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Top tips for car travel with anxious dogs

Some dogs lose their mind with excitement when it comes to going for a ride in the car (car = dog park!), while others can lose their mind with fear or stress.

Here are some top tips to help make car travel with an anxious dog a wee bit more of a breeze.

Start early.  This is by far the most important step in helping your dog become comfortable with car travel for life.  Begin desensitising your dog to car travel from puppyhood, starting with short drives or periods of time in the car paired with positive experiences – something yummy to chew on while the car is parked in the driveway for example.  You can then start to build up the length of time they spend in the car or how far you drive, and be sure to mix things up.  Make sure you drive to fun places as well, instead of always to the vet clinic for an injection.  But at the same time, don’t always end in a destination; sometimes just drive around the block and then go home again. Dogs are pretty smart – they’ll very quickly figure it out if the only time they ever go in the car is to go somewhere “bad”!

Smells secure.  Make sure your dog has a familiar smelling bed or blanket to snuggle up on while you’re driving.  If the environment smells familiar they’ll be less likely to be stressed.

Visual barriers.  Travelling your dog in a secured crate which is covered by a thick blanket is a great way to go.  Some dogs are anxious about car travel as it makes them feel sick, just like it can people.  So, blocking the visual stimulation of things whizzing past the window at high speed may help.  Be sure to desensitise your dog to the crate first if they are not used to being in one.

Empty tummy.  Especially if you are going on a long drive, be sure not to feed your dog a meal too soon before travelling.  If a dog vomits in the car they can learn to associate the feeling of being sick with simply being in or near the car, and might not want to get in there again next time.

Fresh air.  Ensure the car is well ventilated, either with a slightly opened window or by having the car’s fan going.  We’ve even seen people with battery operated fans in their cars. Fresh air helps to ease the feeling of nausea.

Anti-anxiety wonder products.  The Thundershirt and Adaptil spray are over-the-counter anti-anxiety aids which work wonders for car travel fears.  Put the Thundershirt on your dog 10-15 minutes before the drive to help them feel calm from the very beginning.  Spray the Adaptil onto a bandana 10-15 minutes beforehand as well – this will allow time for the alcohol in the spray to dissipate.

Extreme fears of phobias of the car however may require a little extra help – so please come and see us if this is the case.  Good luck, and happy travelling.