Car rides not fun?
Does your dog get car sick and/or scared when he rides in the car? Many dogs do. One study showed 21% of dog owners report this issue. Many puppies get car sick because their inner ear, which helps with balance, is not fully developed.
If a puppy has spent weeks associating the car with nausea, they may become so anxious about car rides that they still continue to get sick even later after they would have outgrown the purely physical problem.
The first thing to do to help your dog is determine if the problem is motion sickness, anxiety or both. The best way to do this is to ask your vet about an antiemetic. If the only problem is motion sickness this will solve it.
If the drug helps with the vomiting, but your dog is still very anxious (panting, drooling, shaking, flattened ears, stress yawning, or other signs of anxiety and fear), then you will need to move to behavior modification.
Some options to try, from simplest to more involved:
- If you are crating your dog in the car (and you should), make sure he is generally comfortable in crates (i.e., he is not afraid of the crate)
- A high-value food distraction (stuffed Kong or chew), only if nausea is not present, and give it to him before he gets anxious
- Calming music designed for dogs (e.g. Through a Dog’s Ear)
- Thundershirt or other body wrap
- Adaptil (dog appeasing pheromone)
- Lavender or chamomile
- Countercondition and desensitize (you will want the help of a positive reinforcement trainer for this)
If needed, ask your vet or vet behaviorist about anxiety meds to accompany the counterconditioning work. Many of these have a sedating effect, so be sure to ask about that depending on what your dog’s destination is. You don’t want a sedated dog at doggy day care!
There is no reason for your dog (or you!) to suffer through car rides. Ask for help!