Driving can be stressful enough, but if you have a high-strung dog pacing from side to side in the backseat, or — heaven forbid — hiding under your seat or crawling around under your pedals, you have a real safety hazard on your hands. Unless a pup is well-socialized for car rides, even a brief trip can be an anxiety-filled experience. Keeping a hyper dog calm in the car takes patience, some common sense and desensitization, but the reward of being able to travel with your pet is worth it.
Secure the Dog
This approach will take time and dedication on your part, but can go a long way with pets who are afraid, uncomfortable or anxious in the car. Start by putting the dog in the car with you for several minutes each day; you don’t even have to turn the car on or drive away. Sit quietly and calmly with the dog, stroking her coat and offering lots of praise; then return her to the house. After doing this for several days, the ASPCA suggests introducing short rides for a couple of days, once or twice a day, always remaining calm and quiet while giving your dog praise. If the dog doesn’t exhibit signs of anxiety — panting, drooling, trembling or whining, try a five-minute drive in your own familiar neighborhood and slowly work up to longer drives.
Take Your Dog to Fun Places
If you only put your dog into the car to take her to the vet, you can imagine how she might associate fear with riding in the car. Alleviate this by making sure the majority of your car trips together are somewhere fun, like a visit with your friends, a puppy play date or a trip to the park, even if it’s just located down the street. Bring her along to pet stores and other establishments that allow dogs. Make it a happy time and she’ll come to associate a car ride with pleasure, not anxiety.
An exercised and tired dog is less likely to be anxious in the car. If you are taking your pet on a road trip, provide lots of stimulation before you go. Take her favorite ball or toy, and stop frequently to give your dog time to stretch her legs, potty, drink water and get some quick playtime in if possible. Give your dog a complicated treat that she has to work at to eat, such as a rubber toy stuffed with peanut butter or cheese. For severe anxiety or for carsickness, ask your veterinarian for advice. He may recommend an herbal calming agent or medication to treat the dog for motion sickness.