Taking car rides is part of most of our lives, whether we have access to a vehicle or not. A quick errand, a trip to the pet store, puppy class, to visit friends or family, a Vet appointment, or even longer road trips to the cottage. It’s key to get our puppy used to car rides sooner than later as it’s easier when they’re young.
The trick is to start small and work your way up to longer times, variable speeds, and greater distances, always making it a positive experience.
Even just having a little picnic in the (parked) car is a great start! Create a fabulous association while you’re not even moving.
A short trip around the block and then straight home – perfect!
A trip to the nearest drive-thru for a plain Timbit™ or a topping-free kids’ burger – even better! Your pup’s brain will explode with joy as this is novel and really exciting! (Tip: Wait until your pup is done eating before you start moving again.)
Cars are also really great for socialisation trips where you don’t want to risk your puppy being over-exposed. You can drive to the nearest dog park and sit in your car with the windows down. Let your puppy observe and eat delicious snacks while watching the dogs play from a safe distance.
What happens if your puppy won’t eat? Is drooling? Vomits?
It’s too stressful for them – look at ways to reduce the stress. Is the car moving? Park and try again. Are the windows down? Roll them up. Are you in a busy area? Go to a quieter area.
What causes car anxiety and car sickness?
We don’t know but motion-sickness may cause anxiety the next time they get in the car because they remember being sick. Anxiety may cause drooling and vomiting. Which came first? The chicken or the egg?
How do I rule out and modify car anxiety/sickness?
It’s going to be a game of trial and error. Here are a few things to try – one at a time, so you know what works and what doesn’t!
- restrict food within 3 hours of the car ride
- restrict water within 1 hour or the car ride
- cover the crate with a sheet or light blanket to block the motion
- play calming classical music
- feed a little food before the car ride, but no water
- stuff a Kong and freeze it, allowing them to eat during the car ride
Products that might help ease anxiety or car sickness:
- Thundershirt (anxiety wrap)
- Calming Cap (to mute their vision)
- Cerenia (available through your vet for car sickness on longer rides)
Where should my dog be located when in the car?
Puppies should be in an airline-approved carrier, secured in the back seat to protect them best if an accident occurs. Never should puppies (or dogs of any age) be in the front seat or loose in the car. We have rules that state that children under 12 years or 40lbs should remain secured in the back seat. The same applies to dogs of all ages/sizes.
Dogs can distract the driver or climb into the foot well, blocking access to the pedals. If you wouldn’t allow a toddler to do it, don’t allow your dog to do it.
In the event of a collision
If a car crashes at a speed of just 25mph, an unrestrained dog can be projected forward at a force equal to 40 times its weight. A large-size dog weighing 75 lbs., for example, can achieve an impact force of 3,000 pounds in a car crash, which could be a lethal blow for both a passenger and the pet. (Allianz website – Keeping pets safe in the car)
Even for smaller pets traveling at just 30 miles per hour, an unrestrained 10-lbs dog will exert 300 pounds of pressure in an accident, according to Jennifer Huebner-Davidson, traffic safety programs manager for AAA. Without a crash tested safety restraint, that pint-size pooch can injure passengers and become severely injured on impact. (CNN – Rethink your dog roaming freely)
Always ensure that your dog has up-to-date ID on their collar before a car ride. If there is ever an emergency or they get loose/lost, they will need ID and/or a current microchip.