Is Your Dog Scared of Riding in a Car? Here Are Expert Tips to Help Him Get Over His Fear

Is Your Dog Scared of Riding in a Car? Here Are Expert Tips to Help Him Get Over His Fear

Some dogs love riding in cars and going on road trips with their owners. Other dogs are scared of even climbing into a vehicle.

If you're a pet owner who wants to take your dog for outdoor adventures but your dog refuses to go no matter how much it loves you, you should try to understand first what is causing your dog's anxiety. Then, you can start helping your dog overcome its fear with loving patience.

Now, here's a list of the possible reasons why your dog is fearful of getting into a car according to PetHelpful:

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  • Motion sickness. A car ride can cause dogs and puppies to feel quite nauseous, with some of them even ending up vomiting. Others drool, pant, or yawn. If a dog's stomach is empty, it is especially susceptible to motion sickness.
  • Unpleasant experiences like unstable footing, vehicle sounds, unfamiliar sensations when traveling, confined space, unpleasant traffic sights, scary destinations like a vet clinic, or any place that a dog doesn't like.
  • Simply not wanting to climb in (but relaxes when it's already inside the car).
  • Your dog wants you to help it get into the car. Sometimes, it just wants to be carried and settled comfortably inside.
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If you've been experiencing this problem with your dog, these are things that you can do to help it overcome its anxiety:

  • Seek your vet's help to find out if your dog's anxiety is caused by motion sickness. Testing will help find the answer, and medication can be prescribed. But if your dog's fear is pain-related, such as back pain, neck pain, or joint pain, it will really make it hard for your dog to climb into the car and enjoy the ride. The root cause of your dog's pain will have to be resolved.
  • Don't force your dog to get into the car. Your pet will just resist harder if you do this. Picking it up will not solve the problem; it can even make your dog distrust you. You must focus on making your car a "wonderful place" for your dog.
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  • Build up positive associations. You can make your car a wonderful place for your dog by mixing yummy food in its food bowl that's been placed on the car seat. You can also put some of your dog's favorite toys inside the car and leave the door open. Observe if your dog will be tempted to go in, and praise it lavishly when it does so. Reward your dog, as well, with treats. But don't be so quick in trying to give it a ride. Instead, when your dog is outside the car, make the experience quite boring. This way, your dog will associate your car with good feelings and great things.
  • Build up positive emotional responses step-by-step. Don't rush your dog. Your next step is to help your pet associate engine sounds with good things, too. You can do this when your dog is already inside the car; that's then you'll start the engine. Then you should give your dog yummy treats while the engine is on. After switching off the engine, stop the treats. Repeat this technique several times until your dog gets enthusiastic as well about the sound of your car. Afterward, you can drive for a short distance while letting your dog enjoy the ride. You can do this by making sure that your pet is comfortable with the speed and your destination is your dog's favorite place, such as a pet shop where you'll buy some goodies or toys along with him.
  • Motivate your dog to jump into the car. You can use a leash to guide your dog or lift it up if you don't have back pain issues. Then, ask a family member to keep giving it treats while you go for a ride. Sometimes, it's also helpful to pretend as if the whole family is going for a ride except for your dog. Not wanting to be left behind, your dog may jump into your car with enthusiasm.
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  • Make your car comfortable for your dog. Make sure that your dog will not suffer from overheating. It's advisable to cool your car before making your pet climb into it. Also, refrain from using car fresheners and other strong scents since dogs have a very sensitive sense of smell.
  • When treats and toys don't work, use calming aids. When your dog is extremely stressed, you can try a calming collar or other calming aids. If your dog is cozier in his crate, use it in motivating him to go on a ride with you. If traffic sights scare your pet, use small window shades.
  • If your dog has a severe case of anxiety, consulting an expert will be the most beneficial action you can do. This way, the problem will be properly diagnosed and your vet can prescribe the right treatment for your dog's fear.

Doris de Luna

For more than 20 years now, I’ve been devoting my heart, energy, and time to fulfilling my dream, which – many people may agree – is not among the easiest aspirations in life. Part of my happiness is having been able to lend a hand to many individuals, companies, and even governments as an investigative journalist, creative writer, TV director, and radio broadcaster.

At home, I spend my free time learning how to cook various cuisines. Tiramisu, chocolate mousse, and banoffee pie are my favorite desserts. Playing with our dogs, Mushu and Jerusalem, is also a special part of my day. And, of course, I read a lot – almost anything under the sun. But what really makes me feel alive is meeting people from various walks of life and writing about their stories, which echo with the tears and triumph of an unyielding spirit, humanity, and wisdom.

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