Travel Sickness

So you plan a great trip out, jump in the car, pooch safe and sound in the crate, start the engine, head off and before you know it your pup is panting, drooling, whining and has puked, pooped or wee-ed in the back. What is going on? Motion sicken and anxiety! Very common indeed and luckily an easy one to solve.

Generally, we tend to bring our pups home from the breeder, they are under house arrest til vaccinations have taken place, so the chances are those very first few car trips involve being removed from Mum and siblings and then being stuck with needles. No wonder some pups are struck with anxiety around the car.

So how do we go about making the car a less scary place? Well, it takes some time and patience, but it isn’t too difficult to solve and while your pup may never learn to love the car, they should at least stop becoming a quivering wreck at the thought of going in it.

My top tips are-

Stage One

  • Take your pup out to the car with some extra tasty treats.

  • Pop your pup in the car and reward.

  • Take your pup straight back out again.

  • Repeat step 2 and 3, over and over until you can get a ‘sit’ when you ask.

Now before we go any further, some of you may have become stuck already. If your pup is especially anxious about the car- they won’t take the reward. So just pop them in the car, praise and take them out again, until the get to the stage where they will take a treat. The trick to this is to make the car visit very short, literally a couple of seconds in and out, but repeated many times should lower their anxiety levels enough to allow them to take the reward. Now go to step 1.

  • If your pup travels in a crate, this would be the step to closing the door, if you instead use a dog guard or harness then the word door refers to the car door. So ask for a sit and close the door for a second, praise and reward.

  • Gradually build up the time you can close the door without your pup breaking their sit. Lots of praise and a reward each time. When you can do a 10 second sit, go to the next stage.

  • Take your pup straight back out again.

  • Repeat step 2 and 3, over and over until you can get a ‘sit’ when you ask.

Stage Two.

Start your engine and do stage one again with the engine running, but do not move the car yet.

Stage Three

Hopefully now your pup is acclimatised to being in the car, restrained in their crate/harness/boot with the engine running. Time to get moving! Motion itself can make young dogs in particular feel queasy, so it is a good idea to throw a cover over their crate to make them feel more secure. It is something they will grow out of.

Make the initial journeys very short and to some place fun, a park, beach or forest. Repeat little short journeys as often as you can and gradually build up distance.

You should also at this point teach your pup not to jump out the car until you release them. So hand signal a sit when you go to open the door. If they get up, close the door again, wait for a voluntary sit before going to open the door. Repeat until you have a reliable sit when the door is fully opened and your dog waits for your release cue. This can be a bit tedious but it is vital for safety to ensure your pup doesn’t run out into traffic. Happy motoring!!