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Does Your Dog Hate Car Rides?

Updated on August 13, 2009

You're not alone.

Does your dog go into automatic panic when you put him in your car? Does he whine, cry, drool, vomit, or try to crawl underneath the seat?

Many dogs are afraid of the car. Motion sickness is a possible culprit, but not a likely one. It's more likely that their anxiety is based in negative association or the unknown. The car becomes scary when it is not a common every day occurrence. What makes the joyride even worse is when t it can only be associated with going to the groomer, kennel, or vet. In a dog's mind those may not happy places.

Starting early is best but even an older dog can learn a new love of mobility. All you have to do is make the car a pleasant and routine thing in your dog's life.

To break your dog's habit of thinking every car ride ends in vaccines or baths is not hard and won't take more than a couple minutes a day. As often as you can, try to take the dog into the car. And start by not going anywhere.

Don't go anywhere.

Find a few moments here and there that you normally spend at your kitchen table or on the couch that you can just as easily spend in your car. The next time you have a shopping list to write or some calls to return on your cell phone, try sitting in the car to do it and bring the dog with you. Writing out a few bills, balancing your check book, and reading the newspaper or a magazine are just a few examples of things you could do sitting in your car for just a couple minutes with the dog.

Start slow. One minute. Then two minutes. In a week maybe you could try five minutes.

Take short drives.

Once your dog is better about being in the car, the next step is to try to ease his fear of the car actually moving.

If you have the time, just drive around the block once or twice. That's it. Then go back home and take your dog back into the house. Try to take your dog on short trips, especially ones where you don't have to get out of the car. A quick drive to pick up your kids at school or scouts is a great start. The positive reinforcement is doubled when they see the rest of the family getting into the car with them.

Anyplace you go where you utilize the drive-thru window like the bank, pharmacy, or fast food joints are all great doggie day trips, too.

Keep building momentum.

This idea is making sense now, isn't it. Slowly build an association for your dog with the car that is positive and simple. Once you can make it through Dunkin Donuts without your dog having any issues you're ready to take him along on some short errands. These starter trips should be short, like the dry cleaner, Blockbuster, or the post office. These should be trips where you aren't leaving him alone in the car, please ask a family member or friend to join you. 

If you don't want to leave him alone in the car even for just a few minutes that's fine. Bring a friend or family member. You can run into Pizza Hut for your to-go order, do some quick grocery shopping or run into Annie Sez and leave your dog with the dog sitter in the car. The exercise of the car being shut down and your leaving him briefly is a useful step in nurturing the Dog - Car Relationship.

Don't forget that positive reinforcement is always the best way to teach a dog anything. This is no different. Lots of pats and praise for his good behavior will go a long way. He wants to please you, he will repeat the behavior once he understands what it is you liked. A dog treat he can associate with having had some "good car time" might help if used correctly.

Punishing his less than stellar behavior is only going to reinforce the anxiety.

It may take some months of newspaper reading in the driveway, short jaunts around the block, and then quick errand running around town, but eventually you really will be able to see an improvement in your dog's car anxiety.

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*All text is original content by Veronica. All photos are original content by Veronica, or used with permission. All videos are courtesy of


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  • PetCollars profile image

    PetCollars 5 years ago from Saint Augustine, Florida

    This is indeed interesting post. Dogs are like human as well. Ithey do also have travel anxiety or stress. Thanks for sharing it.

  • PhoenixV profile image

    PhoenixV 6 years ago from USA

    Every dog I ever had loved to ride in the car or truck. In fact I couldn't hardly keep them out so its interesting that there are some that don't like to ride. I had one dog that it would just break his heart each time I wouldn't let him ride in back. Excellent hub and advice on how to ease them into riding so you can take them for checkups or to the vet.

  • ChristinCordle12 profile image

    ChristinCordle12 6 years ago

    Informative hub about dogs and nice pictures.

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 7 years ago from NY


    Ah, Ok.

    If she gets in the car just fine, but doesn't like the motion, you could try getting her into the car, and turning the engine on. Even short-short rides, like from the front of the driveway to the end of the driveway, might help. If the motor running doesn't bother her, and she can move a couple feet and be ok, then you really may have a dog that experiences motion sickness.

    The other option I can think of is that you could take her on a few short trips that result in something fun for her. Like a short drive to the corner where you give her a treat, then take her back home. Do that a dozen times. Thinking she could have a cool reward any moment might be enough to keep her busy. Or, any short drive that at least does not result in a trip to the vets, like a drive to a friends where she gets to play.

  • profile image

    DANA 7 years ago


    Sorry what i meant is that the short rides don't seem to help calm her down. I can literally drive one block and shes already panting and whining.

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 7 years ago from NY


    When you "start" moving she whines, pants, and won't sit still, but short car rides don't seem to have any affect on her? I don't understand. If when you start moving she's acting in this way, how are you accomplishing short car rides that don't affect her?

  • profile image

    Dana 7 years ago


    I have a lab and she seems very happy when i get her into the car, she'll jump right in no problem. but when we start moving that's when she starts whining and panting and wont sit still.. the short car rides don't seem to have any affect on her. i don't understand it. i have and suv so she limited to just the back. any suggestion?

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 7 years ago from NY

    Thank you Lala_Lisa

  • Lala_Lisa profile image

    Lala_Lisa 7 years ago


    You should actually read this article. It gives the advice you're asking for. It's good advice.

  • profile image

    Alisha 7 years ago

    Hi Veronica,

    I currently look after my partner's dog (as he is in the army) who is a Boarder Collie x Blue Healer. In a few limited situations he can get anxious. One of those being the car. He has no issues getting into the car, very rarely does he go somewhere 'bad' such as the vet, every week we drive back to the country where he gets to tear around, he is always with my dog (who sleeps the entire way in the car) and we frequently drive around up home in the country. Yet from when I first met this dog, he has always excessively panted and whinned occasionally. In the past he was a bit calmer when the windows were down, but with the recent weather of Melbourne it has not been possible for a few weeks to have the windows down and he has been terribly terribly anxious. Now even if the windows are down he will not relax. I try telling him to 'shush' or ignoring him and it makes no difference. Can you suggest anything??

    Thanks, ALisha :)

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 7 years ago from NY


  • profile image

    Tracey 7 years ago

    My dogs have always loved the car, probably because I use it to take them out into the country for nice long walks. Therefore, in their doggy brains, cars = walks = treats.

  • MPG Narratives profile image

    Marie Giunta 7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

    Thanks Veronica, Sassie is now 3.5years so we just limit her trips. Might try sitting her in the car when its not running and see how that goes.

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 7 years ago from NY

    MPG, thanks. Of all our dogs, I still have one that just gets scared. He's better than he was, but he's just scared. Since he's a shelter dog, I don't know what he went through before we adopted him. The tricks in this article worked great for the others. Just getting used to getting in the car when it's not running was a huge boundary-breaker. Good luck to you guys.

  • MPG Narratives profile image

    Marie Giunta 7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

    Thanks Veronica, our dog Sassie is absolutely petrified of the car. We have tried some of the methods you mention but might try a few more.

  • stars439 profile image

    stars439 7 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

    Good Ideas. GBY

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 7 years ago from NY

    KenWu, very true! Cats are really difficult to change: if your 2 lovely cats do not want to go for car rides, that's about it. ;)

  • KenWu profile image

    KenWu 7 years ago from Malaysia

    I don't have a dog but I do have two lovely cats but I guess it wouldn't do the same with cat :-)

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 7 years ago from NY

    We've had many dogs, and overall I think it really helped to get them into the car and not move the car. Just reading the paper or sitting there to talk once in a while made all the difference. Good luck Gracie! Keep us posted. Georgina_writes, I hope she continues to be over it, and that life is gooood.

  • profile image

    graciekelly 7 years ago

    Our dog hates the car. He it with the vet! So I am doing as you suggest. Just a t few minutes at a time. If grandson gets in the car first is no problem. He jumps straight in after him. So now I am taking him along to our walk and just letting him be on a very short ride to something seems to help. I will come back and tell you how he is in a month.



  • Georgina_writes profile image

    Georgina_writes 8 years ago from Dartmoor

    Lots of useful advice here. We had one very nervous dog, but she's almost over it now.

  • lovelypaper profile image

    Renee S 8 years ago from Virginia

    My dog gets so nervous in the car unless we're driving for a while and she realizes she's not going to the vet! Then she wants to stick her head out the window and enjoy the ride.

  • gurgel1 profile image

    gurgel1 8 years ago from profile

    my dog is fine in the car.

  • ReverseMobileInfo profile image

    ReverseMobileInfo 8 years ago

    WOW!!! You put a lot of time into this HUB, it definetlyshows!!! I found the information extremely helpful! I became a fan of yours and rated you UP too, please join my fanclub as well! Keep up the excellent work! Barry ;)

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 8 years ago from NY

    I don't know what's up with that. Blinking lights, even as small as a signal on a dash board, and repeated clicking noises have both been associated with seizures, so I could imagine they could also be just plain upsetting.

  • profile image

    Bonnie 8 years ago

    I have a question...our papillion loves to get into the car and go anywhere with us, but she then starts to cry and whimper and go nuts when we put the turn signal on or make a turn of the wheel. What's up with that??

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 9 years ago from NY

    Thanks for the visit, DawgDad. Glad you liked!

  • DawgDad profile image

    DawgDad 9 years ago from Denver

    Nice Read, I love the Doggy Pictures! thx Veronica

  • Eileen Hughes profile image

    Eileen Hughes 10 years ago from Northam Western Australia

    Ours loves it in the car and hates to be left behind. He sulks when we leave him because it is toooooo hot in the car in our summer for him. Good hub

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 10 years ago from NY

    Goodwitch, there are 2 things I can suggest.

    One is throw a treat in. He may focus on the treat and forget his nervousness about the jump. He may just leap to get to get that treat.

    The second is a car ramp. While they actually make and market these things, I'm sure you could find a board to use as an inexpensive substitute. Place it like a plank from the ground to the floor of the car inside of the door, or into the back hatch portion of an SUV. With a few coaxed walks, he shoud be able to be guided to walk in and out of the car using the ramp.

    One other thought is, he may be nervous that you are putting him into the car and you're not going to join him. It could be a seperation anxiety type of thing. If you can, try getting into the car first and seeing if he jumps in anxiously to join you. If he does, then you don't have a "getting in the car" issue, you have a "being seperated from mom" issue.

    I hope this helps. Please keep us posted. Good luck!

  • Goodwitch profile image

    Goodwitch 10 years ago

    Veronica, I have a Golden enjoys the car, once he's inside. It's getting him IN that's the problem! I literally have to pick him up and carry him, he won't just hop in on his own. Any suggestions?

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 10 years ago from NY

    Thanks Isabella!

  • Isabella Snow profile image

    Isabella Snow 10 years ago

    Good ideas, Veronica!

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 10 years ago from NY

    Thanks MrMarmalade!

    Thoog, try this advice. My labs were the same way, but I really did break them of that habit with just some time, patience, and little drives to no where.

  • thooghun profile image

    James D. Preston 10 years ago from Rome, Italy

    My Jack Russel is in obvious distress in a car. We've tried a few times, but she tries to crawl under the seat, so we refrain from driving with her as much as possible.


    Great hub!


  • MrMarmalade profile image

    MrMarmalade 10 years ago from Sydney

    Good hub

    thank you