As a dog mom or dad, it is likely that you have had to travel in the car with your pup from time to time. Trips to the vet, the groomer or the kennels are all essential journeys that may not end exactly as your dog would wish… in the dog park running free with their friends. However, some dogs point blank refuse to go canine cruising and are crippled by fear and anxiety as soon as they approach the car. This can turn a simple car journey into a road trip down the highway to hell.
The memories of one bad experience can play on the dog’s mind more often than scheduled re-runs of Friends. So, if your pup is a natural-born worrywart or has been scared by a bad experience, we are here to help. Here are our top tips to help make canine cruising a breeze.
1. Safety first
While each dog is different and therefore will require different methods to keep them secure, one thing that is the same for all is the need to make them feel safe. Car travel comes with bumps in the road, sudden stops and of course, travelling at high speeds. Some dogs may feel safer and more relaxed when placed inside their crate while travelling in the car. Others may want to look out the window and feel the cool air on their face so a seat belt and harness would be the best method. If a dog feels safe and secure while on a car ride, they are more likely to enjoy it.
2. Ask an expert
Just like kids, dogs can get car sick too. Experiencing nausea is not fun, especially when mixed with feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. If you suspect there may be a physical reason why your dog may not be enjoying your road trips as much as you, be sure to ask your vet. They will be able to provide you with medically approved advice as well as prescribe your pooch some magic anti-nausea pills.
3. Keep journeys short and sweet
If your dog goes into a meltdown every time you grab your car keys, don’t panic. There are times when it is essential to travel by car with your pup, but in the meantime, it is worth getting them used to simply being in the car. Practice putting them in the car and just sitting with them without driving anywhere. Once you see that they can manage this, another day you can repeat this exercise but add in a short drive around the block. Keep training short and sweet, building them up gradually over time. Little and often is the trick. And be sure to always reward your pup for their good behavior.
4. Pack the home comforts
Make the experience as comforting as possible for your dog and earn extra pawrent brownie points in the process by packing their favorite items. Does your dog have a favorite chew toy? Or, is it impossible for them to settle without their chosen blanket? Consider what items you can easily transport with you in the car that will help to reduce your dog’s nerves on car journeys.
5. Play soothing music
You have a safe way of transporting your dog, the home comforts are packed, nausea meds are taken and are ready to dash to the vet with your dog. In order to calm your frayed nerves and ensure that the journey is as stress-free as possible for both you and your pup, we recommend playing calming music. Mozart is a classic choice but Yoga music and anything in the singer-songwriter genre has also proven to help. The soft sound of the music will help all passengers to keep calm and if the song has words, try singing so that your fur-baby can hear your comforting voice.
6. Call upon Mother Nature for remedies
When it comes to our fur babies, natural is best. So, if you have an anxious pooch it may be worth investigating natural remedies to make car travel enjoyable. Lavender essential oil boasts calming properties that will help your dog feel all zen. Applying a single drop to the interior of your car may help to make your dog feel calm. Adaptil sprays are also worth looking into since they replicate the happy pheromones released by dogs and will help your dog to create a positive connection with car travel. Before trying any of these suggestions, it is worth consulting with your vet first.
7. Go on a sniffari
Enforce the positive connections your dog makes with car travel by ensuring that all journeys end in a sniffari. Dogs use their noses to gather a wealth of information about their surroundings and it is one of their favorite pastimes. Reward a successful trip in the car with a runabout in the pet park. Or, calm nerves and relieve stress after a nightmare journey with a quick walk around the block. Giving your dog time to stretch their legs, take a break from the car and provide them with positive stimulation will help make them realize that not all car journeys end in something uncomfortable like a trip to the vet.
Practice makes perfect
While it may be frustrating and inconvenient, your unhappiness is nothing compared to your dogs. Be patient with them and allow them to work through their emotions at their own pace. It is normal for a dog to feel anxious about a trip in the car. But, if you go canine cruising more and more often they will soon begin to loosen up and maybe even enjoy this moment with you. Who knows, maybe they will end up being the bossiest backseat driver you have ever known. Or, perhaps a loyal companion who will jump at the opportunity to ride shotgun alongside you. Just remember, good things happen to those who wait and that nothing worth having is free. Invest in your pup and watch them transform. Love works miracles.