Overcoming Car Sickness

For some dogs, car rides produce a great deal of anxiety. A combination of fear and not understanding what is happening will cause drooling, shaking, or even vomiting. In humans, we refer to this as car sickness or motion sickness; however, true motion sickness is a result of an inner ear problem. Some dogs truly do have motion sickness, and for these animals products such as Dramamine can be used under the supervision of a veterinarian.

For most dogs the sickness is an over-reaction to the fear and apprehension of loud car and road noise and motion. Remember, if your dachshund is in a crate, they may not know they're moving, but their little room is bouncing and swaying— sort of like being inside your bedroom and having an earthquake.

If your dog would rather be anywhere besides riding in the car, here are some tips on how you can help your dog overcome car fears.

  • Get your dog used to the car environment. Get in the car together and have a treat. Talk. Be happy. Make it a fun time. Don't have the car running, just share a treat and make it a positive experience. Repeat this several times on different occasions. You may want to feed your dog in the car. If your dog is afraid of even getting into the car, try feeding or giving a treat close to the car.

  • Get your dog used to the car while it is running. Repeat step one, only this time start the car. Give a treat before and after. If she looks or acts nervous, reassure her that everything is OK. Take your time and make sure she is relaxed before ending the session.

  • Get your dog used to the motion of the moving car. Once she is used to the car running without any fearful reaction, back the car to the end of the driveway, then forward again to the garage. Give her a treat and praise her. Repetition is the key. The more you do this the more confident your dog becomes that cars are no problem. In fact, to her it becomes a great place for attention, praise, and even treats.

  • Now it is time to take a short trip around the block. Treats and praise before and after, and calm, reassuring talk throughout the ride are a pre-requisite. Increase the distance traveled until your dog is calm no matter how long the car trip.

Some animals may still need something more to calm them. Non-prescription products such as Serene-um, Pet Calm, and Rescue Remedy are available. In severe cases, even stronger prescription anti-anxiety medications can be dispensed by your veterinarian.

Try to get puppies used to car travel while they're young and more receptive adventure. Dogs make great traveling companions so the extra effort is well worth it for the years of enjoyment it brings once you get over this obstacle together.