Riding in the car can be scary for your fur baby. Signs that your dog struggles with car ride anxiety include: being restless during the ride, whining, excessive salivation, and reluctance to load up in the vehicle. The team at Allphin Vet Clinic recommends theses four steps to help manage car ride anxiety.
Here are some steps to help them be more comfortable for the car ride to the dog park, vet, or groomer. Remember that dogs do best when you keep sessions short. Only spend 5-10 minutes each days working on these on steps.
Start by making the vehicle a positive place for them. Spend 5-7 days in a row just feeding your dog in or near the car. Get them to jump into the car and give them a treat or favorite toy each time they do it. Once they feel comfortable and get excited to jump in and out of the vehicle, you can move on to step 2.
Now for a couple of days, you will continue to get them to be in the car and get their treat/meal/favorite toy, but you’ll also start the engine. Just start the engine and act normal. Continue giving them praise and loading them up with bribes. Shut the engine back off, give them more reward then head back into the house.
You’re now ready to get rolling. Repeat the first steps, but now you can back out of the driveway. Have a helper continue with the rewards so you can keep brainwashing your dog that the car is a positive experience. If things are going well, don’t get ahead of yourself and take a long drive. Just keep it at backing out of the driveway and pulling back in. If your pet is still struggling to be more confident, go back to steps 1 and 2 and start the process over again spending more days on each level.
Your dog has mastered the driveway; now it’s time to take them on the open road. Start on day one by repeating the above steps then just going down the street a small distance at a slow speed. (Avoid corners and a higher rate of speeds.) Keep the first few rides short, only a couple minutes total. Gradually over the next 1-2 weeks, you can lengthen your car rides. Maybe go to the gas station around the corner, let them out and go straight back home. All the while, they should be getting the reward that works best for them.
In no time your dog will go from hating the car to looking forward to rides. I tried this method with one of my pups, and now he rides great in the car even on curvy roads to visit family in Missouri.
Make sure that you also change up the places you go with your pet. If they hate the car and the only place they ever go is the vet, they won’t like the ride or destination. Take them to pet-friendly businesses for a treat, try out a dog park, hike a nature trail, and of course, get them their check-up at the Allphin Vet Clinic.