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Car Anxiety in Dogs - Preventing & Treating


HOW TO HELP A DOG WITH CAR ANXIETY?

This dog blog will discuss one of the most common problems when travelling in the car with your dog: anxiety. Dog anxiety is a familiar problem by many dogs when they are on the road. In order to eliminate dog anxiety we gathered the best tips to prevent such problems. 

 

This blog will be your ultimate guide about how to travel with dogs. These must-follow tips will help you to be prepared when you are hitting the road. Whether you're going on a short or long trip - you will be succesfully prepared! 

DOG ANXIETY SYMPTOMS

Dogs with travel anxiety may exhibit one or more of these behaviors:

  • Resists getting into the car;
  • Trembling;
  • Whining or barking;
  • Panting, yawning or drooling;
  • Constant lip-licking;
  • Chewing or licking themselves;
  • Urinating or defecating;
  • Vomiting;
  • Tries to escape while riding in the car.

 

DOG ANXIETY CAUSES

A variety of factors can lead to travel anxiety in dogs:

  • Motion sickness or other bad experience while traveling, causing a negative association with car trips;
  • Learning that a car ride means going somewhere unpleasant, such as the veterinarian’s office;
  • Stressed by certain sights or sounds while riding in the car (e.g., car noises, traffic, etc.);
  • Feeling unstable or insecure while in motion.

 

HOW CAN I KEEP MY ANXIOUS DOG CALM IN THE CAR?

There are several effective strategies to use before and during car travel with your dog to help calm and reassure her:

  • Exercise your dog about 20 minutes before your car trip. Activity stimulates endorphins (“feel-good” hormones) and will also tire her out; she might even settle down for a nap once you hit the road.
  • Bring her favourite dog toy. She’ll especially enjoy the recognizable smell of her plush toys.
  • Bring a familiar blanket with her dog bed, or grab something out of the laundry that smells like you (don’t choose something she’s likely to destroy in the back seat).
  • Keep the car comfortable. Regulate the temperature; crack the window or sunroof to allow in some fresh air (don’t allow your dog to hang her head out the window). Soothing music can also reassure your dog. If you plan to crate her, make sure the crate is level and flat, not listing to one side; cover it with a towel if that seems to calm your dog.
  • Talk to your vet about pheromones. These are chemicals animals release which affect other animals of the same species, usually through smell. A female dog releases a pheromone that calms and reassures her newborn puppies; its synthetic version is available in a spray or collar, and has been shown to help anxious dogs during car travel.
  • Experiment with homeopathic remedies. The efficacy of these is less documented, but some dog owners swear by them. Made from the essences of flowers and plants, they’re worth a try.
  • Anti-anxiety pressure wraps have been shown to help anxious dogs in stressful situations.
  • Use a dog restraint in the car; some dogs feel more secure if they’re crated or buckled in.

#8 TIPS - DOG ANXIETY IN THE CAR

There are a number of reasons your dog might be anxious in the car. It could be that the car’s movement makes them nauseous. It could be that they only ride in the car when they’re going somewhere like the vet. It could be that the sound and vibration of the engine are too much. Whatever the reason, a dog’s car anxiety can be overcome with patience and, in some cases, a visit to the vet.

 

#1 PREPARATION FOR TRAVELLING WITH A DOG

Every dog breed is different - make sure to be prepared to your dog special preparations. In a different blog we have covered many dog breeds to travel on the road with them. Read more about the different dog breeds tips to transport them in the car:


#2 CREATE COMFORT AND SAFETY

Dogs, like humans, can have comfort items that make them feel more at home and help get rid of uneasiness they may be feeling. To make your pup feel more at home in your car, bring some of these comfort items. These may include, a dog bed, some favorite toys and a favorite treat. Remember your dog is most likely scared of the car, so you want them to be as comfortable in it as possible.

 

When you are hitting the road it is important to be prepared to offer your dog the best comfort and safety. Get your dog a special designed dog car seat and secure them with the safety belt to the harnass. Using a dog car seat you will prevent dog car sickness and you will tackle your dog anxiety. 

 

A dog booster seat creates a better view to look outside the car. Your dog will have the possibilities to take a look at their surroundings. You can easility place the travel bed next to the driver, so that you can still cuddle your dog along the way.


#3 TEACH YOUR DOG TO LOVE THE CAR

Desensitization is a step-by-step method of gradually introducing your dog to the car. Counter-conditioning changes your dog’s emotional response from negative to positive by having great stuff happen near and inside the car.

If the car is a scary place, just approaching it will produce anxiety. To treat the fear, you’ll need to start there—helping your dog form a positive reaction to the car before even starting the engine.

  • Step 1: Begin by walking towards the car, rewarding your dog with a small, high-value treat for approaching. Repeat until your dog is happy to approach the car;
  • Step 2: Approach the car, open the door and reward. Walk away. Repeat several times;
  • Step 3: When your dog is able to stand comfortably next to the car with the door open, begin to encourage them to investigate the car on their own. Place a high-value treat inside and speak happily to them while they search. Start with the treats near the door and, as your dog becomes more bold, encourage them to put more of their body inside to find the reward;
  • Step 4: Next encourage your dog to enter the car and close the door for one second, then open the door and reward your dog, allowing them to exit if they wish. Repeat until you can close the door for 30 seconds to one minute without your dog becoming concerned;
  • Step 5: Encourage your dog to enter the car, then close the door and get in the front seat, rewarding your dog for calm behavior once you’re fully seated. When they’re able to stay calm, try starting the car, rewarding your pup, then turning off the car and allowing your dog to exit;
  • Step 6: Drive very brief distances (i.e., a block) before stopping the car, rewarding your dog and allowing them to exit. Gradually increase the distances if your dog is relaxed

#4 BRING DELICIOUS TREATS 

At each stage of the process of teaching, give your dog something beloved like a special toy, delicious treats, or a meal. You can even play games together or have a trick training session. Anything goes if it helps your dog link the car with food and fun. Only move closer when your dog is completely relaxed at the current stage. If your dog stops eating or playing, you’ve moved too fast. Simply take a step or two backward until your dog relaxes then start again. You might be inside the car in minutes, or it might take weeks. Be patient and move at your dog’s pace.


#5 FAMILIAR SCENTS AND ANTI-ANXIETY JACKETS

Providing your dog with a favorite toy, or an article of clothing with your scent (check your laundry basket) may help. This can calm your dog and make the car experience more enjoyable. Just be careful and make sure your dog is not likely to chew up and eat what you offer. After all, if they eat it, you’ll likely be trading travel anxiety for an intestinal obstruction. Those obstructions can require costly surgery to resolve, so they’re best avoided.


#6 CALMING SUPPLEMENTS 

There are some good calming supplements on the market that can help dogs relax a bit in a variety of situations. Which ones might work best for your dog in certain situations, like travel anxiety, can be a bit of trial and error. But the three listed below are often good, safe, and reliable places to start (after a conversation with your vet, of course).


#7 MAKE YOUR DOG TIRED (TIPS FROM DOG OWNERS)

Give your dog plenty of exercise before even getting in the car. A run or a long walk can get rid of extra energy, meaning your dog will be more tired and calm in the car. If you are planning to do this, bring water to keep your dog hydrated while in the car. Consistently tire your dog out each time before a car ride until they grow used to the car.


#8 BRING A FRIEND

It’s okay to reassure your dog when he’s stressed; comfort isn’t a reward for unwanted behavior, but rather a tool to help you manage your dog’s anxiety. However, comforting your dog while driving is a major, and dangerous, distraction. If you have a friend who can ride shotgun and provide calm reassurance, ask them to join you on the road trip! 


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