Why Dogs Hate Riding in Cars & What to Do About It
Many dogs hate riding in cars for numerous reasons. Some dogs will bark, howl, lunge at the window, drool and even throw up. These dogs are clearly uncomfortable, so they learn to hate riding in cars. Before addressing car riding woes, it’s important to understand exactly what is causing your dog’s discomfort first.
Nausea is the worst, especially when you’re unable to get away from the cause. Motion sickness is extremely common in dogs. It’s best handled with over-the-counter medication, such as Dramamine and Bonine. For correct dosage, depending on your dog’s age and weight, partner with your veterinarian. Additionally, keep your car’s temperature on the cool side and ensure an AC vent is near your dog. Once motion sickness is prevented, it’s time to take short car rides with lots of treats, so your dog looks forward to riding in a car.
This is a common behavior when dogs are uncomfortable, nauseous or unfamiliar with riding in cars. It’s safest for dogs to ride inside plastic crates or secured with a crash-tested harness. Make sure your dog is comfortable first. Ensure your dog has plenty of space to lie down, stand up and turn around inside your car.
Place a soft bed or thick blankets in your dog’s crate or car seat, and provide plenty of cool water. Play soft music, such as Through A Dog’s Ear, to keep your dog relaxed. If your dog has motion sickness, address it immediately. Take short car rides, while your dog licks away at a super yummy food stuffed toy, and soon your dog will love car rides.
If your dog is scared to ride in a car, it’s vital to teach your dog that car rides are fun. Not all dogs enjoy car rides since it’s not natural for dogs to ride in cars. Start slow and reward your dog for jumping into the car first. Once loaded inside his crate, give your dog a food stuffed toy to lick, close car doors and turn on the engine while you’re sitting in the driver’s seat.
In the beginning stages, don’t drive anywhere—just let your dog learn that cars make peanut butter stuffed toys appear. After a few minutes, turn the car off and unload your dog. Practice several times a week. Once your dog will happily relax and lick at his toys, then it’s time to take a spin around the block. Continue to add a bit more distance and time while driving, and always bring food stuffed toys along for the ride. This teaches your dog that good things happen during car rides.
Dislikes Seeing Dogs or People
By far, this is the toughest car ride challenge. When dogs are afraid of other dogs and people, they will bark and lunge when these scary things become visible. Teach your dog to ride inside of a crate, and cover the crate with large towels or sheets to block your dog’s view. Additionally, play soft music to drown out dogs barking or people talking while driving. If visual barriers and soft music don’t work, it’s time to reach out for professional help.
When to Get Help
Motion sickness and restlessness due to unfamiliarity with car rides can be easily addressed with medication and dog training. Scared dogs or dogs that dislike people, that panic when riding in cars, may need additional help from a professional dog trainer and veterinary behaviorist.
When in doubt, seek help sooner rather than later.