Every dog has a unique personality. As such, the response to being in a car differs greatly from one dog to the next. That being said, more than 70% of dogs display some signs of anxiety, and that fearfulness often relates to vehicles. How might owners help their dogs feel more comfortable as they ride around town? Below are a few causes and signs of car anxiety in dogs, as well as tips on what owners can do to help.
First, there are quite a few reasons why a dog may show signs of travel anxiety. One of the main causes is motion sickness. Just like humans, dogs can get carsick. This is especially true for a puppy, whose ears and ability to regulate balance are still developing. Although the pup may grow out of this motion sickness, the association between car travel and feeling sick could remain.
Other reasons might include the dog feeling scared due to overstimulation or a previous motor vehicle accident. The sights, smells and sounds can be factors, creating a stimulus overload as other vehicles speed past or loud, unfamiliar noises fill sensitive ears. Such unpleasant sensations can be overwhelming and lead to stress and anxiety. Lastly, the dog could associate the car rides with seeing the vet and the stress experienced during those visits.
What are some symptoms dogs may experience or signs owners should look out for during travel? Just as personalities vary, so too can the indications that something is wrong. Generally, excessive panting, chewing, licking, drooling, whimpering or shivering is often observed in anxious dogs. More severe cases could see inappropriate urination or defecation, vomiting, diarrhea or even reactivity. If a dog has become so fearful of cars it becomes aggressive, it’s essential the owners seek professional training. Otherwise, the dog could pose a threat to itself or others.
What else can owners do to help a dog with anxiety? As this problem is so prevalent, there are numerous products available, such as prescription medication, calming pheromone products, anti-anxiety compression jackets and collars, as well as over-the-counter supplements designed to calm the dog. These are often quick fixes that don’t deliver lasting results. Experts agree that behavior modification and training is the most effective long-term strategy to helping your pup be successful on the road.
While it’s recommended to familiarize a pet with the car when it’s still young, there are plenty of ways owners could help an old dog learn new tricks and be calm in the car. For additional ways to alleviate car anxiety in a canine companion, please see the accompanying resource.