Riding In Cars with Dogs

Car Sick Dog and Travel Anxiety in Dogs

I am often asked questions about dogs behavior on car rides.    There are some pretty easy things you can to change how your dog behaves for the ride along.

There are a couple of reasons why your dog maybe making the trip miserable.  It may be even unsafe for the driver if he’s bouncing around.

Common Reasons — It’s important to determine what the root of the issue may be.

  • He’s miserable.   Maybe he’s scared or even carsick for the ride.
  • He’s so excited to get to somewhere!

Let’s take a look at what you can do to make car rides more enjoyable and safer for everyone.

car sick dog 2

Doggie Car Sickness:

  • If your dog is prone to car sickness, it’s not much different that you being car sick.   
  • Consider not feeding him before the outing.   Less food on the belly means less food for you to clean up! 
  • If this is a more recurring issue for your pet or you have time to prepare before your trip — a better long-term solution is essential oils (Ginger or  Digize from Young Living) – all natural, no other chemicals added, etc.

Sometimes we don’t find out about an issues until we’re on the road….

  • Consider giving him a Ginger supplement or even an antacid.    These are not intended for long-term use.
  • Over the Counter Dramamine is an option, but can make them sleep.   Dosage is approximately 2 to 4 milligrams for every pound the dog weighs.
  • Check with your vet for proper dosage and any issues with other meds your dog may be taking or health conditions.

Doggie Car Anxiety:

  • Mild to Moderate car anxiety can be present for many reasons.   
  • Getting sick in the car previously.  His only car rides may have been to vet.  Or his last ride may have been to the shelter.   Or something traumatic could have happened along the way.  (remember they are very associative creatures)
  • Scary thing is in the car or at the end of the ride, even though we may not know exactly what that is.
  • We recommend the use of essential oils to create a calm & relaxed state of mind for your dog, or even to address the digestive system in the body to help settle the tummy.   Ask about Essential Oils
  • Consider Melatonin as a slight calming medication.  But know, it may not work for all dogs.  Or Calming treat, calming collars, etc.   Anxiety wraps can be effective as well.  But these are not solutions — just tools to help you create change.  
    • Melatonin in my experience just helps take the edge off rather than making them sleepy.
    • Dosage:   typically consider 2mg per 35 pounds of weight administered up to 3 times per day.
    • Again — check with your vet before administering.  
  • Start with a desensitization process.   
    • Feed Fido in the car for a few days but don’t go anywhere.
    • Spend some short intervals in the car just hanging out, without even turning on the engine.  Build your way to starting the car, backing down the drive, and eventually a short trip to somewhere fun and enjoyable.
  • Rinse and repeat a lot to help change how he feels about the car.
  • It might take you a few minutes a day for several weeks to make the desired level of improvement.

    car sick dog

Doggie Car Excitement:

  • Wohoo, we’re going to the park!   We’re going to get French Fries/treats or pick up his favorite kid, or he gets to bark at strangers along the way just to say “Hi, I’m here!”  (Yes, it’s fun to him).    (remember, they are associative, so we create reasons for them to love the ride)
  • If your dog isn’t listening to you at home or under low distraction environments, it’s not likely the car ride will be enjoyable.
  • Work on a Good Down/Stay and a good “Place!” command or work on Crate Training.    And implement these skills in the car.    You have to practice at home before you ever start the car and take a trip.   Create mock experiences so that you have hands free and attention to give to him to address the training.   
  • A good car ride is really nothing more than holding the Place command for the trip!
  • Implement this and you’ll both be much happier. 

Training rules apply all the time and everywhere.   The car is just another distraction and it will take some training and reinforcement for him to modify his behavior.  It also takes a little bit of change on your part to create the desired outcome.

You’ll be glad you invested the time and effort to over come these issues?

Be sure to also consider appropriate safety measures like safety harnesses, seat belts, tethering the crate to the car, etc for added safety in the event of an emergency.


Ask us about natural essential oil products to support your dogs well-being and emotional needs.   http://www.essentialbeliever.com

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Author: The K9 Coach

The K9 Coach Carolinas Dog Training owned and operated by Dana Brigman, certified dog trainer. We specialize in aggression, fear, anxiety and dog behavior training. We are experts in dog obedience training.