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Road trip jitters: 8 ways to keep your pet calm on the road

Based out of Dallas, Texas, Mary McCoy is a writer and social worker for disenfranchised women and children. She's a single mom, lover of Texas barbecue, and a die-hard fan of yoga

Shake the shakes

If your dog isn't a cool cat during road trips, consider following these tips to alleviate his travel stress.
Dog looking out of car window
1

Nausea medication

Surprisingly, a lot of dogs appear nervous and uncomfortable during road trips because they’re actually suffering from motion sickness. If your dog is listless, shaky and drooling, his tummy might feel upset. Bring these symptoms up with your veterinarian prior to a scheduled road trip to see if medications can help alleviate your dog’s stomach discomfort.

2

Use road trips for fun

Imagine how you would feel if you were loaded up into a strange vehicle once a year, and at the end of the road trip, you were given several vaccinations and then sent home. A lot of dogs just know that cars take them to the vet. Consider taking your dog on short, fun road trips throughout the year so she’ll be ready for a fun road trip rather than thinking she’s just going to the vet…again.

3

Comfortable bed

It’s possible that your dog just isn’t very comfortable in the car because of all the stopping and starting. Try setting him up with a dog bed in the back seat so he can lie down and relax comfortably.

4

Distractions

Purchase a Kong toy, if you don’t already have one, and stuff it with a variety of treats. Most dogs love Kongs and can play with them for hours as they work to get the hidden treats out of the toy. Such a distraction can do a lot to help alleviate nerves.

5

Feed him

The idea behind feeding your dog in the car is to help him associate the car with a pleasant event. Try feeding your dog with the engine turned off, and once he feels comfortable with this arrangement, you can try to feed him with the engine on. The hope of this technique is to eventually help him feel comfortable in the car, even without the offer of food.

6

Use a crate

If you use a crate at home to help your dog feel secure, consider setting up the crate inside your car in advance of a road trip. Crates are a good way to help dogs feel at home in new environments, so many vets recommend that owners utilize them in a vehicle to alleviate mild jitters.

7

Noise phobia medication

Road trips are full of noises that most human ears can tune out, like the rumble of semi trucks, beeping horns, and the whir of wind past the vehicle. But these same noises can feel overwhelming to pups who already have noise sensitivity and anxiety. If you have reason to believe that your dog is jittery due to road noise, his veterinarian can prescribe anti-anxiety medications for use on the road.

8

Desensitization and counterconditioning

Even after owners try all of the above methods, some dogs just can’t shake their road trip angst. If you’re at your wit’s end, try looking for a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB) to help you desensitize and retrain your dog to at least tolerate a ride in the car.

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