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Car anxiety in dogs is surprisingly common. It is usually caused by a few factors, such as going to scary places like the vet. It can be very inconvenient to have a dog that is scared of riding in the car – especially when you want to be able to take them places with you. The good thing is that most forms of car anxiety can be cured with just a few changes.

These tips can help you reinforce good things around car rides that make them fun, rather than anxiety-inducing, for your dog!

For Mild Car Anxiety:

Take Them to Fun Places

One of the best ways to calm car anxiety in dogs is to take them to fun places. This is a great way to change their perception of the car into something that is fun for them.

Many dogs associate the car with going to stressful places like the vet’s office, so taking them to fun places can have a huge impact on how they react while driving.  Try to take them somewhere that will create a positive memory that overshadows their fear.

You could drive them to the dog park to play, or to a place with dog treats. Taking them to the beach is also a great idea since many dogs love playing around in the water and the sand. If you plan on taking a road trip, this is a great time to start conquering their car anxiety.

Make Car Rides Rewarding

Another way you can associate car rides with good things is to make car rides rewarding for your dog. This could mean going to fun places as we talked about above, but it could also mean that they get other rewards.

You could take them to get a new toy or a special bone, or just somewhere where you can hang out and spend time together.

Talk to them as you drive and praise them for doing so well. Just those few bits of interaction with you will set their mind at ease and make them feel happier. Dogs love to spend time with their owners, and this is a great way to do that.

Exercise or Play Before Driving

One great tip for dogs with car anxiety is to exercise or play with them before getting in the car. Not only does this serve as a distraction from what’s going on, but it also helps to tire them out a bit. This can make them feel more at ease and comfortable getting into a car.

You could even bring their favorite toys along to go and play at the dog park or the beach. This is a great way to help them think of good things when they think of car rides.

Options for Dogs with Severe Car Anxiety

If your dog has severe anxiety about riding in the car, the above options might not work. Their fear might not even have to do with a bad memory or scary place. Some dogs are just more prone to anxiety and find car rides to be terrifying no matter what you do.

Here are some other solutions that you can try.

Get Calming Medication

You should always try the more natural approach first by trying to get them used to being in a car. However, if that just isn’t going to work, you could also talk to your vet about anxiety medications.

There are many medications for dogs that can help them to feel less anxious and calmer. These are usually sedatives and are only meant to be used as needed. They will not fix your dog’s car anxiety, but rather subdue it for the moment.

This isn’t a solution for frequent car rides, however. It is only a good solution for things that are necessary, such as vet visits and grooming appointments. 

Avoid Driving with Them

Possibly the best option for dogs with severe car fears is to just avoid driving them places. Sometimes no matter what you do, you can’t fix their fear and medication should only be used when absolutely necessary.

If your dog has severe car anxiety, the best option is to just limit their car rides as much as possible. This is often the most humane option for dogs that are absolutely terrified of riding in the car.

The only necessary car ride that most dogs need is to see the vet, besides that, you could try to avoid other reasons to take them somewhere in the car. Even then, there are some mobile vets and groomers that will come to your home so you don’t have to bring your dog to them. You can always look into these options if your dog is terrified of riding in a car.

How to Prevent Motion Sickness in a Dog with Car Anxiety

If your dog’s car anxiety is linked to the fact that they get motion sickness. Here are a few things that you can do to make it better for them.

  • Keep the inside of the car nice and cool so that your dog will be comfortable.
  • Lower the window to let in some fresh air if you notice them not looking too good. This also serves as a distraction.
  • If your dog has an anxious stomach, don’t feed them before taking them in the car.
  • Ask your vet about a motion sickness medication if it is severe.
  • Try to get their focus to stay on one thing to keep them distracted from the motion of the car.

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