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Does your pet get anxious in the car?

Friday, 15 April 2022
It is very difficult to avoid travelling with your pet forever, it will be necessary to go somewhere at some point e.g. the vets. Also, holidaying with your pet can be a really relaxing way to spend your time and great fun for them! With more and more pubs, holiday homes, cafes and hotels accepting pets and becoming pet friendly, it is even easier to go away with them than ever before. Car travel is a lot easier for your dog to accept if you prepare them way in advance. 

The best time to do this is when they are a puppy or by planning ahead. Rewarding your dog for being calm around the car and for any behaviours that your dog exhibits that are showing confidence and comfortability – or showing nothing and no anxious behaviours.

Follow these steps to get your dog ready for travel:
Step 1: Start from a good distance from the car and slowly get closer, move around the car, bit by bit. Make sure sessions are always short, slow and positive, with rewards for any good behaviours. When near the car, ask for a ‘sit’ command near the car and reward them for giving you the ‘sit’ and staying in the position. Your dog will be learning over time that cars are normal and actually can be quite positive as they get treats when they are calm around them.
Step 2: Being in a moving car can be the hard part for dogs, their balance can be put to the test and they have no clue what direction they are going in and when they will turn. Dogs may feel confused and that they have no control over the situation. When they are comfortable being near cars, start introducing them to entering and staying in a stationary car and reward them for being calm. When they are consistently calm you are ready to progress to having the engine running.
Step 3: Start this next step with a running engine but by keeping the car stationary and always reward your dog for the behaviours you’d like to see. When you are consistently seeing those calm behaviours move on to a short drive, it can be as short as a minute to give them time to get used to the movement, keep this positive. If your dog is not ok with the movement, you should move back a couple of steps so that they can get more comfortable at a previous stage before progressing to movement. 

Remember your dog is still a good dog, just a bit worried about this scary metal moving machine which is understandable. If your dog has shown calm behaviours, reward them and gradually increase the distance of journeys. You do not want to do this all at once so try to keep sessions short and maximum one a day. Always have a reward at the end of the journey, such as a nice walk, this will teach your dog that there is always something positive at the end.

Additional tips:

1) Travelling in the car for a vet appointment is something your dog may not perceive as positive. Therefore, don’t be surprised when your dog doesn’t want to get in the car the next time. Try to end the visit with a nice walk to finish on a positive note. When they get home again give them their favourite big chew or have their yummiest treat ready, give this to them while they are still in the car.
2) Try not to feed your dog too much before travelling in the car as the motion could make them car sick.
3) Ensure your dog is secure in the car it will make them feel more safe and comfortable. You are legally required to ensure they are suitably restrained.
4) It may also help to have a family member or someone else that your dog likes to be in the car also. This person can reassure, praise and give them small treats on the drive.

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