Traveling with your puppy is a real challenge for many owners. And the reason is very simple – dog travel anxiety.
Yeah, it can be a real killjoy.
Of course you want to take your puppy out on a fun drive. But it’s anything but fun when your pup is being sick in the car most of the time, or constantly yowling or barking due to anxiety.
If only you knew how to make those trips more comfortable and fun, both for you and your puppy…
Well, we have the answer right here, in 5 great tips to deal with dog travel anxiety…
Why Does My Dog Get Anxious or Sick While Traveling?
You might think that dogs get carsick or agitated on rides simply because they’re afraid. But your puppy could experience dog travel anxiety for a number of reasons, such as:
- Motion sickness – this is probably the most likely reason for puppies to get carsick, given that inner ears aren’t fully developed, and so easily disturbed by movement or motion they aren’t used to.
- Psychological triggers – your pup could just be associating car drives with visits to the vet, being dropped off at the kennel or other such unpleasant memories.
- Disorientation from the sound or vibrations – hey, they’re dogs, and don’t quite understand vehicles or machines and the sights, sounds and feelings they come with. Give them time to get used to it!
All dogs are different, and would react differently to different experiences. That’s why, where some dogs might be taking to a nice old drive in the car with just another, or even a fun experience, others might look on it as the stuff of nightmares.
How Do I Know that My Puppy Has Dog Travel Anxiety?
Common signs that your pup is suffering from travel anxiety include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Unusually excessive drooling
- Constant whining or barking
- Other unusual behavior or actions like frequent yawning and lip-smacking
However, one thing to understand is that treating dog travel anxiety is different from treating simple motion sickness in a dog. True motion sickness can only be treated through medication, whereas dog travel anxiety can be trained and encouraged away with some patience, reassurance and positive reinforcement.
To find out what kind of condition your puppy has, take her to the vet. If she responds well to motion sickness medication, you have your answer.
True motion sickness basically means that your pup’s inner ear is acting up when moving in vehicles. Not much you can do about that other than properly prescribed medication.
Some Great Tips to Help Your Pup Through Travel Anxiety
Now that you basically understand why your pup has travel anxiety, and how to recognise the signs, here are some way you can help her overcome it.
And even if it takes some time, there are some tips on how to cope better with your puppy’s condition in situations where you can’t avoid traveling with her.
1. Crating is the Best Idea When Your Dog Gets Anxious
If your dog tends to get anxious when traveling, crating is the best thing you can do for the both of you – at least if or until she gets over her travel anxiety.
Many dogs feel more secure when they’re “tucked in” whether in a familiar den-like crate, or even a comfortable, snug blanket.
Also, using a restraint or crate will limit the risks of a mishap in case your puppy moves around a lot in her anxiety, or when you have to brake hard.
2. Don’t Force Your Dog on Rides
Forcing your dog to get over dog travel anxiety will never work. Or at least, it won’t work well or without leaving bad psychological scars. You want to ease into the experience very, very gently.
As gently as you can.
Here is the sort of sequence you want to be trying:
- First, disarm your dog into believing the car is a safe space. Or at least a pretty ordinary space – nothing to get worked up over. Just sit with her on/around/in the idle car. Feed her treats, play around and basically just chill in the car with her.
- Next comes getting her used to the vibrations and sound. Start turning on the engine. Make sure to calm her throughout by speaking softly, petting her and rewarding her with treats for not freaking out.
- Once your pup is used to the sound and feel of a running car, you can eventually start driving slowly to get her used to the motion. Very slowly, and very short drives at first. And never leave her unattended – make sure someone else is there to mind and reassure her during the drives.
- You’d do well to make a point of making all the initial training drives very positive experiences, like short trips to her favorite park, or trips to meet other friendly dogs or people she knows.
As ever, always reward positive behavior and actions with treats and an encouraging tone. And do make the interior of the car as “homely” as possible with her favorite toys, blankets etc.
3. Take Precautions
You can’t ever guarantee that your pup won’t have an episode until she’s completely used to riding in vehicles. And even so, there’s always a chance of her getting motion sickness.
Here are some things you can do to avoid or at least deal with such incidents better:
- Make a point of exercising your pup before rides, and definitely before long rides. This of course includes making sure she has relieved herself.
- Never feed your pup before a trip. Keep a few hours of buffer before mealtime and the trip. And when you have to feed her during a long trip, keep the meals more like short snacks, and preferably during breaks and not while moving.
- Speaking of breaks, plan for a healthy number of them if you’re going on longer trips. She will need bathroom breaks.
- Make sure you follow proper safety practices. For instance:
- Disabling the front airbag if she’s riding shotgun
- Preferably also have doggy seatbelts if you can
- Make sure the window isn’t open wide enough to cause a mishap
- Don’t leave her alone in the parked car – even with the windows open a bit to let air in. It still gets pretty hot, besides being unpleasant for your pup.
- Get some dog car seat covers. Yes!! They are essential when your puppy tends to get anxious or motion sickness. And even if that’s rare, why chance the ridiculously high cleaning costs in case of an episode??
4. Calming Your Dog on Drives
You should also have a few things up your sleeve to help your puppy keep calm during trips.
Here are a few things you can try:
Is there any music that she likes or calms down to? Having that handy is a good idea.
Keep her favorite snacks/treats handy too. Snacks like ginger treats, or better yet, calming chews for dogs that are specially made to calm down anxious dogs are excellent remedies for when your pup has an episode
Speak with your vet about safe, calming aromatherapy massages for your puppy, before or during trips
We hope you found these tips on dealing with dog travel anxiety useful. If you have any tips or suggestions of your own, don’t hesitate to mention them in the comments section below!