The prospect of a car ride somewhere will get your dog all excited! Some dogs eagerly jump on the car seat and watch happily out the window the whole ride. Others are afraid. They have car anxiety.
There are various reasons for car anxiety in dogs. It can be caused by a bad experience or a lack of experience. If the dog has little experience with travel or was never introduced to car travel early in life, he may have a fear of the big, vibrating machine that growls. Sometimes the fear of travel is a result of a bad experience such as being left in a hot car, an accident, or an unpleasant destination such as the veterinarian’s office.
Tips for Preventing Car Anxiety
It is important to introduce puppies to a variety of positive experiences and environments in the early months. This creates a happy pup who has the maturity and confidence to handle new situations throughout life. Part of the dog’s early socialisation should include car trips. There should be more trips to happy places like the park, pet store, or a friend’s house, than to the vet’s office for shots. For the ride, pups should be secured in a pet seat belt or a comfy crate to prevent traumatic spills.
Training to Overcome Travel Anxiety
Not all dogs have the good fortune of an ideal upbringing or pleasant life experiences. Through no fault of their own, they may develop behaviour problems and find themselves homeless. Car anxiety can be a part of their insecurity and it becomes the responsibility of the new owner to train them to overcome travel anxiety.
In the plan below, a good schedule to aim for is once or twice daily for a week on each step, but never move to the next step until the dog is totally comfortable with the current step.
● Begin feeding and playing with the dog near the car.
● Open the car door and feed and play with the dog nearby.
● Sit in the car seat and hold the dog, with the door still open, and feed him his favourite treats and/or give him a massage.
● Repeat the first three steps with the car motor running.
● Sit in the car with the motor running, close the door, and feed the dog treats or give him a massage.
● Drive the car forward and back several feet, just once, later progressing to two or three times. Keep it happy and feed the dog treats.
By this time the dog should be fairly comfortable in the car and you should be able to drive him around the block. Gradually increase the length of the trips and make the destinations happy ones. Gradually decrease the treats until you are giving him one just before leaving and one upon reaching the destination.
Tips for Long Car Trips
● Provide a crate with a comfy bed for security.
● Ask your vet if an anti-anxiety medication is appropriate.
● Never leave a dog in a car in warm weather. Cars become like a greenhouse in a matter of minutes even on a mild day.
● To minimise the risk of motion sickness, do not feed the dog for several hours before leaving.
Author bio: Sarah Anguish is an award-winning family lifestyle blogger based in Norfolk. She showcases family life, home, travel and everything in between on her Top 10 UK mum blog www.boorooandtiggertoo.com. If you’re looking for home and garden inspiration then check out her afewfavouritethings.com blog.