Dogs are our best friends! What would we do without them? Many of us wouldn’t be able to get through a day without the love and affection of our dogs. Yet, we expect things from our furry companions that can cause them stress — car rides, for example.
If you have a dog who is anxious about car travel, read on!
Dog car anxiety can be a serious problem if your pet cannot travel safely. Today’s blog will detail how to help dogs with car anxiety so you and your pet can travel with ease.
Step 1: Familiarize Your Dog With the Car
Getting in a car can be scary, and if your dog is not familiar with the vehicle, you may notice a change in their behavior. Symptoms of car anxiety include trembling, whining and restless pacing. Here are some additional tips to help acclimate your dog to the car.
Get in the Car With Your Dog
It’s time to get in the backseat with your dog. If you have a hatchback, open the hatch, load your dog up and get into the car with them.
Once in the car, give them a treat or two, praise them, and show them how much you love them. We recommend you do this for a few minutes the first time, depending on their stress level when they enter the car.
To make sure your dog gets to know your car, you must do this each day until their first car ride. Increase the amount of time you spend in the car with them until you take them on an epic first ride. When your dog experiences fun and loving activities in the car, they’ll relate that to positivity and good vibes!
Take Short Trips Down the Block
When your dog is comfortable getting in the car and spending a few minutes at a time in the back seat, it’s time for the next step. Take your pup for a short drive. Go down the block to the park, the pet store, a friend’s house or any other destination that is rewarding and enjoyable for your dog. Just make sure your first trip isn’t too far away.
If you don’t have many fun places to go, you can keep going back to the same place. The idea is to create a connection between the car ride and the fun and exciting place your pup enjoys.
Step 2. Make Your Dog Comfortable
To teach your dog that car rides are fun and enjoyable, you need to make good on that promise. We covered the “fun” aspect in step one, so let’s talk about how to make the ride comfortable.
Cars are built with human comforts in mind, so you’ll need to put in a little work to make your car a comfortable space for your pet. Back seat dog covers are an absolute “must” for traveling with your dog. Yes, they protect your seats, but they also give your pup something to grip while the car is in motion. A good car seat cover has a non-slip backing to prevent your dog from slipping when the car starts or stops moving.
If your dog has been traumatized by a nasty fall from a previous car ride, they will need to feel safe and secure to trust a moving car again. Choose a car seat cover with a hammock to create a safe barrier for your pet. Even better, secure them with a seat belt and harness, so they don’t need to be consistently bracing themselves with the changing motions of the car.
These added comforts will do a lot for how your dog feels while the car is in motion and help them realize that they don’t need to be on alert for the entire ride. Best of all, they also protect your dog in the event of a car accident.
Step 3. Create a Calming Atmosphere
Some breeds are naturally more high-strung than others. These high-energy dogs may be more prone to anxiety or excitement when they learn they are going for a car ride. Fortunately, you can use certain tricks and products to calm your dog before it hops through the car door.
Toys and Clothes
Your dog loves you! So, it’s time to grab a pair of unwashed jeans, a shirt or a sweatshirt that smells like you. Put this clothing in the backseat (or wherever your dog will be in your car during the ride). Feel free to also give them their favorite toy or bone.
Having your scent nearby is calming and reassuring, and this practice can make for a much more relaxed experience for your pet. However, be cautious about doing this if your dog likes to eat clothing or toys when anxious.
Pheromones are a chemical that is produced and released by various mammals and insects. These substances affect the behavior and physiology of other creatures of the same species.
When a female dog gives birth to a litter of puppies, she naturally releases a pheromone that soothes and calms her pups. This gives them a sense of comfort and security.
Luckily, this pheromone is available to purchase in spray form, and it’s called Adaptil™. You can buy it at your nearest pet store or from a veterinarian. If toys and clothes don’t help, give pheromones a shot.
Did you know that flowers and plants can help calm your dog’s nerves? Just like humans enjoy the essence of nature, a dog may also benefit from breathing in natural scents, such as the smell of fresh flowers. A popular homeopathic remedy that may help calm your pet’s anxiety is Rescue Remedy for Pets. Give it a try; some dog owners swear by it!
Relaxing Car Conditions
Some of us have messy cars and play loud music; your dog may not find your car as peaceful and inviting as you do. To help your dog relax and stay calm, try playing soothing music with the windows down so your dog can get some fresh air. There are even dog CDs out there that you can purchase, like this Canine Noise Phobia Series by dog trainer Victoria Stilwell.
It’s inevitable; dogs need to travel with humans. Traveling with your furry friend is meant to be fun, stress-free and adventurous. If you're one of the many humans who doesn’t like to leave your dog at home, try out some of these tips to help your dog’s car anxiety.
For more helpful information, check out our tips for road tripping with your pooch!