Is Your Dog Afraid of Travelling in the Car?
If your dog is being sick then your veterinarian could be your first source of help. If it's an emotional problem, though, you can probably overcome your dog's car phobia with the help of treats and a lot of patience and understanding of the dog's fear of travelling in a car.
Here are some tips for getting your dog accustomed to the car and perhaps even enjoying a journey.
Picture: A dog in a car - In the Public Domain
Taken by Jocelyn Augustino and the picture is from Fema Photo Library
Contents at a Glance
Ideally, Train Your Puppy to Ride in the Car
With luck, he or she will soon grow to love it
Maybe your dog is older or has never accepted that travelling in the car has advantages and is phobic about it. You could still get your dog to accept car travel but it might take a lot of time and patience. Alternatively, you might be lucky - your dog might quickly get over the fear of car travel within a week or two.
Stage One - Get Your Dog to Jump in the Car
Don't worry if he quickly jumps out
Of course, if he hates it, he probably won't want to get in. Put one or two of his favourite treats on the back seat. This should be a high value treat (in doggy terms, not money) and one he gets very seldom. If he doesn't get in the first time you try, be very patient but keep trying. Make sure the treat is close to the open door then gradually move it a little further inside each time.
When he jumps in, praise him lavishly: "What a good boy. What a clever boy. You are such a good boy." You get the idea.... even if he jumps straight out when he grabs the treat. If he pauses for a moment inside the car, then bring one more of the high value treats out of your pocket and give it to him while he's still in the car.
Picture: Boy with dog on a toy car in 1912
Copyright © Terry Whalebone - Creative Commons License
Stage Two - Close the Car Door
Don't let him panic
Eventually, he should wait in the hope of getting the extra treat. When that happens, tell him to sit and give him the treat.
After this happens a couple of times, get in and sit next to him before giving him the treat. The next stage is to close the door next to you. Talk to him, give him another treat. Stroke him and just keep him relaxed. If this is going well, get somebody else to quietly close the door nearest to him. Give him another treat, lots more petting and talk. Then let him out and get out yourself. Keep doing this over days until he is relaxed with all the doors closed.
Solvit Tagalong Pet Booster Seat, Standard
I think this is such a great idea for a small dog to enable him to see out of the car window. I'd definitely still use a dog safety harness, though, because he could be catapulted through the windshield in an accident.
Waterproof Car Seat Covers
So your dog won't get the seats wet or muddy
With this hammock style cover, your dog is stopped from getting on the floor of the car so getting that wet or dirty.
Stage 3 - Start the Car Engine
Maybe your dog won't show signs of car phobia
If he's OK, then go for a very short drive, maybe just round the block. When you get back, give your dog another high value treat, let him out then play his favourite game with him.
If he gets upset when the engine starts, it should be switched off. Keep doing this, over a few days if necessary, until the engine doesn't bother him, then go for a very short ride. Keep taking your dog for short rides and gradually, you can start driving yourself. Make sure he has a treat and a fun game at the end of the ride.
Stage 4 - Now Go for Car Rides with Your Dog
The destinations should be great fun for dogs
Whenever you have to go for car rides that last longer than an hour, take a break in the middle somewhere your dog can have fun and play. Plan where you can stop and park before you leave so he isn't in the car too long. You want to avoid him getting distressed.
The secret to accustoming your dog successfully to travelling by car is to do it slowly and calmly and, above all, it should be pleasurable for him. Treats work well at the start but your dog needs to know that car rides mean he goes somewhere he really loves to visit and somewhere he only goes by car.
Picture above: Boy and Dog in a Car
In the Public Domain - Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
I've Trained my Dogs Doing This
They loved the car and the prospect of fun and games
My two dogs and I on the beach after a car journey to get there
Copyright © 2008 Carol Fisher
This has worked so well with my dogs that if we leave the car doors open when we're cleaning it, the dogs jump in and refuse to get out. They want their car ride and a visit to a favourite place. One time, my partner put the dogs in the car then, before we got in, we had a row and weren't going to go out as we both wanted to sulk! We had to get over it very quickly because neither dog would leave the car and were digging their paws in when we tried to pull them out. In the end, we decided we'd better go out after all.