How To Help Your Car Sick Dog (With Simple Training)

May 3, 2022
May 3, 2022

Car sickness in dogs is really not nice, bless them. You sit there watching, knowing that they’re going to get sick and they’re not feeling well and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Well, technically, there is!

Whether it’s the trip to the vets, or just the fact that you want to get your dog to more exciting places, car travel is something modern dogs need as a part of their lives, which is why they

First, let’s do a little housekeeping…

Why Do Dogs Get Car sick?

The motion of a car and the blur of the scenery, the lack of air and the general weirdness of transport are all contributing factors. But suffice to say, dogs get car sick pretty much for the same reasons we humans do.

What Does Car Sickness Look Like In Dogs?

  • Excessive panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Whining
  • Pacing
  • “Whale Eye” (Whites of the ehes showing)
  • Lip licking
  • Vomiting
  • Stress yawns
  • Shaking or trembling
  • other signs of stress in dogs

A lot of these symptoms can mean other things too, but a car sickness definitely has a certain ring to it, if you know what I mean, and it’ll happen on any sort of day, hot, cold, sometimes short journeys, other times long journeys.

german shepherd in the rear of a vehicle with a boot trunk guard fitted to the car - this allows for safe travel with your dog and can be encorporated into training for car sickness
german shepherd in the rear of a vehicle with a boot trunk guard fitted to the car – this allows for safe travel with your dog and can be encorporated into training for car sickness

Do Puppies Grow Out Of Car Sickness?

A lot of the time, yes. But it’s always better to be cautious than not. With puppies, this is an aspect of socialization that should be accounted for during early training. That puppy can continue to be car sick because of

As always, there are management things you can do, and training things you can do. We’ll tackle the training aspect first, because I think that’s the changing the associated emotions with car travel – and then the management which makes the car travel much easier.

TIP! For this exercise, excitement is not your friend! We’re aiming for calmness throughout. So manage your tone accordingly.

The Training Aspect Of Car Sick Dogs

As always with training, it’s about breaking things down into steps. This procedure is done with the most sensitive in mind, and should work for most if not all dogs.

Prelude – I say “When your dog is comfortable” a lot in this piece. If you’re not sure what that means, it means that they’re happy to relax in this state, or aren’t being loopy with it. Anxiety can ‘manifest’ as excitement sometimes, so what you’re looking for is a calm response. Relaxed posture, laying down, soft happy features, and a lack of stiffness are all good signs.

Start: Scatter treats around your car at various distances, walk around the car, let your dog sniff and search and find their zen in the vicinity of the vehicle.

If possible, do this on a long line or totally free around the car and just sit and watch it all go down. Please just do this safely!

Gently praise your dog for getting near to the vehicle.

When your dog is doing this comfortably you can move forwards.

TIP! When rewarding, go for something high value but ideally not strong smelling or strong tasting – something like chicken is perfect. Because any strength of odor or taste may encourage the tummy to feel uneasy!

Step 2: You can open the door, and try and hop them into the car. If this is too big a step, try opening more doors to make your vehicle feel less enclosed and trap-like. Reward and praise for any moments of bravery and repeat as often as necessary for your dog to be comfortable. And reward really well if they’re brave enough to hop in the vehicle!

When your dog is doing this comfortably you can move forwards.

medium sized black and white dog wearing a harness in the car
safe car travel demonstrated by this dog. A secure car harness is always a good idea, including this step in your training is really important

Step 3: Now we want volunteering to hop in the car and maybe a little duration. open the car door, and as your dog starts jumping in, praise and reward, maybe then ask them to lay down, or mimic how you’ve decided is best to travel with your dog. Praise and reward them for being in this position. You can also build up time sat there calmly.

Repeat a few times and you should see your dog relaxing and not showing any signs of fear. If your dogs response is relaxed and happy, try step 4!

Step 4: Add in you leaving your dog in their position and moving to the drivers seat, sit in there, reward your dog from there (only a couple of times because we don’t want to set the precedent that you being in that seat is really rewarding for them just that calmness when in this set up is a good thing.

There’s a balance to be struck for sure.

Repeat a few times, praising and rewarding appropriately. With reliable success seen in your dog? Move forward!

Step 5: Add in the engine. Turn your car on, sit in the driveway, don’t go anywhere, just chill in the car with your pup. If this step proves to be the deal breaker, where you start seeing regression? Go back to step one but with the engine on, and repeat the process. You can also try some music to counter the engine, but desensitising the engine noise is probably best.

Step 6: This is where you begin adding in the motion. By this stage, we’ve virtually eliminated any predisposed negative connotations with being in the car. So, now all we have to do, is get it moving.

Start slow, try popping it in gear, and do your driveway – or out to the first street turn, but keep it super short, and make sure it’s like 1mph – really slow, really gentle. Gentle verbal praise and encouragement. Maybe even pop the radio on softly!

Whilst you’re seeing your dog remain comfortable, slowly increase these journeys in length, speed and duration. Deliberately pick the less windy routes to start (where possible) and make the journey easy and fun.

white german shepherd berger blanc suisse in the back of a vehicle in a crate wearing a harness safe car vehicle travel
This gorgeous white german shepherd is showing one option you have for safe transport of your dog. If your dog will be travelling in this fashion, adjust ‘back seat’ to crate and go from there! You can still easily resolve car sickness.

Management Aspect Of Car Sickness

For our dogs, there are certain things that increase the queasiness, and the following are good pieces of general advice that can help your do feel less sicky.

First, don’t feed them just before you go, or allow them to guzzle a gallon of water – managing what’s in their tummy can help it from sloshing around too much as you drive. You can always feed when you come home, and give water on the walk.

make sure your pup can see out of the window. Seems simple, but the ability to watch what’s going on can be a good distraction for them and take their minds off of their icky tummy.

Fresh air is also really important, so roll down the window a crack, and let that fresh air come in. The cooler it is? The better. So make sure in the middle of summer you make sure it’s an intake of air is cooled, and not the same air being cycled through the vehicle.

Then what about ginger based dog treats? Ginger is known to be an anti-nausea remedy, something used for generations. So giving a ginger treat (must have real ginger!) can work wonderfully to settle the tum and make them feel more up to it.

Can’t find any or want to make your own – try these!

This should go without saying – but drive smoothly or gently. Don’t be in a rush right now, gentle cornering, smooth gear changes, no erratic motions – but that helps everyone, right? From your dog to other road users.

Also, it’s good to note that quieter engines really help too, so electric vehicles really suit dogs who struggle with car sickness!

labrador retriever enjoying some fresh air in the car to help prevent car sickness car sick
fresh air is a great idea for remedying unwell woofs. Not only does the air abate the queasiness, but the smells on the air can be very stimulating and distracting too.

Why this works

A large component of car sickness is the anticipation of the nausea, and if you’ve ever had anxiety, you know for a fact that it doesn’t make a queasy feeling go away, it just makes it worse.

So, by electing to reward confidence in the car we’re changing your dogs fear of sickness to a calmness and confidence and simultaneously proving that the car does not become a vomitorium every time they’re in it.

It’s known as Counter Conditioning & Desensitisation.

Can You Get Medicine From the Vet for Dog Car Sickness?

Yes, but its usually a sedative, and because of the nature of sedatives, I would only give these if you really need to. Usually travel drugs are things like cerenia, miclizine, benadryl, dramamine, and anti-anxiety medications like prozac.

What About CBD? Does CBD Work For My Dog’s Car Sickness?

CBD is touted as being the cure-all of the current day and age – and well. the answer here is going to be maybe.

However, it comes with a huge but.

But, you need to do all the other stuff above first before tinkering with CBD – because CBD is a process too, and for the sake of training efficiently, you’d be better off putting in the work with the process above and then if you’re not finding optimum effects try CBD – than working through the cbd process then working through this.

Does that make sense? it’s like why do a and b when you may just be able to do b.

Can Car Sickness Kill A Dog?

Uhm. Theoretically I suppose it could, I have never heard of it, mind. I would imagine if car sickness did kill a dog, it would be because of an underlying issue, or profuse vomiting to the point of dehydration/exhaustion and I’m really hoping that you might stop at a vet before that happens.

And Car Sick Dog Is Car Sick No More!!

Your freedom is back. So whether it’s an occasional trip to go see Grandma, or heading for the hills for a hike! You can now take your dog there.
Well done you for perservering! It’s not easy, but it’s definitely easier than a pukey dog every time you have to go for a ride.

If you’re struggling with training for this, why not book a bark day with me? Where we can discuss everything specifically for your situation!

Author, Ali Smith

Ali Smith is the Positive Puppy Expert, dog trainer and is the founder of Rebarkable. She is passionate about helping puppy parents get things right, right from the start. To help create a puppy capable of being a confident and adaptable family member and keep puppies out of shelters.

Ali has won multiple awards for her dog training, and has had her blog (this blog!) rated as 2021 & 2022 worlds’ best pet blog!

 

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