7 Expert Tips For Traveling With Your Dog in a Car
Some dogs will happily jump into your car with their tails wagging; for others, however, traveling with your dog can be a very stressful event for them. They’ll pant, pace and might even be physically sick during the journey.
Sometimes you can get away with leaving your dog at home if it’s just a short trip to the grocery store, but other times you won’t have much choice, for example if you need to take them to the vet or if you’re going on a long road trip.
Presented below are 7 tips that will make traveling with your dog safe and stress free.
1. Plan Ahead
Before your dog’s first journey in the car, you need to decide where and how he will travel.
It doesn’t matter his size, you might think a lapdog can travel safely on your lap during the ride – this isn’t safe.
The safest way for Fido to travel is in a crate, and if he is already crate trained, it makes the transition a little easier.
We will cover more on how to crate train him in the car shortly. If you’re not planning on using a crate, think about where you dog will be safest, in a place that can be his own, where he will travel every time he gets into the car.
If you’re not using a crate you’ll likely want to use some sort of harness system to make sure he is safe during the journey.
2. Get Your Dog Familiar With The Car
Before you even go out on your first road trip, it’s important to help your dog become familiar with the car. For the first few days, you can just play dog games near the vehicle.
Then open all the doors and sit in the car, encouraging Fido to come in too. When he does, give him a treat. Once he is comfortable with being in the car, turn the engine on and give him another treat.
The next time, turn the engine on and move the car out of the garage, and then immediately back in. Easing your dog gently into driving in a car, and rewarding them with a treat or praise at each step will help them to form positive associations with being in the car.
3. Crate Train Your Dog
If your dog is already crate trained this will be easy, simply put the crate into your car and slowly encourage him into the crate with treats and toys.
Your dog’s crate should be his safe space, his refuge. Make sure it is comfortable for him, keeping it as flat as possible, and maybe putting some blankets in the bottom.
4. Toilet And Exercise
Before you begin traveling with your dog, make sure your dog has been to the toilet and has had a good run around.
If you dog is feeling nervous, it’s likely that they might have an accident in the car. You can prevent this by making sure they go to the toilet before getting in. If they do have an accident, don’t shout at them or punish them for it or they’ll associate going in the car with being shouted at.
On the exercise side of things, exercise decreases stress and increase happy hormones, both of which will help Fido to enjoy their first ride in the car more.
Aim to walk them or play with them for 10-20 minutes before you get into the car.
5. Choose Rewarding Destinations For The First Few Trips
Keep your first few trips really short, and make the destination a fun and rewarding place. Perhaps you could drive to your local dog park, or to the beach.
If they have positive experiences for their first few journeys, they’ll start to associate getting into the car with being fun and exciting.
6. Play Calming Music
There are lots of great songs which have specifically been designed to help calm dogs down, and since most cars have CD players in them nowadays, why not play some music during your journey?
Soft rock and reggae are thought to have the most calming effects on canines!
7. Talk To Your Vet
If all of the above fail and your dog is still suffering with motion sickness or extreme anxiety, you’ll need to talk to your vet to discuss other options.
They might be able to prescribe some calming medications which can be taken in advance of traveling in the car.
Traveling With Your Dog Can Be Enjoyable
Remember, make the experience of being in the car a positive and calm one. Ease them into it very gently and slowly, give them a safe place to travel on their own in the car and you should end up with dog that will happily jump into the car when it’s time to go out for a road trip!
John Woods is the founder of AllThingsDog.com, a website made by dog lovers for dog lovers. He is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, a graduate in Animal Behavior and Welfare and a recognized author by the Dog Writers Association of America. Follow him on Instagram @at_dogs