Now that Summer is here and we all start to turn our attention to going on holiday. Packing up the car for a day’s outing with our dog should be something to look forward to. Unfortunately, for some dogs this isn’t the case.
Problems of car travel mainly involve:
- Motion sickness and feeling nauseous
- Associating the car with an unpleasant experience (going to the vets or kennels)
- Movement chasing
So what can we do to help?
- If your dog salivates, pants and looks miserable, it’s likely they feel sick. Ask your vet about medication that addresses this problem. www.cerenia.com is a product that can help. There is also some useful advice on car travel on their website.
- For fear, associate the car with pleasant experiences. Give them treats in a motionless car. Play with them by opening all the doors and throwing a ball through the car for them. This encourages the dog to enter the car to retrieve it.
- Gradually build up their confidence. Follow step 2 but begin starting the engine.
- Work towards moving the car a short distance. Provided they do not show fear, slowly increase the journey time. Remember to continue with the rewards.
- For movement chasers- consider using a covered travel crate. Remember to follow the tips for crate training: https://www.peteducationandtraining.co.uk/how-to-crate-train-your-dog.
- Adaptil spray is a pheromone product that may help induce calm behaviour. It has also been shown to reduce stress and nausea. Spray it on a blanket in the car a few minutes before travelling or on to a bandana that your dog can wear during the trip.
- Avoid feeding before a car journey but make sure they have had a small drink half an hour beforehand. Don’t forget to take water with you.
- For over-excitement introduce car travel on the way back from a walk. You could also try taking them on short journeys but to nowhere in particular. This will help them stop predicting an exciting walk so they do not become over-aroused.
- For the dog that only usually goes to the vets in the car - try and take them to pleasant destinations too!
- Remember: Dogs should always be harnessed or secured during travel to prevent injury and interfering with the controls.
Caroline Clark is a consultant in animal behaviour counselling and you can find more information at www.peteducationandtraining.co.uk