Dogs can be very different in their opinions of car rides. While some love going for rides, others act terrified or become car sick.
It makes sense for dogs to be leery of going for a drive. The first time they hop in a car may be their drive away from mom to reach a new home in a strange place. That’s followed by frequent trips to the vet for puppy shots.
All dogs need to go for a drive now and then. You can improve their driving experience so they won’t get nervous when they do need to visit the vet. Most dogs can learn to at least tolerate car rides, and these 5 tips will help.
Change their attitude
Dogs that hate the car need an attitude adjustment. Figure out what your dog loves (toys, mealtime, a favorite game) and connect that to the car. For instance, feed your dog special treats but only next to the car. Do this every day for a week before they ever get into the car, so it’s a gradual learning process.
Entice them inside
Once your dog feels less intimidated by the car’s presence, open the door. Then start tossing treats into the back seat so they only get them once in the car. If your dog is more interested in games, try playing with their favorite toy in the car.
Take short trips
When a dog has felt sick or scared during a car ride, it’s best to start with short trips. Put your dog in the back seat in their carrier, or secured behind a barrier or in their carrier, and give them a treat. Start the car, and give a treat. Pull out of the garage and give a treat. Drive around the drive and back into the garage, praise, and give your dog a treat.
Choose fun destinations
If the only place your dog's been driven are scary places, change your destination. Maybe your dog loves the kids at your sister’s house, or adores playing with the other dogs at the dog park. If your dog's most favorite treat happens to be French fries, find a drive-through restaurant to take them to during your drive. A pleasant outcome helps your dog associate good things with the trip so they will anticipate the next drive you take together.
Settle their tummy
Feeling car sick takes all the fun out of the drive. Ask the veterinarian for help to settle your dog’s stomach before long trips. Withholding food may help, or placing a cover over top of their carrier to block the movement. Ginger is a natural remedy for car sickness, so ginger snap cookies might help your dog feel better as well as associate the trip with a treat.
Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant, consultant to the pet care industry and the award winning author of 23 pet care books.