The car can be a place of great excitement or great stress for some dogs. We see quite a few dogs that get severe car sickness, become anxious overexcitable messes, or are highly reactive at people or dogs outside. Lets asses the different behaviors that we see in the car and break down the causes and solutions.
Lots of dogs get severe car sickness. Some cant even drive 5 minutes down the road without their dog puking in the back seat. One common sign that we see in most of these dogs that are losing their lunch is LOTS of pacing and restlessness in the car. This nonstop movement in an already moving vehicle is recipe for disaster. Have you ever tried to walk on a rocking boat? We have found that removing the ability to move around so much and get themselves all wound up has drastically removed the car sickness. Most times even eliminating it all together.
Enforce a down stay in the back seat and use your remote collar to keep the dog there. Setting this clear boundary will stop the dogs ability to escalate into a state of mind that would make them vomit.
Reactivity out the Window:
Reactivity! We see this one everywhere. Dogs, People, squirrels, noises! Some dogs just bark at everything. This can get to be quite a nuisance when stoped at a light or going through a drive through. Most reactivity is stemmed from a lack of structure, guidance, and dogs being put in a position to make decisions on who is ok or not ok. Unfortunately in the car is prime opportunity for this because there is rarely any structure or rules in the car.
Set structure and boundaries in the car. For most dogs, this alone will stop the reactivity. Make a very clear back seat only policy. There should be no climbing onto the center council or riding shotgun with their head out the window. Correct with your remote collar any time the dog tries to climb up front, jump on the door panel, or get jumpy in the back. If you have a dog that is very active in the back seat, enforcing a down stay will help. This is very easy to manage while driving. Keep your remote handy and mark with “No” and correct every time the dog tries to pop up.
If you have a dog that has more extreme car reactivity they may still get vocal even after all of these techniques have been applied. The last remaining step is enforcing a clear quiet command. Set your remote to a slightly higher level. When the dog begins barking, say “Quiet” and pair with a tap on the remote collar. Repeat process, increasing your level as needed, until the dog calms down into a relaxed position.
Safety in the Car
Traveling with your dog can be quite dangerous to both you and your pet. Their sometimes wild behavior can turn into some serious distractions that take our attention away from driving. These are a handful of safety dos and don’ts that we strongly encourage when traveling with your pet.
Do not allow your dog in the front seat:
The number one distraction that your dog can create for you is blocking your sight or impairing your ability to drive. Pets in the front seat can very easily bump something on accident, jump into your lap and block your vision, or cause you to become distracted by petting them or giving too much attention to them.
Use a car restraint if necessary:
An unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at 50 mph will exert roughly 500 pounds of force, while an unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert approximately 2400 pounds of force. There are many great ways to safely restrain a dog in your vehicle. There are seat belt harnesses, pet barriers for the back area of your car, and travel kennels that will fit your vehicle. These are all fantastic options to help keep your pet in one spot and your eyes on the road in case of an accident.
Keep the windows rolled up:
Allowing your dog to stick their head out the window is in my opinion one of the more dangerous things that you can do with your dog. We have had numerous clients with dogs that have jumped out of the car window, causing serious injury to your pet. You also greatly increase the chances of potentially fatal injury if you were to get into an accident while your pet has a part of its body outside of the vehicle.