Addressing Dog Car Anxiety and Behavior Issues, Part 1

Many new dog or puppy owners have had similar experiences with their lovable friends: They have trouble riding in cars. Whether this trouble presents itself in the form of pacing, whining, drooling, barking or even nausea or vomiting in some cases, this is something dog owners will want to address.

At Innovative K9 Academy, our puppy school, dog training camp and numerous other dog training courses allow for training and conditioning in a variety of areas and behaviors, including those who struggle with car rides. This two-part blog series will begin by informing you of some of the root causes of this behavior in many dogs, then go into several tips on how to property condition your dog away from car anxiety and make them more comfortable.

Root Causes of Dog Car Anxiety

Why does your dog have anxiety or similar issues while on car rides? There could be a few different explanations, including each of the following:

  • Carsickness: It isn’t only humans who can get carsick – dogs can too, and it’s more common than you might assume. If your dog has repeatedly experienced nausea while in the car, especially for a new puppy you’re just learning about, talk to your vet about anti-nausea medication.
  • Nerves or excitement: In other cases, your dog will not have any nausea issues, but will have trouble in cars based on excitement or nerves. These often trace back to the dog’s knowledge that a ride in the car signals something special (or something bad) – many of our training methods we’ll go over in a bit focus on training out these behaviors through using car rides for more boring activities as well.
  • Window objects: Other dogs will be overly vigilant about objects they see flying by the window, and this may cause them to bark, pace or otherwise act out.
  • Previous experience: In other cases, a dog will have had a previous bad experience in the car and will be scared or nervous because of this.

Our next several sections will go over some general tips for helping train out this behavior to calm your dog in the car.

Teaching Car Associations

For some dogs, including those we just mentioned who have had a previous bad experience, training must begin with making them more comfortable around the car to begin with. This involves gradually introducing them to the car and its concepts – it may take several sessions in some cases.

You may have to start with the dog outside the car getting used to its smells, then try putting them in the back seat without actually driving anywhere. As they become more comfortable, be sure to reward them positively and do what you can to associate the car with happy feelings.

For more on helping your dog become less anxious or nervous in the car, or to learn about any of our dog training classes or programs, speak to the staff at Innovative K9 Academy today.