Tips for a dog that hates travelling in a car

12 November 2019

Follow our tips to make travelling in your car with your pet an easy and enjoyable experience.

Dogs and cars are not always an easy mix. While nothing makes man’s best friend happier than a decent walk the sometimes inevitable ride in a car to get there can be a harrowing and uncomfortable experience for both parties. 

But there are things you can do to help.

1. Start them early

If you have a puppy, then you need to start them in the car early with short journeys that slowly become progressively longer. 

Try to avoid only taking him in the car for negative reasons: if he only ever takes a ride to the vets until his inoculations are finished then he will only ever associate the car with pain.

Of course, with a puppy there are bound to be accidents, so put plenty of newspaper down and don’t, whatever you do, scold him. If you do, he will associate car travel with getting told off, entering a vicious cycle that will end in misery for you both.

Six tips for safely travelling with your dog in your car

2. Distract them

If your dog just doesn’t enjoy travelling but will happily jump into the car, then you can try distracting her. 

Toys and tooth-friendly chews are a good place to start but you might find that just talking to them reassures them.

The boot of an estate or hatchback car – with a dog guard fitted – is the safest place for them to travel, but some dogs won’t like the isolation. 

In this case you could try letting them sit on the back seat, so they are closer to you. If you do this you should use a good quality harness that fastens to the seat belt of your car. This simple measure will protect you both if you are unlucky enough to be involved in a car accident.

Taking your dog on a long car journey

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3. Break the link

Some dogs associate cars with an unpleasant experience, whether that be getting car-sick or just a visit to the vets, and will refuse to even get into the car, no matter how much you cajole them! 

If you can break that chain, you are well on the way to owning a dog that loves, rather than hates, the car.

You could try leaving the boot open and playing with your dog around the car before tempting him with a treat to jump into the boot for a moment or two. If he refuses, try opening both rear doors before climbing into the car with him on a lead. Gently move across the seat until the lead tightens and hopefully he will follow as your car now looks like a tunnel, not an enclosed space. Extend the time that you and he spend on the back seat of the car, encouraging him all the time by praising and stroking him.

You can then move the same game into the boot and extend the period before finally closing the boot for a few seconds with you sitting beside him. Eventually – and this might takes weeks to achieve – you will be able to take short journeys with both of you feeling much calmer about the whole thing!

Going on a long journey? Read our tips to make it safer and more enjoyable.

4. Take regular breaks

Finally, once you’ve got your dog feeling happy about travelling in your car, you need to remember to take regular breaks. 

Your dog sees the world through her nose so taking regular short walks throughout a car journey will keep her happy and stimulated, turning the journey into a pleasurable experience rather than something to be endured.

5. Be prepared for the worst

If you know your pup struggles with car sickness, then making sure you're ready for the inevitable accident will keep you calm and avoid stressing your pet out further. He knows he isn't supposed to throw up or otherwise void his body anywhere but outside, so if he does, it's because he lost control.

Don't tell him off, simply deal with the problem as quickly as possible for the comfort of everyone in the vehicle. Take a spare blanket to swap the soiled one with, and pack an emergency accident kit - The Little Accident Box (£19.99 by Aroma Care Solutions) has enough supplies to save the day in the event of three separate accidents, containing gloves, a mask, apron, Absorbent Aromatic Granules, a sealable bag, Textile Cleansing and Hygiene Formula and an antibacterial wipe to sort your hands out after you've finished. The aromatic granules remove all trace of the incident, removing the unpleasant smell that might set off your own motion sickness! You'll have to pull over to sort everything out properly, so if you're on the motorway some way between service stations, you might also be wise to pack some kitchen roll as a temporary mess measure.

What measures do you take when jumping in the car with a pooch who doesn't enjoy motoring? Let us know on!

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The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.