While some dogs are always excited to jump into the car and go on a trip, others are far less thrilled. Pups suffering from anxiety can become highly distressed and agitated during the ride in a car or other moving vehicle.
Dogs with a previous bad experience can even start to shake even before they enter the vehicle. All of this is due to travel anxiety.
The most common symptoms of dog travel anxiety are:
Travel anxiety in dogs can be a result of many things. One of the reasons can be motion sickness that makes the dog associate car trips with something unpleasant.
Most puppies get in cars only to go to the veterinarian, so as they grow up they learn the trip leads them to needles and pain and start to behave negatively even when the destination is different.
Some dogs can find particular sounds and sights while driving unpleasant. Car noises, traffic, weird buildings can all make them upset and anxious. The symptoms become even worse if they feel insecure and unstable while in motion.
So what can you do to make traveling with your dog more comfortable?
A step-by-step approach can significantly reduce the amount of stress the dog will be exposed to during the trip. Before any major trip, you can practice short trips in a relaxed atmosphere.
For example, get a carrier where you will put the pet so that it will feel more secure. When the dog enters the carrier give a treat and positively reinforce the behavior. Start the car and drive slowly around the neighborhood for 10-15 minutes while talking to your dog.
Repeat the short trips every 3-4 days and extend the travel time for a few minutes each time. Practice trips are also very helpful while the puppy is growing up because it shows that not every car trip ends up with a veterinary appointment.
All dogs are different and various things calm them or upset them. While in the vehicle, open the window and allow fresh air and environmental smells to fill the space. If your dog seems to like the change of condition, keep the window open when possible.
Some dogs will be agitated by the breeze and you will need to shut the windows. The same goes for the scenery. While some pups enjoy watching the world around them, others will get extra anxious. To block the view turn the dog's carrier facing forward or put curtains on the nearest window.
Some people and pets respond well to the lavender smell. You can get cotton balls infused with lavender on the trip and place them in a plastic bag. When you open it the smell will diffuse through the inside space and help yourself and your dog feel more relaxed.
Anxious dogs can also benefit from calming products that contain synthetic pheromones. Make sure you consult your vet before using any of them.