If your dog becomes anxious when traveling by car, he might show signs of stress such as panting, drooling or even vomiting. This is not fun for you, but even less fun for your dog. Very often the first experience a puppy has of a car journey is the day he leaves his mum and littermates; and the second, his first trip to the vet. So is it any wonder he finds stepping into this large noisy thing stressful?
So if your dog is stressed and/or becomes ill in the car, here are a few steps you can take to make him feel better. Take your time; these steps can be carried out over a week or two. You want to start well below the threshold of stress, and always make sure the dog never gets into a nervous state.
If he does, go back a few steps and start again.
- First understand that stress probably comes from fearfulness, so re-introducing the car to your dog is a very positive first step. Walk around the car, feed him breakfast or dinner by the car, play by the car, etc.
- ext, sit in the car with your dog, with the engine off and make sure you leave the doors open to start with, so he can step out should he want to. Try to keep him inside the car by offering him a few treats, and by instigating play. Slowly build his confidence up.
- Make sure your dog knows that the car is a place where good things happen, so have Kongs filed with interesting food (mash banana, smooth peanut butter, maybe with a small piece of ham at the end of the kong – make it fun and yummy) available for him to play with inside the car. These kind of toys and games should also be available at home, so they are synonyms for relaxed, fun times and not just associated with going in the car as this may have the reverse effect. Also, you can bring along his favourite toy, or anything else he enjoys.
- If you dog is doing well so far, the next step would be to close the car doors and put the engine on, but don’t go anywhere, just carry on playing. You can get a friend to help you and turn the ignition on whilst you are playing with your dog.
Although you want him to feel comfortable, you don’t necessarily want to comfort him or pander to him, therefore reinforcing the stress. So try not to sound like you want to reassure him, but instead use a calm and positive tone of voice, this will increase his confidence further.
- Then start driving around your driveway or your street, don’t go far. Gradually increase the distance, and always end the drive with something fun or pleasant: a good play, a game of fetch, a Tug-Of-War, a relaxed walk around the garden or the park (what ever your dog prefers) and definitely a few juicy treats.
- Also, if your dog likes his crate at home, and finds it a relaxing place to be, you can put his crate in the car.
- There many different dog accessories available for transporting your dog in the car such as seats, seat belts and harnesses. Look out for a blog covering these soon.
If you need any help with this or any other desensitisation programmes please get in touch.
Finally, please remember to never leave your dog alone in the car regardless of the weather condition.