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5 Tips to Help your Dog Love the Car

If you have a dog that is not fond of, or downright hates, travelling by car, this can make life very difficult.  We want to go places to have fun with our dogs: parks, training classes and sometimes holidays.  There are also times when we need to take our dogs somewhere such as the vet’s.  This can be challenging if your dog hates the car.

If your dog is still a puppy, think of it from the puppy’s point of view.  Very often, the first time puppies travel alone in the car is when their new person takes them away from everything that is safe and familiar in order to bring the puppy to his or her new home.  The next time they are put in the car is for their first vet check.  These journeys are both necessary but can be very hard on your puppy.

Here are some tips to make your puppy love getting into the car.  You can also use them with adult dogs that don’t like being in a vehicle.  Of course, if your dog has real car sickness or a true phobia, you should consult with a vet or behaviour specialist, but these tips can help with milder cases.

  1. Feed your puppy in the car. Don’t turn on the engine.  Just feed the puppy and when she’s finished, take her out of the car.  After you’ve done this a few times, if your puppy is comfortable, turn on the engine while your puppy is eating.
  2. Associate the car with fun. Start by getting into the car with your puppy and taking a very short drive, even just to the end of your driveway.  Take your puppy out of the car, have a really fun game with him, then put him back in the car and drive home.  You can gradually increase the distance and time you go, but always just have fun with the puppy when he gets out of the car.
  3. Similar to #2 above, always go to a fun place for your puppy in the car. Go to the park, for a hike (as appropriate for the age of your dog), to the beach, or to the home of a friend or family member who loves your puppy.  You can include an unofficial visit to the vet’s office for this – go at a quiet time and have the staff interact in a positive way with your puppy.
  4. For some dogs, the problem is being separated from you. If there is more than one person in the family, and you travel with your dog in the back of your car, have someone sit on the back seat so that they are closer to the dog.  If there is anxiety, talk to your vet about combining this with using a calming product such as DAP (dog appeasing pheromone).
  5. Use a crate in your home in a way that makes it a very positive, safe place for your dog that she really loves. If the crate will fit into your vehicle, then put it in the car when you are going somewhere and then put your dog in her crate for the journey.  Start slowly and combine this with the tips above.

    Try using some or all of these tips in combination so that your dog learns to love getting into your car and going places with you, leading to a rich and rewarding life for everyone.

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