Most dog owners will, from time to time, transport their dog by car. A recent survey has shown that as many as 25% of dogs show signs of anxiety during car journeys. Dogs may display physical or behavioural signs during the journey and this can affect the animal’s welfare and the dog owner’s relationship with their pet.
The study found that most dogs who reacted negatively to the car displayed excitable behaviours such as restlessness, vomiting, barking and yelping. A much smaller proportion display inhibited behaviours such as trembling, freezing or being depressed.
The study proved that there are a number of techniques that can be used to avoid the distressing situation for dog and owner.
Firstly and most importantly, is ensuring that your dog is exposed to the car at a young age. Dogs that become used to short trips and the noise of the engine during puppyhood are much less likely to be anxious during car journeys in adulthood.
Secondly, it is important to avoid negative associations with car transport. If the dog’s only experience of the car is when he is taken to the Vets surgery, he will be more likely to find the car stressful. Likewise, if the dog is under-stimulated at home and the result of a car journey is always an exciting event such as a walk, this can encourage excited behaviour.
Traveling with home comforts such as blankets and toys will result in a dramatic reduction in anxiety.
The study showed that most owners whose dogs were anxious during car journeys had not sought any advice about the situation.
Behaviour training is undoubtedly the most important way to overcome travel anxiety but Vets can prescribe medications which can be helpful. Medications which counter the effects of motion sickness can be very helpful as can products which help to reduce anxiety.
If your dog is in the 25% of the population who find traveling stressful, contact your Vet for advice on behaviour training or medication to help.