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Driving With An Anxious Canine In Tow? Remember These Tips

Dog in the car window
Some dogs love to ride in a car. Simply mention going bye-bye, and they are at the door, tail wagging, eager for a new adventure on the road. However, not all pet parents are so lucky when it comes to traveling with their four-legged family member. In fact, some dogs will shiver at the appearance of a vehicle, and taking them on a road trip can be a worrisome, problematic experience. 
In an ideal world, you will never be left in a position to force your nervous dog into a vehicle for a ride, but sometimes, there is no other way around it-your canine will have to ride in a vehicle. If you are planning a long car trip with a pooch that is anything but eager, there are a few things you can do to destress the situation for your dog and for yourself. 

Familiarize Your Dog with the Vehicle First

If your dog is not used to being in a vehicle, just being in the enclosed and unfamiliar space makes the situation even more intimidating than what it probably should be. Before you gather up your dog, jump in the car, and take off, take some time to get your pet accustomed to the surroundings inside of your car. To help your dog get accustomed to the car's interior, you could:
  • Sit in the car with the doors open at first so that the vehicle does not feel confined
  • Start your vehicle and stay parked so that the dog gets used to the running motor
  • Sit with your pet in the back seat of the vehicle for a few minutes a day leading up to your trip
In some cases, all it will take for your dog to get used to the car is for you to forth the effort to make sure the car is a familiar thing to your pet. Don't forget during these exercises that your pup can get overheated quickly, so it is best to not practice on really hot days if you don't intend to have the air conditioning running in the car. 

Try Simple But Smart Calming Methods On Your Dog

Sometimes, all it will take is small changes in what happens when the car is in motion for your dog to feel comfortable during a longer trip. For example, you could bring along a passenger who will give your dog love and attention during the trip. Or, you could bring items from home, such as your dog's favorite toy, a blanket that smells like you, or familiar objects.
Additionally, your dog may feel more secure during the trip if you allow fresh air in by leaving the windows cracked or play soft music. Talking to your dog for the duration of the ride can also help. 

Consider Medicating Your Dog Before the Trip

If all else fails and your dog is still freaked out about riding in your vehicle, there may be medicinal alternatives, both prescribed by the veterinarian and in over-the-counter form. There are a few homeopathic remedies available for anxious dogs. For example, one product mimics a pheromone released by mother dogs after both that is known to create a sense of calm and comfort. 
Your veterinarian can also prescribe anti-anxiety medications for your dog to take during the trip. Some of these medications work with the nervous system and serotonin receptors, but some anti-anxiety medications for dogs simply have a mild sedative effect to encourage the dog to sleep during the trip. 
Traveling with a nervous canine can definitely be a challenge, but it doesn't have to be impossible if you know how to properly handle the situation. Contact us at South San Diego Veterinary Hospital for more professional advice about traveling with your pets.