The Dog is Car Sick

Cars are now an integral part of our lives and as such will also become a necessary part of your dog’s routine. Many dogs develop a fear of car travel and become sick during the journey.

Unfortunately we as dog owners inadvertently contribute towards this.Usually the very first experience a dog has with a car is when you collect him from the place where he was bred. The trauma of leaving his mum, brothers and sisters, plus the people he has become used to, is compounded by being put into a moving machine, possibly for several hours. The car thus becomes an upsetting place, associated with being taken away from his first family.Then, he settles in with you and more than likely his very next trip in the car is to the vet for a check-up and his first inoculations, again compounding his opinion that cars are most unpleasant places to be, this time associated with having an injection. The car has turned into a monster and his dislike of it increases. Fortunately, most dogs do grow out of this phobia as they mature, but some retain their fear.

To change the dog’s attitude about the car, make sure that pleasant things happen there — for a week or two feed him one of his daily meals in the car, whilst it is parked outside. Take the time every day and go and sit with him in the car, without the engine running. Have the car radio on and, assuming that he is not showing fear or misapprehension, spend the time talking to and stroking him. If he is shaking, whining or showing any fearf’ul behaviour, do not initiate or allow any contact.

Touching or talking to the dog whilst he is exhibiting such behaviour will simply re-affirm in his mind that such behaviour is appropriate in that situation, as you are rewarding him for it. Only reward (by touching and talking) behaviour that is non-fearful.

Even before he can go out on the ground and mix with other dogs, take him out for short rides in the car to visit friends or family who will make a fuss of him. If he is prone to being sick, make sure that initially he always travels with an empty stomach.Dogs will usually travel better in the car if they are confined in one area.

If you have an estate car you can buy purpose-made cages which will fit in the rear of the car. With a saloon car, either tie the lead to a strong part of the inside of the car (not the door handle!), or buy a proper dog safety harness, which can be attached securely to the existing car seatbelt, preventing the dog from charging about in the car and, just as importantly, protecting the dog and the front seat passenger in the event of a traffic accident.

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