Blog - Dog Training News & Tips

How to get your dog used to the car

20th May 2014

Sometimes people experience problems with their puppy either getting in a car or having accidents /drooling/sickness whilst travelling in the car.

Unfortunately the first few memories your puppy will have of travelling in a car is being removed from mummy and siblings and taken to its new home, or trips to the vet for check-ups or injections. Therefore you may need to spend some time familiarising your dog to the car so he loses the negative associations he may have already gained in the first few weeks/months of its life.

It is important for your safety as well as the puppy that he is secure in the car. You can use a car harness or a travel crate which will also help your puppy to feel more secure.

  • Step 1 – To start with take your puppy to the car, walk around the car with the boot of the car open (presuming this is where your puppy will be travelling) and the engine off.  Once you feel your puppy is calm place him in the car and make a big fuss over him, giving lots of praise. If your boot is big enough you can sit in the car with your dog.  Make sure that you have some tasty treats with you so that your puppy starts to associate being in the car with a treat. Repeat this exercise for about 5 – 10min every day for a week.

 

  • Step 2 – Sit your puppy in the car with the engine going. At this stage you will not be driving anywhere, just acclimatising your puppy to the sound of the engine and the feel of the car whilst the engine is going. Again make sure that you have some tasty treats and really praise your dog especially if you see him being calm, not cowering or drooling. Again repeat this exercise 5 – 10 mins every day for about a week.

 

  • Step 3 – Start to go for a drive in the car. Start with step 2, making sure that your puppy is calm and really praising up his behaviour. At first go for very short drives, this could be just to the end of the road. Make sure your puppy hasn’t eaten first to prevent the chance of vomiting. If you have someone to go with you, ask if they can sit on the back seat and distract the dog with treats, call out their name to reassure them, praising the behaviours that you want.

 

  • Step 4 – Start taking slightly longer journeys, gradually increasing them and driving to the local park. By driving to the park and then going for a walk your puppy is making another positive association with the car. Not only is the car a place where they can earn treats, it is also something that takes them to a park for a walk or a play.

If all the steps are repeated over a number of days your puppy will soon build up its confidence about going in the car and eventually get to the stage where they want to get into the car on their own terms. It is important as owners to stay determined and not to give up.

If however you feel that your dog is vomiting due to the movement of the car (like sea sickness), medication may be required. Any treatments should be discussed first with your vet.

If a puppy suffers from motion sickness positioning them to travel in the passenger footwell can sometimes help. I have also know puppies that are sick when travelling in the front and back of the car but not when travelling in the middle. It is worth exploring all options.

Once your puppy is comfortable in the car and travelling, it is important to take them out on journeys that do not result in trips to the park or exciting walks. If this is the only time your puppy goes in the car, it can result in a puppy that is overexcited in the car and whines or barks all of the time.

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