One of the worst parts about dog ownership is feeling the guilt of traveling with a pup who is prone to car sickness and not knowing how to help him out. Sure, you can walk as much as you can, or even jog, or ride your bike with pup in tow!
But sometimes car rides are unavoidable, and when you want to take your pooch out for an extra special adventure that you know will make him happy but need to take a car to get to your destination, well you can’t help but feel like a bad pup-parent, no matter how pure your intentions are. So we’ve searched far and wide for some tips to make your dog feel a little more comfortable on long-distance drives.
1. Do not feed your dog within 3 hours of a long-distance trip
Though this method may seem cruel, if your dog has already had breakfast for the day and you know he will work up an appetite on his adventure, then chances are he will be okay to hold off on eating his dinner when you come back home. Ensuring that his stomach is empty will eliminate any potential sloshing around of food, causing him to feel nauseous and ultimately vomiting.
2. Try to desensitize your pooch by learning car tricks
Before even attempting to go for an actual car ride, try and desensitize your pup by offering up high valued items like treats as a reward for entering the vehicle. For example, if you ask him to jump into the car and he obliges, give him a treat. You can then ask him to come out of the vehicle, and try again. Having someone in the passenger seat to act as a comfort blanket, or putting one of his toys on the back seat may also help. As you slowly have your dog enter the car and then turn the engine on, you can offer your dog a treat of higher value to him, like a rawhide, for example. Have him come out, and try again.
3. Associate car rides with something he loves, like walks
Taking your dog on a quick trip in the car before each walk will help him to associate an activity he needs to get over, in order to do something he loves. If his car sickness or hatred of travelling is caused by anxiety, start by taking him down one block in the car before each walk to be safe. Once you take him out of the car after a minute or so, take him for a nice walk around the block. Eventually you should be able to increase the amount of time spent in the car, slowly but surely on your way to success.
4. Drive with the windows cracked
Fresh air is amazing. Not only will it help your dog feel like he is outdoors, or on a walk, but it will help him to breath new air into his lungs, and ultimately feel less trapped. Stagnant car air, or air conditioning may lend itself to your dog feeling a sense of claustrophobia, causing him to feel car sickness. Crack your windows open about halfway, and make sure that he is safely buckled into his seat so he isn’t tempted to jump out of fear.
5. Give your dog activities for the car
Much like you would with a child, you want to keep your dog occupied while in the car. Having a rawhide or a toy in the vehicle as mentioned earlier for him to work on, or a kong filled with frozen peanut butter (nothing that simulates a meal, however) will be of great benefit to you and to your canine. The less distracting he is while you’re driving, the safer you will both arrive to your destination, and the more occupied he is, the less he is focused he will be on his fear of being in the car. Don’t forget to pack his favorite rope toy!
6. Remove any smells such as air-freshener that may make him feel sick
Many of us use air-fresheners that we purchase inexpensively at the gas station to spruce up the scent of our cars. However, as a dogs sense of smell is much more heightened than ours is, something with a very pungent perfume smell may actually induce vomiting prematurely. Instead, try spritzing some peppermint oil into the air, which will act as an anti-anxiety tool and also smells fresh.
7. Let your dog decide where he wants to sit
While it is sometimes difficult to give the reigns over to your pooch and let go of who is boss, allowing your dog to choose his own seat in your vehicle may be your best bet if he suffers from car sickness. If you thought for example he preferred riding shotgun on your adventures, you may be surprised that he feels most secure in the boot of your SUV. Allowing him to test out different possibilities on his own will encourage him to communicate with you in a way that he wasn’t able to before.