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Help Your Anxious or Car Sick Dog Feel Better in the Car
Pet Blog

Help Your Anxious or Car Sick Dog Feel Better in the Car

While some dogs LOVE the car, others aren’t quite as enthusiastic. Whether they suffer from anxiety or car sickness, car rides can be no fun! Here’s how to help them be more comfortable on your trips.


Trip Preparation

Some of the most important things you can do to help your dog feel better in the car happen before you ever leave the driveway! Thinking ahead and laying the proper groundwork for your next long car ride will make traveling with your dog much easier.


Car Training

The best strategy for long term success in helping your dog be happier in the car is the right training. Using desensitization and counter-conditioning training techniques will help your dog to create new, positive associations with the car instead of remembering their anxiety or heaving tummy.


Start by making the car a place for fun! Hang out in your stationary car with your dog and provide their favorite high-value treats and toys. As they get comfortable, start adding more steps to your normal routine, like clipping them into their travel harness and turning the car on and off. Then begin driving—just down the driveway and back to start with! Take frequent breaks and make your drives longer each training session.


When you’re ready to hit the road, try to make most of your destinations a place your dog will be excited about, like the dog park or their favorite pet store. While you can’t avoid vet trips or boring errands forever, the goal is to make a ride in the car seem like an exciting prospect—at least most of the time.


Before long, your pup will be hopping in the back seat with their tail wagging a mile a minute! (Until then, learn more about how to use desensitization to get your dog to stop barking at the doorbell and how counter-conditioning can help reactive dogs.)


Anxiety Management

Your dog’s anxiety is real, and there are tools available to help manage it. There are relaxing pheromone sprays and diffusers, herbal calming treats, compression garments like the Thundershirt, and vet-prescribed anxiety medications that can help your dog find their zen. Test a few methods before your next big road trip with your dog to see which works best for them!


Car Supplies

If your dog is going to spend a long time in the car with you, you should make it as comfortable for them as possible! In addition to anxiety management supplies, pack the basics for travel like food and water, bowls, leashes, poop bags, and a toy or two. You should also consider dog-proofing your car!


A seat cover for the back seat can prevent any messes from muddy paws or motion-sickness vomit getting into your upholstery. Hammock-style seat covers can also stop your dog from being a distraction in the front seat and keep them safer in the back. Better yet, doggy car seats that are secured with your car seat belts offer a great way to keep your dog secure and comfortable in a cozy dog bed that helps keep them safe in the event of an accident.


Feeding

It might be tempting to let your dog load up on food and water before a car ride if you’re going to be on the move for a while, but it’s a good idea not to feed them right before they get in a moving car. As any human with motion sickness can tell you, a full sloshy tummy of food does not help the experience of a bumpy ride. Feed them a few hours before you have to leave to allow plenty of time for their food to settle before you hit the road.


Exercise

Giving your dog some solid exercise to tucker them out will help them kick back, relax, and maybe even nap in the car. Try to let them go on a long run or a good romp at the dog park before you load up in the car so they start the trip tired and satisfied.


During the Trip

Once you’ve done all the prep work, it’s time to hit the road! Here’s what to do on your road trip to help your dog relax and enjoy the ride.


Frequent Stops

Long road trips make everyone ready to find a restroom and get out of the car! You should hit rest stops regularly for your dog’s comfort, both for potty breaks and to stretch their legs. Experts suggest stopping every 1-3 hours depending on whether you have a puppy with an overactive bladder or a more mellow adult dog. Make your stops even more beneficial for your dog by planning ahead for stops at a dog park or pet-friendly hiking trail where they can have longer break out of the car to frolic and burn some energy!


Entertainment

Make sure your dog has two types of toys packed for your trip: a good chew toy or long-lasting chew treat to enjoy solo and an active toy like a rope for tug-of-war the two of you can use together. One will help your dog pass the time while you’re driving, and the other will let you both get some movement in and energy out during your rest stops!


Relaxing Environment

Any good road trip requires great snacks and a killer playlist—but don’t forget about your pooch when you’re setting the mood in your car! While you might love to belt out your favorite pop songs or blast headbanging rock to keep your energy up, your already-stressed dog might appreciate something a little more lowkey. Try some relaxing indie or classical tracks, or put on songs you’ve noticed your dog seems to enjoy!

You can also help dogs with car sickness by keeping your car cool and cracking the windows for some fresh air. Pack a sweatshirt if you prefer to stay toasty, because the lower temps can help keep nausea at bay!

With these tips under your belt, you might just reach your final destination with a happy dog! Even if you can’t prevent all their anxiety or nausea, every little bit helps and your best friend will appreciate your hard work, dog owners. If you’re feeling ready to hit the road, we’ve got tips to plan the perfect pet-friendly vacation so you never have to leave your dog behind!