Canine Car Sickness
your dog get car sick when you take him for a ride
in the car? Most puppies gradually grow out of it,
but there are things that can be done to help alleviate
that process. Most of the time, car sickness is
not caused by the motion of the vehicle, but it
is caused by anxiety or fear. That is why it is
important to understand that they have no control
over it. For most puppies, the first time they are
in a moving vehicle is when you bring them home.
For adult dogs, they may have had few experiences
in a car. Many adult dogs have learned that going
for a car ride is often followed by something unpleasant,
like going to a veterinarian's office.
your companion's anxiety, here are some steps that
you can take:
- First, see if your
dog will approach the car willingly or exhibits
signs of anxiety such as licking his lips, yawning,
panting, faltering or trying to pull back on the
leash. If your dog shows signs of fear while approaching
the car, give a few treats while being close to
the car or feed them their dinner near the car.
Repeat this over several sessions until your dog
will go into the car willingly. Then, get your
dog used to being in the car without turning it
on or driving. Offer their dinner, a favorite
chew toy or bone to make it rewarding. Repeat
this several times until comfortable before moving
onto the next step.
- While in the car,
start giving your dog a few treats or put his
food bowl down so he can start eating. Start the
car. Leave it on for just a minute and turn it
off. Repeat this several times, calmly praising
your dog when he shows calm responses. If he seems
fearful, end the session as soon as you can and
next time shorten the session and stop before
he becomes anxious. Take your time and make sure
he is relaxed before ending the session and work
up to having the car running for longer periods
- Once he is used
to the car running without any fearful reactions,
give your dog a favorite treat or his dinner,
then back the car to the end of the driveway or
a short distance on the street. Praise him and
make sure he can continue eating. Repetition is
the key to success. The more you do this, the
faster your dog will learn that the car will become
a great place for attention, praise and food.
- Once your dog seems
relaxed, take a short trip around the block. It
will be handy to have someone else in the car
at this point to feed him treats and praise while
doing this. Gradually increase the distance traveled
until your dog is calm no matter how long he's
in the car. Travel to places that are fun for
your dog, not just to the vet or groomer! Go to
a dog park, the beach, a friend's house for a
"play date" with their dog.
If motion bothers your
dog, try to imagine balancing a full cup of coffee
on your dashboard; if you turn sharply, slow or
accelerate suddenly or hit a bump, your coffee can
spill. Those same sudden movements are the same
ones that make your dog feel ill, so adjust your
driving technique accordingly. If your dog begins
to salivate, is licking his lips a lot or acts distressed,
have his leash handy! Pull over and let him get
his feet on solid ground and get some fresh air
for a few minutes.
Some dogs do suffer
from true motion sickness. These dogs feel better
when they can't see out, such as riding in an enclosed
crate. Crates are much easier to clean up than your
car upholstery! Others feel better looking out the
window. In either case, keep the car cool and well-ventilated.
Unless you are systematically working on getting
the dog over his fear of the car as described above,
do not feed the dog right before a car ride. Travel
prepared; pack cleaning supplies & paper towels.
Cover the car seat and floor with a sheet or towel.
Do not scold your dog or make a scene if they vomit,
as it will only increase his anxiety.
You may want to talk
to your veterinarian for advice about possible medications
to help settle your pup's tummy. You can also contact
our Behavior Department on how to use Dog Appeasing
Pheromones (DAP), Anxiety Wraps or a Calming Cap
on your dog to help ease their anxiety while in
Another travel tip:
Make sure your pet
has an ID tag that is current and has your number
where you can reached, even while traveling.
If you would like to
work with a Wisconsin Humane Society behaviorist
one-on-one regarding this behavior topic, please
call 414-431-6173 to schedule a consultation.