Having a dog that gets car sick can really put a damper on the fun you have together. After all, no one wants to take the dog along if they know it means cleaning up vomit from inside the vehicle. So much for a joy ride – these pups find no fun in an outing in the car! Luckily, for almost all dogs, this is fixable.
What Causes Car Sickness in Dogs?
For most dogs, it’s actually anxiety about the ride or the car that causes them to get sick. This fear-based vomiting is usually found in dogs that are naturally more anxious about their environment or have not been on many car rides. (And for some, it may develop because the only time they get in the car is to go somewhere they don’t like, such as the vet or groomers, so the car becomes associated with bad experiences). For some reason, this anxiety paired with movement equals sickness. And now that they get sick in the car, it adds to the negative association!
Car Sick Remedies for the Fearful Dog
So, this means the best remedy is to take the anxiety or fear out of the ride itself for these dogs. A bit of training and some management may solve the problem altogether. Here are some ways you can work on this with your dog.
De-sensitize them to the car using counter conditioning. Using praise/rewards (or a clicker and treats) reward your dog for looking at the car. If your dog is really nervous, you may have to start several feet away from the car before she will feel comfortable enough to eat. Gradually move closer over the course of training sessions as your dog feels more comfortable. Soon, your dog will start equating the car with good things. YAY! This is just the start.
Just like crate training, teaching your dog to get in the car on their own, and for a reward, can help ease their anxiety about it. Once you can get right next to the car using the above counter conditioning technique, open a door and reward your dog for any movement toward the car. Once they are jumping in and out, you can put a cue to it if you wish, such as “load.”
Strengthening the behavior. Once your dog is getting in and out of the car with no sign of nervousness, start working on them staying in the car for longer and longer periods. Play tug in the car, feed them their meals in the car – anything that will associate the car with good things.
Build up Ride Time. Once they are comfortable in the car with no movement, start with short, smooth rides around the block, and gradually build up to longer rides.
The use of an anxiety wrap (such as a Thundershirt) can also help a dog that is anxious in the car not get car sick. Many of them have a money back guarantee, so there is no harm in trying one for a few weeks to see if it helps.
Management for Dogs without Fear
Then there are those dogs that are confident, bold and seem to really want to go with out on the car ride…but they still end up covered in ropy drool, or worse, vomiting. The above training may also help them, along with the Thundershirt, but most likely you will need to manage them to reduce the risk of getting car sick, like you would a child.
- Don’t feed right before a trip. You may want to forgo feeding your dog his meal closest to departure. That way he well have less in his stomach if he does get sick. Try not to have them eat any closer than two hours to from your departure time. You may find with your dog that that time needs to be longer, depending on their digestive system.
- Water. Just like people who get nauseous, having water available may help your car sick dog.
- Fresh air. Leave windows slightly open to provide fresh air to your dog.
- Frequent stops. On long trips, plan on stopping frequently to give your dog a break.
Following these tips should help your dog get over his car sickness so he can join our on joy rides. And we are pretty sure it will make the trip more enjoyable for you as well.