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Driving With Dogs Who Don't Like Cars

Not every dog gets excited every time the opportunity arises to jump in the car. In fact, some dogs downright hate it. Unfortunately, you can't always avoid loading your dog up for a journey. Whether you're headed off on vacation or need to take your dog on a trip to the vet, there are several things you can do to make the process easier on both of you.

Cover the crate

When your dog can't see what's going on around them, they're less likely to become overstimulated by the trip. In fact, many dogs may settle down and sleep as long as the crate is covered and they can't see out. This is also useful for reducing distracting behavior that can make it difficult for you to maintain proper control of your vehicle.

Check into car sickness

Just like people, some dogs experience motion sickness when they're in a moving car. Talk to your vet: there are anti-nausea medications you can give your dog when they have to be in the car. You wouldn't want to feel sick for the entire journey, either!

Provide comfort objects

If you're heading on vacation, you'll want to pack your dog's blanket and other familiar items anyway. Even for a shorter trip, however, having a familiar blanket or bedding item can make your dog more comfortable.

Train slowly

If your dog has negative associations with the car, it may take time to train him to ride in it calmly. Approach the car slowly. Reward your dog for simply going near the car without barking or panicking. Work up to getting into the car without going anywhere, then progress to taking actual trips. Over time, you can convince your dog that the car isn't a frightening place.

Don't over-feed your dog before a trip

It may be tempting to have your dog eat as much as possible so that they'll be full and content during the journey, especially if you're going on a long trip. Unfortunately, that can increase the odds of motion sickness. Try providing limiting food and water prior to the trip, then letting your dog eat when they reach their destination, to help make them more comfortable.

Roll down the windows

Your dog should be properly secured so that their head isn't hanging out the window, but rolling down the window is a great way to make your dog feel a little better. An open window offers fresh air and equalizes pressure, both of which can make your dog more comfortable.

Associate positive things with car rides

If you're frustrated from trying to manhandle your dog into the car, you may find yourself snapping and irritated. Unfortunately, this can lead to negative associations with the car in general. Instead, keep it calm. Load your dog up without losing your temper. Don't avoid car rides to anywhere but the vet; instead, take your dog to parks, pet stores, and other dog-friendly locations to help improve the odds that they'll have positive associations with car trips. When they know they're going somewhere they want to go, most dogs are much more friendly about the trip!

A dog who doesn't like car rides usually feels that way for one of two reasons: either he has negative associations with the car and fears what's going to happen when he rides in it, or he is car sick. By comforting your dog, reducing the odds of motion sickness, and providing positive conditioning to help improve his opinion of long car rides, you can help your dog learn to enjoy car trips again. It might take time, but it's well worth the effort expended for both you and your furry friend.

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