All sorts of issues can contribute towards your dog being a less than happy passenger in the car, but if you can work out what these are, then it will be easier for you to determine the best course of action to take.
The underlying cause may be something relatively simple and obvious or might be more obscure, requiring you to turn detective. Below is a list of common causes of our dogs being poor travellers.
Certain health issues such as vestibular disease and middle or inner ear infections may cause difficulty in balancing and predispose to nausea, while a reluctance to get in the car might be due to apprehension of the journey, but could also be due to a physical inability to jump in. Arthritis, hip or elbow dysplasia, a cruciate ligament problem: or maybe rapid growth in a youngster could be causing difficulties. There are any number of conditions that may be causing pain, which will be further intensified by the constant movement of the car, and can lead to problems in balancing. Always consult your vet if you suspect a health issue.
What you may perceive as being comfortable isn’t necessarily so from your dog’s point of view. Seats aren’t always wide enough to accommodate him in the position he feels happiest in; and just as some people feel nauseous when in vehicles where they are sitting sideways-on to the movement, but feel fine when facing forwards, the same may apply to your four legged passenger. Soft suspension can also lead to motion sickness or make it difficult for your dog to balance himself. He may also find it hard to balance or to find a position which is comfortable if his movement is restricted by a crate which is too small or by an incorrectly adjusted seatbelt.
Difficulty in balancing can lead to apprehension (and injury) and may be an issue even if your dog is lying down. Rather than trying to remain still, some dogs will actually become more restless in an attempt to find their ‘car legs’ making things worse rather than better. Poor balance isn’t just something which affects a stiff, less mobile senior dogs, or one which has an injury, but can be an issue present right from early puppyhood.
Some dogs suffer really badly from motion sickness, even on the very shortest of trips, and it can lead to vomiting and will increase feelings of anxiety and create disagreeable associations with travelling. It is most common in puppies and young dogs, possibly because the structures in the ear which help with balance aren’t yet fully developed, and many will simply ‘grow out of it’. But many don’t. Bear in mind that your dog may be experiencing motion sickness even if he doesn’t actually vomit.
It may seem odd, but don’t rule out diet or food intolerances as a possible contributory cause; travelling problems can sometimes be linked to underlying digestive disturbances. It may be worth trying a different diet or adding probiotics to aid digestion.
Dogs are sensitive to a wide range of sensations which can make life unpleasant or even scary for them – for example, the vibration of car roof rails at certain speeds. Cars are also so well-made these days that pressure changes in the ear caused when the door is slammed can cause discomfort and may trigger fear. Other noises, such as vehicle reversing sensors, heavy rain drumming on the roof – even the click of indicators or swipe of windscreen wipers – can prove hard to tolerate for some dogs, especially those which are noise sensitive anyway.
Dogs which fly from side to side of the car with tails wagging, and probably barking loudly at the same time aren’t necessarily happy and excited, but are more likely to be stressed and nervous; they aren’t relaxed and comfortable enough in their bodies or minds to settle quietly. Although you may consider the car to be a safely enclosed, rather boring environment it can seem anything but that for your pet.
Dogs which tend to be reactive will also find it hard to lie down quietly in the car. Although you may be able to block your dog’s view, it is much better to seek professional help in dealing with the problem.
Bad experiences can lead to even the calmest of dogs becoming anxious – for example if he has been involved in an accident, abandoned or stolen from a car, or had frequent trips to the vet.
There are many ways to aid your dog becoming a confident traveller. Most dogs can be helped once the underlying cause is established. To find out how to address these problems, and so much more have a look at Toni Shelbourne and Karen Bush’s new book “HELP! My Dog Doesn’t Travel Well in the Car,” check Toni’s bio below.
Toni Shelbourne has worked with domesticated and wild canids since 1989. After a long and successful career with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, she started her own business as a Tellington TTouch Companion Animal Practitioner. She is now one of the highest qualified Practitioners in the UK. In 2001 her skills in TTouch took Toni to the UK Wolf Conservation Trust were she meet a pack of socialised wolves. She went on to work with them for over a decade as a Senior Wolf Handler and Education Officer for the organisation. Through observing the wolves she has a unique insight into their behaviour. This led to her questioning the ingrained ideas about the alpha theory with dogs, ideas that were often in conflict with her own knowledge and observations. Today she advises wolf organisations and zoos on wolf behaviour and management. She teaches all over the UK and abroad, works with clients’ one to one, writes and runs workshops.
Over the last decade Toni has been developing her writing. She spent two years editing and writing features for Wolf Print, the UK Wolf Conservation Trust’s international magazine. She went on to write for national dog magazines, rescue society newsletters and websites. Her first and second book, The Truth about Wolves & Dogs, (Hubble and Hattie 2012) and Among the Wolves (Hubble and Hattie 2015) have been a great success. Her latest writing collaboration with author Karen Bush sees a series of books entitled Help… My Dog is. The first, Help…My Dog is Scared of Fireworks is available as an eBook or in paperback format and is an essential guide for the owners of noise phobic dogs. More titles are planned.
Visit www.tonishelbourne.co.uk for more details about Toni, TTouch and her books.
New Book: HELP! My Dog Doesn’t Travel Well in the Car | Paperback | Kindle