As the weather improves and spring arrives – everyone wants to be out and about enjoying the sunshine – that means that we usually want our dogs to tag along – I’ve had a few phonecalls over the last few weeks asking about pets and travel sickness – here are a few pointers to help make travel with your pets less of a drama for all concerned.
If your dog suffers from travel sickness, it is important to remember that dogs don’t get carsick from travel sickness but from stress and anxiety or excitement.
The first car ride that most dogs experience is often stressful; the puppy is leaving his litter with complete strangers in a vehicle. This is for some dogs a traumatising experience that they may then associate with travelling in a vehicle.
The best solution to prevent this type of carsick dog is to condition your dog that travelling in a vehicle is a process to be endured, in order to have an enjoyable time once arriving at the destination.
Stress and anxiety in dogs
Some steps to conditioning your dog that a car ride is a positive experience are the following:
- Place your dog inside the vehicle and secure him, with the engine off, just sit with him. Don’t go anywhere and don’t start the engine. Just sit and listen to the radio for a few minutes.
- When the dog realizes that this is not an unpleasant experience, reward with a food treat and remove the dog from the vehicle.
- When you see that your dog is relaxed and comfortable with this process, then start the engine, however do not go anywhere.
- Repeat the reward process.
- When your dog is relaxed with the engine running, then begin to take very short trips, perhaps just around the block
- Reward your dog every time with a treat and a game.
- Then find a beach or park nearby (5-10mins) where you and your dog can have some quality fun time.
- Then drive back home and give your dog as much attention as you did in the park.
If you have a carsick dog that gets very excited, barking, jumping around in the car, and then gets carsick, it is likely that the problem is that your dog has associated a car trip with too much excitement. In this case, you will need to teach your dog to calm down.
To modify this behaviour, follow the same steps as with a stressed or anxious dog.
- Sit in the stationary vehicle, and wait for your dog to calm down
- Praise him when you get out of the car
- Repeat this process a number of times
- When you are happy that your dog can be in a stationary vehicle and remain calm, take him on short drives around the block, that do not end up at the park, instead he arrives back home again.