Helping Your Dog with Car Anxiety

Many dogs love learning that they get to hop in the car and go for a joy ride with the family. But while we tend to picture all dogs joyfully hanging their head out the window while in the car, that’s not always the case.

Many dogs experience anxiety and motion sickness when they get in a car, making it difficult for their parents to bring them outside of the house. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help your pup learn to love car rides.

Preventing Car Anxiety in Dogs

Introduce them to the car.

If your dog is severely afraid of the car, start out small. Encourage them to sniff around the car while it’s parked in the driveway then work your way up to sitting in the backseat (while it’s still parked). Practice standing or sitting with your dog and all doors open first. To help your dog feel at ease, you can give them a treat or add their favorite toy or blanket to the back seat. You can also use pheromone diffusers or sprays in the car to potentially help them relax.

Take a short drive.

Once they’re comfortable sitting in the back, you can gradually add motion. Their first time in the car, take a short trip down the street or around the block and come straight home. This will help your pup get used to accelerating, braking, and the noises a car makes. The moment you get home, praise them with treats, belly rubs, or a quick game of fetch or tug — this helps them associate car rides with a positive experience.

Over time, gradually increase the distance you travel until your pup is comfortable sitting in the car for long periods of time.

Create the ideal environment.

Even dogs who love going in the car can benefit from these tips:

  • Keep the car cool.
  • Lower the windows.
    • Ensure windows are not open so much that your dog can jump out of the vehicle
  • Avoid giving your pup large meals or lots of water before a trip.
  • Take a long walk before heading off on a trip.
  • Invest in a doggy hammock. We love this one from Amazon.
    • This helps prevent a dog from rolling onto the floorboards in the backseat and creates a comfy spot to lay down
  • If your dog does experience motion sickness, you may consider talking to your veterinarian about what medicine may help.

Make getting in and out of the car a breeze.

If your dog is prone to getting excited about getting in and out of the car, you want to minimize the chance of them getting loose or worse, running away. Before going to a high-traffic area, practice getting in and our of the car in safe, quiet places such as your driveaway or an empty parking lot. Teach your dog that they should not exit the car until you give them the cue to do so, and make sure you have them leashed up before you open the door. If you need tips on training, check out our blog post here.