How to Help Your Dog’s Anxiety in Car Rides

Posted on January 07 2022

Taking your dog for a ride in the car should be fun and easy, but for pet owners with highly anxious dogs, car rides can quickly turn unpleasant or downright hellish. Whether taking a short ride to the park or a longer road trip on the interstate, easing your dog’s anxiety in the car can lessen stress and make travel more enjoyable.

How to Help Your Dog’s Anxiety in Car Rides

Calm dogs make good travelers, so preparing your dog for a car ride starts long before you even get to the car. If your dog already associates cars with bad experiences (e.g. motion sickness, going to the vet, or leaving the comforts of home), then merely showing signs of going on a car ride may be enough to trigger your dog’s anxiety.

The real trick is learning how to teach your dog to love the car and what it represents: a fun outing with their human! Thus, it’s best to try and associate car rides with uplifting, positive experiences for your dog.

Some pet owners like to help their dog get comfortable with an unmoving car before heading out on car rides. Letting the dog sit in the car while it’s parked, even with the door open, can help them become acquainted with the car while it’s not moving. Then, once your dog is settled in, you can secure them in the car and close the door.

Starting with slow and gradual movements can help your dog get used to the motion of the car. It’s always a good idea to secure your dog with a seat belt so as to limit their motion in the car. Bringing their favorite toy into the car can also help, but so can your attitude. Using positive language and rewarding your calm dog with a treat and praise shows your dog that you notice and appreciate their patience and with proper dog training, your dog can learn to be calm and content while riding in the car. 

Safety vs Comfort

Knowing exactly what a dog feels can be tricky anywhere, but understanding what a dog in the car feels takes extra observation. Some dogs will get very quiet and apprehensive. Dogs with car anxiety may show their emotions by fidgeting, yelping, barking, or even moaning worriedly. Dogs that are free may get jumpy and can even jump into the driver’s lap. Such disruptions are dangerous and can potentially cause car accidents.  

Securing your dog in the car keeps everyone safe. It can also help reduce motion sickness, which is a major cause of dog anxiety in the car. As a pet owner, there are several things you can do to prevent your dog’s motion sickness, like lowering the window enough to allow a steady flow of fresh air, stopping to take short walks along the way, trying calming dog chews and keeping your dog hydrated.

Elixinol Calm Dog Chews: 

Remember that dogs can get car sick just like people do. Removing the association between car rides and motion sickness can help you address dog car anxiety.

Preparing Your Anxious Dog for Longer Road Trips

When taking your dog on longer car rides, think about how the dog’s anxiety may manifest. There’s nothing worse than seeing your pet in distress, helpless and stressed, while being far away from home. Slowly working up to longer road trips will help your dog become accustomed to spending longer times in the car.

In the weeks before a long trip, take shorter car rides with your dog, even if it’s just around the block. Open the window, and if possible, let your dog see out the window. Remember, fresh air, a favorite toy, and a treat and praise can help your dog associate car time with something that is special and fun. 

Plan ahead to stop and take walks, or to give your dog time to run around off-leash in a fenced-in dog park. Much like children on family road trips, dogs do better when they have breaks to stretch their legs, burn up unspent energy, go to the bathroom, and have a snack or drink. The more you take care of your dog’s needs during a longer road trip, the less anxiety they will exhibit in the car. 

Reducing Car Ride Anxiety in Dogs   

Car rides with your dog don’t have to be a miserable experience. Pet owners can attest that dog-car anxiety is far too common. However, it is possible to mitigate the chance of dogs “freaking out” in the car by meeting your pets on their level—understanding the source of their anxiety, learning to remove stress triggers and helping to make the car a place that is positive, comfortable, and safe. Patience and practice can build long-lasting trust with your pet so that they no longer feel anxious during car rides.