Ever avoid a long road trip because you or someone you know is worried about experiencing car sickness? Despite common belief, human are not the only ones that suffer from this condition. Dogs can actually suffer from carsickness as well. Dogs may get sick on car rides for many reasons including but not limited to fast motion, anxiety, too much visual stimulation, etc.
One of the best ways to curb these symptoms will be to help desensitize the dog to the car and ride. This must be done at the dog’s own pace while making a positive association for the pooch. To help build the positive association you must have something the dog will find rewarding and motivating. It will be up to the dog what will be the best reward. Some dogs would prefer their owner’s attention or their favorite toy as a reward more than food. Other dogs are motivated by small, chewy training treats so it is important to find a type that the dog is willing to work for and finds rewarding.
In the beginning stages make sure to introduce this dog training exercise with no distractions, making the environment as pleasant as you can. This will set the dog up to succeed by making the environment less overwhelming. Start without the car running. Open all of the doors and lure your dog to the doorway that will be used most frequently. Make sure to praise and reward any movement towards the vehicle. Continue these steps until the dog can easily be lured towards the door at least 9 out of 10 times. Once the dog is able to comply 90 percent of the time than you can start introducing new steps to the exercise.
Once your dog is at the door, attempt to lure the dog into the vehicle using their favorite reward. If the dog chooses not to follow through, you can gently lift them into position. Once in position, reward the dog heavily, making a positive association with the car for your dog. After the verbal praise and reward you can lure the dog back out of the car and attempt the loading / unloading process again until the dog finds getting into the car rewarding enough to perform the behavior at least nine out of ten times on their own.
Once the dog is successful at least 9 out of ten times during this exercise and has started to get comfortable with the car itself, you can start adding new variables such as closing one of the doors. Introduce the new variables one at a time making sure the dog is performing the required behaviors at least 90 of the time before moving on and adding another variable. For example, at first only close one door, than move on to two, and so on until each new variable becomes comfortable to your dog. As long as the dog is compliant a minimum of 9 out of 10 times and does not overreact, you can keep adding more. Once you are able to close all of the doors without the dog over reacting, you should attempt to start the car. Continue to add praise and rewards as long as the dog is able to stay calm for at least a minute at first. As time goes on you can start adding more time to the exercise.
Once the dog is able to remain in the running car without negative reactions, try taking a short drive. Drive the car just around the block at first, praising the dog as you go. When working on training any new behavior to your dog, it’s important to remember that part of training is teaching the dog a new behavior that he needs become comfortable with. Be patient. Once your dog becomes comfortable with this new action through praise and positive reinforcement, there would be no reason for your dog to become scared or anxious with it again. It may take some time to cure a dog's carsickness, but it will be worth it when you have a new drive time buddy!