My dog loves to go for rides but is terrified once in the car. What can I do to ease her fear?

Asked by Alec

1 Answer

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A fear of cars and travelling in them is a common problem. Often it is impossible to figure out what the trigger was but it can arise from feelings of sickness when they were young, a traumatic incident like a car crash or simply not going into a car often enough as a young dog to get used to it.

Regardless of the cause, the approach to the issue is generally the same. You need to help your dog to realise that the car is a safe place, where they can relax and look forward to a fun time at the end of the journey!

Start by opening both doors of the back seat and encouraging your dog, while on a lead, to follow you into the car for a treat and then out the other side. Make sure to give them lots of praise when they climb in but then quickly allow them out again so they don’t get worked up. If you would prefer them to travel in the trunk, get them to jump in or allow themselves to be lifted, a quick treat and some praise and back down again. Carry out this exercise little and often and gradually lengthen the amount of time they are in the car. As they become more relaxed, try turning the engine on and, once they are happy with this, taking short rides. Gradually build up the length of time of the journey and always make sure you make lots of fuss of them and give treats when you arrive at your destination.

Other things that can make your dog feel more secure in the car are; ensuring they are properly restrained, using either a seatbelt attachment or a crate in the boot; giving them a chew treat or toy to keep them occupied and ensuring that while you praise calm, sensible behavior, you don’t encourage them to get stressed by being overly attentive to fearful behavior.

If you dog vomits when they travel, this can make their stress worse. They associate the car with being and feeling sick, which is obviously unpleasant. They focus on this, which makes them anxious about the car, which actually makes them more likely to be throw up. Your vet will be able to provide effective anti-sickness medication and often, after a few journeys using it, they become much more relaxed and the problem resolves itself. | 02.10.16 @ 15:10
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$commenter.renderDisplayableName() — {comment} | 08.20.17 @ 19:19
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