Random tips for Car Travel Anxiety

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It might also help to have some trips to the car that are brief and don’t involve driving – put the pup on a leash, bring favorite treats and/or toys, feed or play briefly in the car, and go back inside. They could even pick one thing she really likes and offer that only in the car, to help make a positive association. (With the leash on, the door to the car could be left open so the dog wouldn’t feel confined.)

Our adopted adult miniature poodle is very nervous in the car – she vocalizes and it sounds like a scream! We have found that if we start distracting her with peanut butter (her favorite!) before she gets anxious, we can continue to distract her with tiny amounts of peanut butter repeatedly to get us to our destination. Definitely requires a passenger in the car, but it helps and she seems to be getting more accustomed to car rides.
It might help to NOT do daily long trips, but instead intermittent short ones where the dog is only in the car for 1-2 minutes and learns that the car is okay. It might help to make some of the car trips to places the dog really likes such as a park

Try to learn some details eg does she get into the car willingly, and then get anxious, is it related to a certain type of movement eg fast vs slow, does she whine upon seeing things outside, or is she really just pacing inside the car. That may give you some ideas for behavior modification such as setting up trips that don’t involve those triggers.

stuffed Kong to help distract it from the ride

The first step is to stop taking the dog in the car while trying to work with his fears. I have had luck going slowly and desensitizing the dog first to eat their dinner near the car, then with the door open to the car, then on the floor of the car and then on the seat. This can take several weeks to accomplish. Once the dog is readily getting in the car for his dinner, the owner can try closing the door and see if he will still eat. If that occurs, then perhaps a short drive and see how he does. In most cases if we make it this far, the dog is okay.

– DAP on blanket in the car. DAP stands for Dog Appeasing Pheromone. DAP can help in the alleviation of transportation or boarding fear, excessive licking, or excessive vocalization (whining and barking). I would suggest you check out the website to see if it’s something you’re interested in trying in addition to these other suggestions.

There are many but they all begin with starting with a calm dog in the car, and then gradually proceeding. My favored techniques are to use a head halter (and perhaps clicker) along with favored rewards to get a reliable down-settle e.g. on a mat and to perhaps use DAP spray on the mat before each session. A calming cap may help or may aggravate the problem depending on how the dog responds. This then moves to the car and when ready to start the car, this generally requires two people, one to focus on settling the dog and the other to gradually start the car, put it in gear, do short drives etc. as long as the dog can be settled. In the interim avoiding car rides, or using a head halter or restraint device and ignoring the dog are the only short term solutions.

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