What If Your Dog Is Afraid of the Car Ride?

What If Your Dog Is Afraid of the Car Ride?
Never leave your dog in a hot car

More people are traveling with their pets than ever! Some pets love the idea (mostly your average dog),  wiggling rear ends when they know that this time when you packed the suitcase, 'I'm coming along.' Isn't it amazing how they figure it out, whether they are invited or not?

Other pets might not be so happy about tagging along, and are happy to stay at home. How can that be? Mostly it's because either you're rarely going 'happy' places (the only time you usually go for car rides is to visit the veterinarian), or perhaps the pet has had a previous bad experience in the car (such as being in an accident) or your dog literally gets sick in the car as a result of motion sickness. Just as people can suffer from motion sickness, so can our pets. Sometimes it's a result of anxiety, sometimes it's actual motion sickness --- often times it's a little of both. After all, if I knew that each and every time I go into the car, I get sick, I would very quickly become anxious if I even looked at a car.

If your suspect motion sickness is at least a part of the problem, there's a drug which really works; ask your veterinarian about Cerenia.

Even when you successfully deal with the motion sickness unlike people you can't tell your dog, well, now you have no reason to be anxious about the car. Instead, you will need to counter condition and desensitize your dog to the car. Why not start off by using tools to lower the degree of anxiety at the onset? Begin with a pheromone collar, called ADAPTIL (on a collar, the pheromones obviously go with the dog wherever he/she goes). Also, Anxitane,  L-Theanine is an amino acid helps keep anxious or nervous cats and dogs calm and relaxed.

Here's a four step program to desensitize and counter condition dogs to the car (One way to fast forward these steps is to use ADAPTIL or Anxitane.

- At around the time when you typically feed your dog, take the dog to the car. Open the back doors. Play with a favorite toy near the car. Periodically toss the toy into the car (that's why you have the back doors open) for your dog to retrieve. Depending on your dog, a cookie or liver treat might be more motivating, if that's the case periodically while playing with your dog near the car, toss those treats onto the back seat. Repeat this game as often as you want until the dog is absolutely no longer "concerned" about jumping into the car to get the toy or scarf down the treat.  It may take anywhere from two tries to 10 or 20 before moving onto the next step, depending on the dog.

- At around dinner time, feed your dog from the back seat of the car. Take your dog (on leash) to the car. Have your pup jump into the back seat where a meal awaits. Move on the next step when your dog actually seems to look forward to the "car meal."

- Again, at around dinner time, have your dog jump into the back seat for a big cookie (something it will take a few moment to eat). This time, you get into the front seat, start the car, and merely drive down the driveway, and back (as your dog is chomping on the chewy). That's really as far as you go.  Now, head back into the house for your dog's meal. This step is greatly for your dog to understand that good things follow car rides (a meal).  Once your dog offers no signs of stress, drive a little further, down the block. Then, drive around the block, Then around two blocks. When your dog seems totally cool in the car (or possibly even happy about riding along), then your ready for the next step. This could take days or months to reach.

- Now actually go for a ride with a purpose - go somewhere your dog would choose - the park, a pet store, a friend's house with a dog. Repeat, and even better mix it up. One time go to the pet store, the next time go to a park, or visit two or three different parks. Hate to have you spend money on gas - but try to choose a destination that's over 15 minutes away for one of these trips. One your dog has generalized and seems to accept (or better, if your dog is actually happy) about the ride, you're home free. You can even jolly it up before going to the car, and telling the dog, "We're going for a ride," as you grab your keys. If your dog expresses anxiety, you need to back it up a step, it just means you went too fast.

For most dogs the tips work. For pet's who do hit the road, here are some GMC Driving the Midwest tips from Dr. Sheldon Rubin, board member of the Anti Cruelty Society.

  • Have your co-pilot sit in back.
  • Never let your pet hang his head out of the window.
  • Never leave a dog in a hot car.
  • Obedience comes first.

Lots more tips are available HERE.



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