How To Help Your Dog Overcome Fear of Car Rides By Your Carmel Veterinary Clinic

How To Help Your Dog Overcome Fear Of Car Rides, By Your Carmel Veterinary Clinic

Let’s face it, dogs can be very emotional at times.  At our Carmel veterinary clinic, we see a lot of dogs who even develop irrational fears of places and objects.  These fears can develop from a previous bad experience, but usually dog fears develop from a lack of good experiences when they are young.  Puppies go through a socialization period and the most important period of time for getting them used to the world is the first 4 months of their life.  One common fear many dogs can develop is a fear of the car.

How do I make sure my new puppy will love car rides?  My dog is already scared of the car, how do I get my dog to overcome fear of car rides?  The good news is the tips for prevention are basically the same techniques you will use to treat a dog who is already fearful.  The bad news is the dog who is already fearful will take a longer period of time and will require a much higher degree of patience and understanding from you.  Either way, you want to transform the car into something very positive in the dog’s mind.  At our Carmel veterinary clinic, I recommend the following steps:

  • Start with the car parked and engine off on a nice day.  Skip breakfast that morning so your dog is more food motivated.  Start playing a favorite game next to the car or performing basic obedience commands (come, sit, down, stay, etc…) followed by a yummy food reward.  
  • Open the doors to the car, then calmly but happily climb inside.  Invite your dog to join you by coaxing with a favorite play toy or food reward.  It’s ok to use some really high value rewards like cheese, peanut butter, hot dogs, etc… but keep the size of each reward treat really small.
  • If your dog rushes out of the car, place more treats leading up to the car and several more inside where they can see and smell them.  For dogs who area already afraid of the car, take your time.  IF you dog stops taking a treat they normally would, their anxiety level has gotten too high. In this case, back up and approach more slowly allowing your dog time to acclimate.  Several sessions will be needed for highly fearful dogs.
  • Once your dog has gotten used to the car, turn on the car to allow them time to get used to the engine.  Then you can shut the doors and go for a short ride.  A kong full of frozen peanut butter is a good distraction for a trip.
  • Make sure each ride ends with something really positive.  Often we only take trips with our dogs when we go to our Carmel veterinary clinic, boarding kennel, or groomer.  So remember to take a trip to see their favorite park too or a friend/family members house too.  No mater the destination, make sure you continue the calm and positive associations with either play or food throughout and when you get back home as well.

Are there any medical reasons why a dog might fear car rides?  Yes, many dogs suffer from motion sickness in the car.  Most dogs never anticipate acceleration, turning, and the sudden stops that we are accustomed to.  IF you think motion sickness is playing a role in your dog’s fear of the car, give your Carmel veterinary clinic a call.

For more information on our Caring Hands Compassionate Hearts, click on this link to your Carmel Veterinary Clinic.