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Ask A Dog Trainer: How Do I Manage My Dog’s Car Sickness?

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Taking our dogs with us for company when we go places – to the store or even on vacation – is one of the reasons many us have dogs. But if your dog gets car sick even on short rides, it can take all the fun out of the trip. You may even get to the point where you feel you must leave your dog behind, which isn’t fun for either of you.

A photo posted by NoMo Nausea Band (@nomonausea) on

Why Dogs Get Car Sick

Just like people, some dogs suffer from motion sickness. These dogs may or may not stop getting car sick on their own. There are puppies that get car sick only to stop as they age (because their body has gotten used to the motion, not because they “grow out of it”). Others continue to get car sick, unable to get used to the movement of a vehicle.

For some dogs, car sickness is a symptom of their fear and anxiety of car rides. It may be the ride itself, or what the ride means – going somewhere new and scary.

Image Source: Cindy Funk via Flickr
Image Source: Cindy Funk via Flickr

 

These two reasons are not exclusive. A puppy who starts with motion sickness may develop a fear or dislike for cars (understandable since she always gets sick in them!). Watch your dogs for signs of anxiety such as hiding when you go to get him, barking at the car door, low/hunched body posture, licking, drooling, yawning – some will even shake.

Tips To Managing Car Sickness In Your Dog

The following tips can help get your dog over his car sickness so you can enjoy the open road together.

Visit Your Vet. Your vet can help alleviate your dog’s motion sickness with medication like Dramamine. If your dog is suffering from fear and anxiety, they may also help you choose a calming aid that could help.

Don’t Feed Before A Trip. If you know your dog gets car sick, don’t feed him right before the ride.

Create Positive Associations. Fearful dogs can be taught the car is not that scary. Start with a stationary vehicle with the engine off. Give your pup treats for being around it and staying calm. Feed them in the car, play in the car, anything your dog likes. Slowly build up to turning the car on (sometimes the noise of the engine scares dogs!).

Image Source: Pamela Carls via Flickr
Image Source: Pamela Carls via Flickr

 

Short Trips. Get your dog used to the movement by taking short trips. Maybe you go to the end of your block a few times a week, then around the block, then around two or three blocks, etc. Avoid fast, sharp turns and sudden stops.

Secure Seating. Having your dog in a crate as close to the floor as possible limits the amount of motion your dog feels, making them less likely to get sick. If a crate isn’t possible, have them secured in a harness.

Image Source: Lil Shepherd via Flickr
Image Source: Lil Shepherd via Flickr

Use Calming Tools. Anti-anxiety wraps really do help with car sickness. You can also play calming music – there are several companies making music specifically for dogs now.

Written by Kristina Lotz

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