Most dogs will experience tension and discomfort the first time they ride in a car. This is called road trip anxiety. If your dog exhibits motion sickness, barking, pacing back and forth, scratching, and restlessness, it means that he is experiencing road trip anxiety.
If you also notice that the sound of you inserting the car key to ignite the car will make your dog tremble with fright, it means that your dog has serious anxiety about riding in the car.
Dog road trip anxiety is neither good for you nor your dog. For instance, while on a road trip, If your attention is distracted to see what he is doing, it may lead to an accident. This is why you must fix your dog’s road trip anxiety. This article provides you with nine tips to achieve this:
Make the car a familiar place for your dog
Almost every training starts with habituation. This is to make your dog accustomed to the car. You should start the training in an unmoving car. You should allow your dog to regularly jump into the car with you while you give him a treat.
Ensure that you feed your dog some of his favorite foods in the car. You should also exercise giving him instructions like ‘sit’ or ‘down’ in the car. Your dog will more likely begin to develop a positive perception of the car because he gets his favorite food from the car. He is also more likely to feel comfortable sitting or lying in the car during a road trip because he has learned to sit and lie down while the car was not moving.
With time, begin to make the car vibrations familiar with your dog by sometimes starting the engine while in the car. If you can get your dog accustomed to sitting with you regularly in the stationary car, he will more likely not feel anxious during a road trip.
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Begin with short distance trips
Ensure that you don’t begin taking your puppy or adult dog for a long-distance drive if he is not used to road trips. If you start with a long-distance drive with your dog, the road trip may be stressful or sickening for your dog. If your dog feels this way during his first road trip, he will have a negative feeling about road trips, and it will take a lot of effort to correct that notion.
So, begin with short-distance trips. For instance, you can begin by driving to a nearby grocery store or even to a friend’s house nearby.
Take along some treats for the trip
As with the training in the stationary car, bring treats to compensate your dog while taking a ride. This is necessary if he’s still really anxious about driving. Even if he still shows some signs some anxiety like restlessness and scratching, ensure you compensate him if he is sitting or laying during the road trip as he has been trained while the car was not moving.
So, you should take along some treats for the road trip with your dog. However, avoid giving your dog large treats to swallow during the ride. Also, avoid giving the dog any bones or chewing stuff. This is because if you have to use the brake of the car suddenly, it can suddenly shoot into your dog’s gullet.
Create a secure space for your dog
Ensure that you create a secure place for your dog to sit or lay down in the car. Don’t just let your dog sit loosely in the car. When you have to use the car’s brake to avoid an accident suddenly, your dog may be harmed. In addition, it will fall over more quickly when you take bends during the trip, which increases agitation and stress for your dog. This is why it’s important to take your dog on a road trip in a dog kennel or a dog harness attached to the seat belt.
You should get a transport kennel for a road trip with your dog. Transport kennels are usually fitted in the back of the car. You will need to get a special extension piece to be well attached to your dog’s harness so you can transport him in a harness. Ensure that you don’t attach it to a collar because if an accident occurs, it will exert too much force.
In the case that there is neither a kennel nor harness, you can allow your dog to sit or lay on the floor of the passenger seat at the front.
Have some fun
Your dog needs to have a positive perception of the car. One of the ways to do this is making your dog connect your car with fun. If every time you take your dog on a ride, it’s either to the veterinary clinic or boring long-distance road trips, your dog will never find going on a ride exciting. Therefore, ensure that you regularly go to fun places with your dog.
Very long-distance trips can be frustrating and sickening for your dog or puppy(especially if he’s not experienced long trips) if there are no stop-overs on the trip. Therefore, ensure you have intermittent stop-overs on your long trip.
This is even more important when you are working on getting your dog accustomed to road trips. It’s even advisable to observe the stop-overs every two hours during long trips. When you have a stop-over, allow your dog to come out of the car to get a feel of fresh air. Also, give him water and allow him to ease himself.
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Provide a conducive temperature
Your dog will become restless during a road trip if the temperature is excessively high or low. Your dog can’t lie comfortably in such a case. So ensure that the car temperature is normal, such that there’s sufficient oxygen for you and your dog. Smoking during the road trip will also make your dog feel uncomfortable.
Don’t drive too fast or recklessly
With your dog in the car, try as much as you can to drive at average speed, and also ensure that your driving is as smooth as possible. Don’t drive too fast or recklessly because your dog is sitting firmly in the car.
So avoid rushing into bumps or taking very sharp bends. Also, make use of the car brake early enough. This would more likely curb the possibility of your dog feeling nauseous and dizzy. Dogs will feel disturbed and terrified when you take sharp turnings and rush into bumps because they feel the effect suddenly. This is because they cannot see the curves, thresholds, and stops ahead.
Take a walk with your dog beforehand
If you have noticed that your dog still feels anxious in a moving car, even though he is accustomed to the car while it’s stationed, then take a walk before the road trip. If you are planning a long trip with your anxious dog, this tip is for you. Your dog will be a better co-pilot if he is not full of energy. Give it a walk of at least 30 minutes, or make sure it has plenty of playtime before starting your trip. This will be rewarded during the trip since your dog will be more willing to lie down to rest, be calm, or even fall asleep during the trip.
These nine tips would help fix your dog’s road trip anxiety. However, if, unfortunately, none of the above tips work for your dog, there is always the option of visiting your vet to see if he needs any medication.
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