Some dogs are thrilled to take a trip in the car, but not yours. You’re not alone! Many dog owners come to us saying “My dog hates car rides.” Your dog may resist getting in when you open the car door, whine, cry, drool, and pant for the duration of the car ride, and may even have accidents or show signs of aggression while you’re driving. The good news is that you can turn things around with effort and time. Read on to learn how to help your dog become a better car companion.

Work on Desensitization

By the time your dog is strapped into the backseat, she’s already in a state of hyperarousal and self-soothing goes out the window. Rather than diving right in, work on desensitizing her with small, incremental steps. Start by bringing her toward the car and asking her to sit. Reward her when she seems calm. Get closer and repeat the process until she’s finally seated in the car. If, at any point, she can’t seem to relax, take a break and try again tomorrow. Make sure to use rewards that your dog actually responds to, whether that’s treats, toys, or affection.

Walk and Play at the Right Time

Burning off some of that excess energy can help your dog to slip into a state of relaxation. Long walks on the leash or games of fetch are great ways to increase your dog’s happiness and lower her stress response, but timing is everything. Some dogs are so stimulated by these activities that they don’t wind down easily. Make sure to finish the walk or playtime at least twenty minutes before you need to get in the car. This will give her time to mentally and physically calm down.

Ride to Rewarding Places

Some dogs hate the car because they associate it with stressful situations. This tends to happen when owners only drive their dog to the vet or groomer. Once you’ve worked on desensitization, work towards creating a more positive association. Ride to rewarding places, like the dog park or a great walking trail. You can also ride to neutral environments, like a friend’s house or a pet-friendly store. The goal is to prove to your dog that getting in the car doesn’t always result in stress.

Treat Motion Sickness

If your dog shows a lot of anxiety, starts drooling, or vomits in the car, she may have motion sickness. Talk to your vet about different solutions, including medications and calming pheromone sprays. Chances are, she won’t feel better about car rides until they don’t upset her stomach.

Build Trust with Training

One of the best ways to see lasting behavioral improvement in your dog is to work on positive reinforcement training. Training doesn’t just teach your dog to respond appropriately to your commands. It also teaches her that you are a safe, trustworthy person who won’t put her in harm’s way. If you say the car is safe, then it must be safe!

All Dogs Unleashed is committed to every owner and every dog we work with. Learn more about our training programs today!