7 min read

Here's What To Do If Your Dog Hates Riding In The Car

Traveling with your pup doesn’t have to be stressful 🐶🚘

Planning on taking your pet on a road trip? Before you start packing, plotting your route and double-checking reservations, it’s important to consider how your dog will react to getting in the car.

Not all dogs are comfortable riding in cars, and some may need a little extra prep before going on a long, boring drive, Melissa Pezzuto, a behavior consultant with Best Friends Animal Society, tells The Dodo. It’s never too early to practice good car behavior with your puppy — especially if you know there’s a road trip on the horizon.

A dog’s car anxiety can make travel unpleasant for both him and you. Dogs who suffer from car anxiety may whine and resist entering the vehicle, and once coaxed inside, may vomit, shake, bark or drool out of stress.

How can you help your dog deal with these feelings? The secret, according to Pezzuto, is a little time, practice and, of course, treats.

Preparing for the trip

If your dog is afraid of car travel, these feelings are often caused by a negative association with your vehicle — and where it has taken your pet in the past.

“Don’t only travel with your dog in the car when you’re on the way to the vet,” Dr. Lisa Lippman, a veterinarian based in New York City, tells The Dodo. “If they associate the car with their annual checkup, they may never want to get in!” To start building positive associations, giving your dog a treat when he enters the car is an easy way to reinforce good feelings.

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Before you travel a long distance, be sure your pup has plenty of other happy car memories. “Taking the time to get your dog used to riding in a car can help make them comfortable and relaxed during times when they might have to be in the car for longer periods,” Pezzuto says. “Start with short drives, like around the block, or to places where wonderful things happen like the park or pet store. Then you can increase the distance and duration to longer rides.” You can even start practicing without leaving the driveway. Simply have your dog enter the car’s back seat, turn on the ignition and give him plenty of praise, pets and treats.

If your dog’s travel nerves don’t seem to ease with practice, Lippman recommends chatting with your vet before the car trip. “They will be able to check for any medical conditions that may make traveling uncomfortable for your dog or cat, and may also be able to prescribe sedative medication if your pet really gets nervous in the car,” Lippman explains.

The day of the car trip

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Before hitting the road, make sure your dog has had a nice long walk and plenty of playtime so he can use the car ride to rest and recharge. “A tired dog will most likely sleep during the ride,” Pezzuto says. “If your dog has pent-up energy, being stuck in the car can make things worse.”

Distraction is also a helpful tool to ease a nervous dog. Chewing on a frozen Kong toy will keep your pup busy, Pezzuto notes, and help tire him out so he will be calm the remainder of the ride.

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Setting the right mood inside the vehicle can minimize stress as well. “Let your dog peer out the closed window if it calms them. If it makes them more anxious, try and cover the window so they can’t see out,” Lippman says.

There are plenty of products on the market that boast calming abilities, though every dog will react differently, so they may require some trial and error.

“Tools like calming scents, calming wraps and classical music can also help some dogs settle in the car,” Lippman adds. Even giving your pup some laundry, a favorite blanket or a T-shirt to snuggle with in the backseat may have a soothing effect, so before committing to a big trip, find what makes the ride pleasant for both you and your furriest passenger.