Every dog has a different perspective of understanding or observing events and their surroundings. Some of them do not have a fear of road trips. They will directly hop into the car and enjoy the trip by sticking their head out. While others do not prefer to go inside a car whatsoever. They will struggle while you are trying to get them inside your vehicle. They will scream and whine, which is the sign of a protest from their side. This kind of phobia is pretty common amongst them, which ultimately creates unsafe and distracting drives.
The major reason for fearing car rides is getting exposed to an unfamiliar feeling. Some dogs also feel nauseous while sitting inside a moving vehicle. Although in most of the cases, the fear of car rides diminishes as they get used to car rides. The secret key here is managing to gradually introduce your pup to car rides. You can also make their experience memorable by doing fun activities or anything positive. They generally have great instincts to remember good things. So, associating positive memories with car rides will make them accustomed to it.
Common Reasons Why Dogs Fear Car Rides
Let us talk in detail regarding the various reasons for the fear and some techniques to resolve it.
Car Sickness and nausea
As we all know, dogs are mammals just like us. Some of us do have motion sickness and feel nauseous during car rides. Similarly, some of our furry friends also possess the same issue. This affects their in-born instinct of staying from the things that affect their health. That is why they do not prefer riding cars. The queasy feeling also makes them whiny and disturbed during car rides.
Dogs are not used to going on car rides by sitting inside a moving vehicle since the beginning of their life. Hence, going for a ride for the first few times might seem unfamiliar for them, which gives them anxiety, stress, and panic. That is why they try to avoid it by trying to gain your attention towards their condition. This results in crying, shivering, and other emergency responses.
Sound of engine and vibration
Dogs are not familiar with the rumbling of engines and vibrations of vehicles. They are also not used to seeing everything passing by within a blink of an eye. That is why they get uncomfortable and start panicking. This is a major reason for their fear of car rides.
Usually, dogs relate their traveling experiences with memories. In general, you take them to the vet for vaccination purposes or to treat their illness. Moreover, you take them to a groomer to keep their grooming standards maintained. Dogs do not like both of the above-mentioned experiences. They have a great memory of different experiences, and they associate their impressions about a particular incident with the memories they already have stored in their head. Hence, when you try to take them on a car ride, they will correlate it with the memory of going to the vet or to the groomer. This will create anxiety and panic attacks in them, ultimately giving rise to the fear.
Similarly, if your pup has been involved in a car accident or has been hit by a car in recent years, it will take an immense amount of time for them to get out of this trauma and may have long-lasting fears about car rides in general.
These were some major reasons why dogs fear car rides. Now in the next section, we will be discussing some techniques, tips, and tricks to get your pup out of this prevalent fear.
How to teach your dog to overcome the fear of car rides
It is really easy to teach a puppy to love your car, but if you have a full-grown dog and recently got a car, it might take some time to learn them like car rides. In that case, you can associate car rides with exciting and fun experiences using desensitization and counter-conditioning.
Desensitizing is a method to gradually introduce your pup to your car to decrease their fear of car rides slowly. On the other hand, Counter-conditioning is a method to convert your pup’s negative emotions to a positive vibe and feeling. You can do both by doing some fun activities either inside the car or you can take them to amusement parks or some fun places where they can play, run and have a good time.
Your dog might have a high reluctance to car rides. In that case, you need to start the acclimatization process by taking them 8 to10-feet away from the car and by staying with them for some time on the driveway. You need to gradually distance and ultimately take them to the back seat of your car and let them sit for some time inside your parked car. This is a great trick to make them relaxed and let them know that nothing tragic is going to happen. At every step of this process, you may provide them with treats or some kind of rewards that will keep them motivated and happy. After some time, you can also move away from them silently, without letting them know, and gradually they will lose the fear of getting into your car.
You can also try to do a training session inside your car. Dogs are generally energetic and always up for some training activities. You can use the back seat or backdoor of your car as a prop and throw a ball or a toy inside the car. Your pup will go and fetch it and gradually be accustomed to the environment of your car.
During all these activities or tricks, make sure not to push them a lot. Give them all the love and support they need. The fear of car rides is a genuine issue and not something made up by your dog. So, please be patient and considerate.
After your bud gets accustomed to your car, next comes the difficult part. It is the time to start preparing your pup for the drive. But first, they need to get accustomed to other elements regarding driving. These include you sitting on the driver’s seat and keeping your dog on the backseat safely with seatbelts on. After each step is complete, do not forget to toss treats to the backseat for your little champ. Next comes closing the doors and locking the car from inside. Dogs generally sense the door locking by listening to the sounds of remote lock beeping. Hence, they also need to get accustomed to that by repeating the same thing a few times.
The final step of acclimatization is to switch on the car and to check their first reaction. If they are cool with it, then drive a few blocks at a very slow speed. Now, gradually increase the speed and duration of the ride. But remember to be gentle and abort the process if your dog shows any symptoms of anxiety or stress. Start the complete process afresh after a few days.
How to teach your dog to enjoy the car rides?
We assume that your dog has started to go with you for frequent car rides for a few blocks by now. It will be the perfect time to go for a bit longer drives. You can make the drive interesting by playing some music or keeping the windows open. This will create a nice vibe inside your car. Some dogs do not prefer to stay inside a closed space. Keeping the windows open will increase the airflow; hence, they will feel breezy and comfy.
Prevent Dog Motion Sickness
Even after they start loving car rides. One problem might prevail in some pups, that is, motion sickness. This is a genetic problem, and it can only be cured by taking them to frequent car trips. They also grow out of this problem with time. Mature dogs do not face this problem. Although, a stomach upset or illnesses of some kind may cause motion sickness. This can happen at times when you are taking your pup to the vet. There are certain steps to prevent motion sickness, these include;
- Limit the food and water for your pup a few hours before the car ride.
- Let airflow to the car by lowering the windows.
- Keep the temperature of your car comfortable.
- You can also consult your vet regarding motion sickness issues.
So, these were some reasons regarding your pup’s phobia from car rides and how you can cure it to make them enjoy every car ride. Remember, have patience, give time to your pup, and try to understand their problems.
- Help For a Dog With Car Phobia
- What To Do When Your Dog Fears Car Rides
- Preventing and Treating Travel Anxiety in Dogs