Tips For Traveling With Pets Who Have Car Anxiety

If you’re like most PetParents, you want to include your pets in as many of your day to day activities as possible. Many of these things require a trip in the car to reach the final destination. But pets who get anxious or nauseous in the car can be difficult to deal with for just the most basic of needs: seeing their vet, groomer, etc. and may never even get to the ‘good stuff’ if they can’t get past the anxiety or fear of being in a vehicle.

Car sickness is most common in puppies, and a lot of them do ‘grow out of it’. Some dogs suffer from anxiety or nausea in the car well into adulthood though. Luckily, there are a few things we as PetParents can do to make the ride a bit more enjoyable for our pets:

Avoid feeding your pet for an hour prior to the car ride– studies show that just like with people, a full stomach is not a good idea for pets who tend to feel car sick
Build positive associations with riding in the car- show your dog the car can take them fun places- on a hike, to check out a new store, etc. so the car doesn’t just become a scary ride that takes them to a scarier place.
Start slowly and build up to longer rides- even a trip around the block can be the foundation to a more comfortable pet. It’s all about building positive associations with the car!
Crack the car windows slightly-  the fresh air can distract and refresh a pet who is feeling nauseous

If your pet becomes anxious at just the sight of the car you’ll have to work to condition that response away. Start slowly, and build your way up from there. A tentative counter-conditioning schedule could look like this:

  • Give treats for just walking past the car calmly
  • Next reward your pup for sitting next to the car
  • When being near the car no longer produces anxiety, try giving treats for sitting in the car (not moving)
  • Get your pup all settled in the car, start the engine, but don’t drive off. Reward calm behavior.
  • Take a short drive, 5 minutes or less, to ensure it’s a positive experience.
  • Build up to longer and longer drives.
  • Ensure your initial destinations are always FUN places: dog park, pet store, a creek to splash around in, etc. so that your dog won’t associate the vets office, groomers, etc. with going for a car ride

Having a pet who’s an excited travel companion sure does make things more fun for all!

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