Tips for Dealing with Dog Car Anxiety

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Head out the window, tongue blowing wildly in the wind, some dogs are made for the open road. But what if your particular pup doesn’t care for the car? Car anxiety is a fairly common condition in canines that can lead to missed appointments, delayed adventures, and, most importantly, a stressful day for your furry friend.

Traveling at high speeds through unknown places in a machine designed exclusively for and by humans, it is understandable that such an experience might give a dog something to worry about. However, there are ways to soothe your dog’s car anxiety and reconcile them with the road ahead.

Symptoms of Dog Car Anxiety

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Car anxiety is not just the purview of pups. Humans too, can become anxious inside their vehicles, and will display many, if not all, of the same symptoms as dogs. So how can you tell if your pup is suffering from car anxiety?

Well, more often than not, you’ll know from his first car ride. Your pup may become extremely agitated and unable to sit still. He may begin to pant excessively as his heart rate goes up and his breathing becomes shallow. Shaking, drooling, pacing and whining are not uncommon, while defecation and urination inside the vehicle may occur.

Dog vomiting may be a result of either car anxiety or motion sickness. If your pup suffers from any of these symptoms once he’s in the car, then he very well may have dog car anxiety and should begin treatment.

Common Causes of Dog Car Anxiety

A dog’s inability to comprehend their rapidly changing surroundings and the onslaught of new smells and sounds accosting their senses while in a moving vehicle can cause car anxiety. The fact is, dogs have much more sensitive noses and ears than humans do and even the artificial rumble of a car’s engine can give them a fright.  

If you find your pup suddenly spooked by the idea of getting into the car (even after you’ve driven with him before with no apparent problem) then he may be reacting to a recent bad experience or a case of destination anxiety. Going over bumps or making fast turns can have your dog flying around the back seat in a way that will not endear him to future rides.

It’s important to always try to keep his ride smooth and safe, otherwise your pup may develop car anxiety or, worse, get hurt. Fear of his destination can be mitigated by taking him on drives that don’t always end at the vet’s office or the groomers. Trips to the dog park or the beach will get your dog excited for his next ride and make him less prone to car anxiety.

Motion sickness (carsickness), and the fear of it, is a rare cause of dog car anxiety and can be difficult to beat. If your puppy is vomiting after his first car ride and seem generally sick, then he may not be very excited about his next drive, or the one after. Consulting with a veterinarian and testing your dog for an inner ear problem (the root cause of motion sickness), may be essential to curbing future illness.

Treating Dog Car Anxiety

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Whether they are getting nervous inside the confined space of your vehicle or attempting to avoid the trip altogether by hiding or running away, car anxiety in dogs is a burden for both owner and pet. Most of the time, however, you will be able to remedy the symptoms of car anxiety through home treatment, natural supplements, training, and consultation with your veterinarian.

The most important thing to do if your pup has car anxiety is to ease him back into the car. Spending time with him in the back seat or trunk before taking a drive will allow him to get acclimatized to his immediate surrounding (the vehicle itself) without the confusing change of scenery he will experience while you’re driving.

Petting him and giving him treats before and after a ride will let him know you understand his anxiety and wish to reward him for his bravery. Immediately forcing your dog on long rides to get him used to driving may only worsen his car anxiety. Starting small and working your way up together will create a sense of trust in your dog for both you and your car.

Dog car anxiety can be hard on both you and you pup, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. If you consult your veterinarian and train and treat your pup to get used to your car, then the adventures of the open road will be both of yours to grasp.

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