Does your dog enjoy car travel? We know that many people think that ALL dogs love to travel…
…but, the more people we talk with, the more we realize that many dogs are reluctant to travel in the car. Often associating the car with a trip to the vet (or, for some newly-adopted dogs, a trip to animal control), dogs can be reluctant to get in the car and nervous during the ride.
Here are our tips for helping your dog enjoy car travel:
Don’t let your dog’s early trips be long if you think he’s uncomfortable.
Start slowly, simply sitting in the car and giving your dog some high value treats. (Don’t even start the car.)
Little by little, increase the exposure to the car, closing the doors, starting the car, and, eventually, backing out of the driveway.
If your dog seems uneasy, take a step back and continue to reward and share quiet, calm time with your dog until he’s ready to move on to the next step.
Enjoy short excursions.
Brief excursions to a fun place–the drive-through window for a snack to share or the bank drive-in window–can be a great way to make your dog realize that car trips can be fun.
Only include your dog on trips you enjoy.
Let’s face it: not all car travel is fun for us. And, if it’s not fun for us, it won’t be fun for our dogs.
If you are tense, your dog will be tense. Save the doggie car trips, at least the early ones, for trips you are excited about taking.
Make the car a happy place.
You don’t have to have a full-blown case of road rage to create a tense atmosphere in the car…one that your dog will pick up on before you yourself realize your irritation.
Be calm and cool in the car.
Include comforts but don’t sacrifice safety.
Make your dog comfortable and happy in the car with a plush toy, a soft blanket, or a crate mat…but don’t sacrifice safety.
As much as your dog might enjoy riding with his head out the car window, please don’t allow him to do it due to danger to his eyes from projectiles. (Even an insect wing embedded in his eye will cause damage.)
Our dogs are harnessed and buckled in the car at all times but have their memory foam pads to stretch out on and a plush toy for fun.
Cracking the back windows can give your dog the scents you’re passing through without putting him at risk.
Just as if you were traveling with a small child, plan on making more frequent stops. Not only will it make your dog happier but stopping and stretching will make you a better driver.
You’ll also discover the fun that even the simplest stops can bring.
Planning a long trip? Consider pet friendly RV rentals to give everyone some elbow room and create memories that will last forever.
Share super treats.
Road food can be good food! Bring along great treats to reward calm, good behavior you’d like to see more of–whether that’s politely getting buckled into the car or remaining calm as a fire truck passes.
Teach your dog travel words.
Teach your dog travel words such as “car trip” to let them know you’re ready to go off on an adventure!
“Want to ride in the car?” always brings a happy response at our house.
Give your dog a cue that means fun’s ahead.
Our dogs wear a car harnesses for fun car travel–but, if we’re taking the dogs to the vet, we use a different harness or a Martingale. (Remember, a trip to the vet’s office will mean vet scents on a harness.)
When we get out the “fun” car harness, our dogs know that they’re about to have a good time!
Never leave your dog alone in the car.
You’re bringing your dog along to travel with you so, please, plan your trip accordingly. Don’t leave your dog alone in the car.
Temperatures can soar in a closed car even when it is not that hot; if you plan to leave the car running, consider that engines and air conditioners fail and such failures could cost your dog his life.
Even in temperate weather, leaving your dog unattended in the car can make your dog anxious, and you are also leaving him vulnerable to thieves.