Car rides aren’t for everyone but they are becoming more and more popular, whether it’s a trip to the vets, going to see family or going for some exercise. Some dogs have no problems in the vehicle but for those that do it can be a stressful time; here are some helpful tips to hopefully make this a more positive experience for everyone.
Speaking of positive, one of the most important things we can do for our dogs makes this a pleasant experience for them. For me, my past three dogs have been and are great in the car. My previous dog was a mature rescue and I remember times where I would think, did I forget him? And then I would look in the back seat and he would be sound asleep. The two dogs I have now, I’ve had since they were 8 weeks old. I really wasn’t sure how it was going to go but I really wanted them to be good in the car so they could come anywhere with me. With these two, basically from day one with them, I had them in a crate in the back seat. I call it the puppy crate and it’s the first step with them, it keeps them safe and secure in one place, plus I don’t have to worry about them eating the seatbelts, the seats or doors (this has happened!). Once they are out of the puppy crate, I upgrade them to a harness and seatbelt connector, so they are still limited for movement and secure in case I have to hit the brakes suddenly or if I’m in an accident. This is also recommended to be the final step, so they are always secure in the event of a rollover or serious accident. This also keeps them from running away in a traumatic event where their fight or flight comes into play. I do not harness my dogs in the car for short rides, although I should because you never know what can happen from point A to point B. My main reason for not harnessing them is because they just lay in the back seat or when they do sit up, they sit still, meaning they are less likely to go air born They aren’t pacing or trying to get in the front seat and not even sticking their heads out the window, if they were, I would definitely be securing them every time. For long car rides, especially highway driving, I always harness them because I wouldn’t want them to get out and be running on the highway. Neither of my dogs has a problem being seat belted in; they enjoy doing errands and going on road trips with me.
Now for those who don’t particularly like car rides, there can be many reasons why. With these dogs, we need to be patient and try to find a solution for them. There are a few medications that can help with motion sickness or slight sedation to help calm anxious dogs. There are also pheromone collars and a jacket that can help keep a dog calm as well. Sometimes making the car a happy place for them can help and/or exposing them to frequent car rides, which is what I do with all my dogs. For them, I feel being with me is their reward and ultimately why they want to go in the car all the time. They love the car so much they help me clean and vacuum it out! To me, for them being this comfortable in and around the car means it is another safe place for them. This is important, so rather than it being a stressful event for everyone involved it will be a relaxing, fun car ride for everyone!
Written by: Amanda Gorrell, Veterinary Assistant