side door. Drive different roads.
Be a Happy and Confident Travel Guide for Your Companion
Our pets are sensitive to what we are feeling and react to our emotions and behavior. If we are anxious about driving or traveling, our pets will often mirror our uneasiness. Dogs can also sense hard braking and rapid acceleration in the car which can heighten anxiety. Instill confidence in your pet by maintaining a calm and confident demeanor, and not reacting to nuisances like heavy traffic.
Training, aids, and maturity helped our Max to love going for car rides. We had one other interesting hurdle to overcome relative to travel. Being a small Yorkie, Max was originally piddle pad trained. He did not know that it was okay to potty anywhere other than his pad at home. When we took him places, he was anxious to go home to his pad. Once he figured out that peeing outside was a good thing, his anxiety about leaving home was reduced.
Like all dog training, praise and rewards are essential. When Max was a puppy, we gave him a little plain yogurt when we returned home after a car ride. He loves his treats and has us trained to uphold this tradition years later.
When training and aids do not work, acute sensitivity to motion sickness might be the cause of travel anxiety. Talk to your vet about prescription medication. Cerenia is often prescribed to prevent vomiting. Sometimes short-term use of such medications is all that is needed.
Wishing you and your pet pleasant car rides and happy travels.