While most dogs love nothing more than taking a ride in the car with their favorite humans, others find the idea terrifying. It is likely that these dogs were traumatized during a car ride early in life and have never forgotten the experience. Perhaps their first car trip was to the vet.
Additionally, older dogs that have never experienced a car ride before may get motion sick or may simply find the strange moving sensation uncomfortable and frightening. Fortunately, most dogs that are fearful of cars can be re-trained to tolerate if not enjoy the car.
Rule Out Medical Issues
Some dogs, like people, suffer from persistent motion sickness. For these dogs, riding in cars is bound to be an awful experience until the motion sickness is resolved. Veterinarians can prescribe anti-nausea medication for dogs that may help them get their motion sickness under control.
If your dog does not suffer from motion sickness and develops a sudden fear of riding in cars, take the dog to the vet to rule out other conditions that may be making the dog anxious or jumpy.
Teaching Your Dog to Love the Car
Before you begin training your dog to ride happily in the car, think about how you would feel if someone asked you to do the one thing that you fear the most. Dog’s fears deserve respect and a gentle hand. Remember never to force your dog further than he is comfortable during any training session in order to avoid creating negative associations and more lasting issues.
Get started at a Standstill: Park the car in the driveway and open the door while it is at a standstill with the engine shut off. Sit on the backseat and invite your dog to jump in next to you. This may take some coaxing but, once the dog jumps in, provide plenty of praise and some treats. The object of this lesson is to teach the dog that the car is a safe and enjoyable place to be.
Take it Slow: Once the dog is comfortable in the parked car, start taking the dog for short rides around the block. Provide the dog with his favorite toy or blanket during these rides and be sure to talk to the dog the whole time, reinforcing the fact that the car is safe, fun and not frightening.
Gradually Increase Travel Time: Once the dog is comfortable an unconcerned about your trips around the block, start taking the dog with you when you run errands or make short trips. The object of this is gradually to increase the dog’s comfort level until being in the car is no big deal.
Regardless of what initially taught your dog to fear cars, most dogs can be retrained and will eventually begin to enjoy, or at least tolerate, car rides. By being patient and moving slowly with your fearful dog, you can help him shift perception and come to see the car as a fun adventure rather than a scary trap.