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What to Do If Your Pet Hates Car Rides

Corgi in car with owner


For some dogs, nothing beats hopping in the car for a fun drive and impending adventure with their favorite human. But for other dogs, even the mere thought of getting in a vehicle can send them into fits of anxiety. And when it comes to your fluffy feline? Well, let’s just say there are probably a bunch of other things your cat would rather do. If your pet hates car rides, there could be several reasons, but the good news is, you can do something about it.

Three Possible Reasons Your Pet Doesn’t Like Car Rides

Pets can have an aversion to the car for many reasons, but you don’t need to cancel any road trips with your pets just yet. If your furry friend hesitates (or digs in their claws) when you try to put them in the car, your first step is to determine why.

Here are a few common reasons your dog or cat runs for the hills when you open the car door.

Your Pet Associates the Car with Negative Experiences

Take a moment to think about the majority of your pet’s car experiences. Were most of them (or all of them) a trip to the vet or grooming salon? If so, how does your pal feel about going to the vet or getting groomed?

For many pets, the vet, groomer, boarding facilities, and similar locations can be stressful. Therefore, if the only time your pet rides in a vehicle is to go to one of these places, then they’re going to associate the car with the idea that something awful is about to happen.

Your Pet Doesn’t Like to Be Confined

Feeling like they can’t escape or get away from a situation can be enough to send some pets into a fit of panic. 

For many dogs, the idea of any type of barrier can set them into overdrive. For example, just think of a dog barking excessively at the neighbor through your backyard fence; yet, when they greet your neighbor out front, they’re well-behaved.

This is because some barriers make animals feel restless, which can lead to stress and anxiety. Plus, when they’re in a car, your pet sees so many different things through the windows that they can’t get to. This can make your pal even more frustrated.

It Could Be Motion Sickness

If you get a little woozy riding in the car for long periods or perhaps when you fly, then you might not look forward to certain transportation methods. Likewise, if your cat or dog suffers from motion sickness, they could simply want to avoid the car because they know it makes them feel, well, weird.

Of course, for some pets, they might actually enjoy riding in the car, but perhaps a little too much. These are the pets that constantly bark, yowl, pace around excitedly, and jump all over the vehicle because they’re overstimulated. Luckily, no matter why your furry friend is having car troubles, there are several things you can do to help.

Dog standing in front of car

Four Helpful Tips to Get Your Pet to Relax in the Car

Don’t worry  there’s hope for a future of calm car rides and road trip adventures for you and your fur baby. Here are a few tips to ensure your pet can relax when it comes to riding in a vehicle.

Start Early with Training and Socialization

The foundation for helping your pet handle a variety of experiences is proper training and socialization. Positive reinforcement is always preferable to negative reactions and punishments. Ensure your dog at least understands and responds to basic obedience commands.

As early as possible, begin socializing your pet. Dogs and cats both need proper socialization, and you can give it to them by exposing them to a variety of positive experiences, places, and people. If your pets miss out on essential socialization, they can become timid, aggressive, and fearful of many situations, like car rides.

Create Positive Experiences with the Car for Your Pet

Make a point not just to use the car to bring your pet to the vet. Instead, every so often, load your pal into the car for a fun trip to the park, a pet playdate, or to visit a friend or family member. This way, your pet won’t just associate the car with going somewhere they don’t like.

Start simple, with just sitting in the car and starting the engine. Reward any positive reactions from your pet. Then, you can progress to quick, short rides around the block. When your pet gets in the car, reward them with a yummy treat.

As your pet has a calm moment during the ride, give positive praise and another treat. Then, when you pull back in the driveway and exit the car, reward your pet yet again.

You can start small and build up gradually to longer rides and car trips. Soon, your pal will get the idea that this whole car thing isn’t so bad after all.

Provide Your Pet with Ways to Calm Down

There’s nothing wrong with giving your pet a little extra helping hand to help them calm down in the car. Providing positive distractions to your pet is a handy tool for the pets that enjoy car rides but still get overexcited about them.

You can use specially-designed, interactive products like the Rolly Cannoli or the Neat-Lik Mat to encourage your pal to focus on something else. Plus, these items stimulate licking that releases endorphins, which aid in calming down your pal. When using the Neat-Lik, make sure to use it with the designated tray so that you don’t end up with slobber or peanut butter on your car seats.

Other helpful ways to ease your pet’s mind while on the road are using calming supplements or diffusers, like ADAPTIL Travel. If your pet’s anxiousness stems from motion sickness, you’ll need to talk to your vet about giving your pet medication if necessary.

Keep Your Pet Safe in the Car

Finally, no matter where you’re driving or how far, your pet’s safety is the top priority. It’s always best to ensure your dog or cat is safe and secure while riding in a vehicle. Therefore, instead of leaving your pet loose while you’re driving, place them in a travel crate or use a proper car harness.

If you plan to use a crate, do so only once your pet is familiar with being in a crate. So, if you haven’t already done so, take some time to work through crate training with your pet and let them get used to it. Then, when your pet is secure in the car, this will also help them stay calmer.

Another helpful tip for the pet that gets overstimulated is to decrease their visibility while in the car. If your furry friend simply can’t stand being able to see all of the fun stuff without getting all worked up, use window screens where possible or consider a crate cover.

With these tips in mind, you’ll be on the road again, with your pet, in no time. For more valuable resources about caring for your furry family members, check out the rest of our blog. Now, it’s time to hit the road.

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