Traveling with Nervous Dog in the Car
By Tess Thompson
Traveling long distances can get stressful even for humans. As a pet owner, you might have faced difficulties with your dog while traveling. Sometimes getting the dog inside the car for a ride can be particularly challenging. If you have been taking your dog in the car only to visit the vet, he is likely to be unwilling to get into a car irrespective of whether you are planning to go to the playground, a holiday vacation or the vet.
This does not mean that you cannot travel with your dog. Just as dogs have to be trained to live within the house, they need to be trained to travel in a car.
Since car rides may stress your dog, training the dog for travel in a car actually involves relieving stress in pets. It is important that you ensure that the agitation and anxiety that arises out of a cramped and close environment be released.
The earlier you start the training, the better it is for you and the dog. Ensure that your first few trips with the puppy are to the playground or a field. This ensures that the association with a car ride is pleasant. If the first car trip is to the vet, it is likely to make him dread car travel forever.
For older dogs you need to desensitize them to the anxiety associated with car travel. Don’t try and push or force him into the car. Lure him with patience. Try giving him treats in the car without even starting the engine. Allow him to get used to the car before you actually take him anywhere.
If you are traveling with someone, ask your companion to pat the dog every now and then. This will help assure your pet that he is not alone. If you are traveling alone, put a blanket at a place where the dog can lie down and not bother you while driving.
Remember that dogs are daytime animals and used to daytime activities. They need to get to know the land in order to identify with it through smell and vision. Natural association with the environment is the best way for acclimation. On long trips, it is advisable to stop the car occasionally and take the dog for a walk. This will help in allowing him to stretch his legs as well.
Like humans, dogs can also get car sick. Do not feed the dog before traveling. Treat the dog when you arrive at your destination. The association with the treat will help you on your return trip.
Remember, when it comes to handling stress situations like car travel, it is not the breed or size of the dog that matters. Separation anxiety in dogs, trauma, medical disorders and a change in environment can affect a dog of any size. Sedation while traveling does help but you need to be prepared to handle the side effects of the medicine. Appropriate handling with proper understanding of dog psychology can help in relieving stress in pets.