Dog 4223905 960 720

Car Travel

by on

Car travel is so normal to us humans that we rarely prepare our dogs for it.

We need to consider how frightening this maybe from you dogs perspective; the noises, segregation, motion and scents. Really we need to be getting our dogs used to cars slowly and carefully. If your dog decides being in the car is stressful, scary and anxiety inducing, you are going to have a hard time of getting them to journey in the car.

Safety First- Always ensure your dog is restrained in the car. Either by a car harness with seat belt, a crate or a divider. This is not only a legal requirement, but keeps you are your dog safe in the event of an accident.

Getting your inexperienced dog used to cars

  1. If you don’t already, add blankets to the dog’s main resting areas. This will allow us to transfer these familiar smelling settle blankets to the car.
  2. Are you using a car crate? Teach them to love their car crate in your own home before transferring it into the car.
  3. Allow them to explore around and inside the vehicle at their own pace, rewarding positive interactions.
  4. Have a specific car toy/treat that your dog only gets when they are by/ in the car.
  5. Give them a long lasting chew or snack for the journey to keep them occupied.
  6. Do you have to pick your dog up to put them in the car? If so, get them used to doing this in the house first to build a positive association.

Changing your dogs negative perception of cars
Consistency and positive interactions/events are key when changing emotional perceptions. When you are out by the car, ensure you reinforce any behaviour you want to see more of. This could be as simple as your dog approaching the car themselves. Take it very slowly at your dogs own pace, rushing them at this point could worsen their reaction.

  1. Teach a hand target to your dog, once this is a strongly reinforced cue, we can utilize it by asking your dog to touch your hand, closer and closer to the car.
  2. Hold your dog back some distance from the car. Show them a dish full of yummy treats like chicken or sausage. Let them sniff it and then put it in the boot of the car. This should build their anticipation to get access to those treats, this means that when you do release your dog they should be much more forward.
  3. Feed their dinner by or in the car with the engine off.
  4. Have a car party! Bring out lots of treats and activity toys and have a great time with no pressure!
  5. Have you got an automatic boot? Keep them back a little way from the car and practice making the boot open and shut. Each time it does give them a treat. Repeat this until they become happy to hear the noise that anticipates treats.
  6. If your dog is very unsettled and clearly anxious/stressed there are many natural supplements that can help alleviate this. A few options are (Adaptil, Pet Remedy and Valerian).
  7. Is your dog suffering from travel sickness? This is generally very common and something they grow out of. However, keep journeys as short as possible to help acclimatize them to traveling. Feed 1/2 a ginger biscuit to help settle their stomach. If it continues to be a problem, the vet can prescribe anti sickness meds.

Top tip. Once your dog does get in the car for the first time, shower them with love and treats and then take them out and finish that training session.

Any questions?