It can be a lot of fun to go for a drive with your best furry friend. But if your pup barks like crazy the whole time, your relaxing drive becomes anything but peaceful. Plus, it can be very distracting and lead to potential accidents.
Dogs end up barking in the car for all sorts of reasons, from anxiety to excitement. But don't worry, you don't have to give up your canine road trips just yet; several things can help your dog relax during the drive.
Why Is Your Dog Barking in the Car?
Before you can figure out the best way to help your dog calm down in the car, you need to pinpoint why they’re barking every time you head out on a drive. Knowing the reasons for your dog’s excessive barking can better help you determine the best way to resolve it. When it comes down to it, there are two primary reasons for your pup’s car barking: excitement and anxiety (which can stem from many causes).
So Many Things to See
Sometimes, your dog’s barking because they’re just so excited about the adventure. Plus, there are all sorts of fun things to see outside the window, and if you have the windows down, your pup’s experiencing all kinds of fun and interesting smells. All of these factors contribute to some pretty intense excitement for your dog, leading your pup to communicate their enthusiasm through barking.
One thing to note is if the barking happens for the entire car ride or just during specific points. For example, is your dog pretty mellow most of the trip but then goes berserk at traffic lights? Or, maybe your dog just starts up when you get in the fast-food line. These observations can help you devise the best plan for easing your dog’s barking in the car.
Stress and Anxiety
Several things can contribute to feelings of anxiety and stress in your dog when you start to load them into the car. Your pup could have had a former negative experience in a vehicle, or your dog might associate the vehicle with something unpleasant like a trip to the groomer or vet (especially if this is the only time your dog ever goes in the car).
Other potential stressors are seeing things from the car that make your pup nervous or excited, for example, another animal. However, when you’re in a vehicle, it adds the extra layer of your dog not being able to investigate the target. The car creates a sort of barrier, leading to feelings of anxiousness and restlessness. This effect is similar to how some dogs bark like crazy at people and animals on the other side of a fence. If the fence wasn’t there, the dog might actually be calmer, but the fence creates a barrier and leads to doggy frustration.
It’s also possible that your dog suffers from motion sickness, which can cause stressful feelings and excessive barking. If motion sickness is the culprit, your dog may also seem listless, frequently yawn (it’s a common doggy tactic for self-calming), or even vomit.
Tips for Keeping Your Dog Calm in the Car
Once you’ve come to the conclusion of why your dog is likely barking so much in the car, you can choose which steps to take to help ease the issue. Here are some tips for calming your pup in the car and making your trips together more pleasant.
Use a Crate or Car Harness
First and foremost, getting a car harness that attaches to the vehicle’s seatbelt is good practice in general because it’s safer for your pup. Plus, many car harnesses double as a walking harness, so once you arrive at your destination, you simply snap on the leash, and you’re ready to go.
While you might prefer to leave your dog loose in the car, if your dog gets anxious and excited during drives and tends to jump all over the vehicle or tries to sneak into your lap, then a harness or crate is a must. This isn’t only for your dog’s safety but for your own as well. If you plan to put your dog in a crate during drives, ensure your pup is familiar and comfortable with the crate first, otherwise you’re piling one stressful situation on top of another.
If your pup simply gets anxious because of things they notice outside of the vehicle, consider getting a screen that attaches to the car window. This can help decrease your pup’s visibility and can therefore help them stay calmer during the drive.
If this works for your dog, you can always try gradually lifting the screen on subsequent trips, letting your dog see a little bit more of the view each time. Monitor your pup’s reactions closely. Eventually, you might be able to nix the screens, or you may have to use them permanently if that’s what helps your dog stay relaxed.
Create Positive Associations with a Vehicle
If the only time your dog ever goes in the car is to go to places they aren’t very fond of, then a vehicle becomes a negative thing for your pooch. Start creating positive associations with the car by placing a few treats on the seat (with the engine off), leaving the door open, and let your pup investigate. Let your dog jump in, eat the treats, and explore. Speak to your dog in a happy tone of voice and repeat the whole process again later.
Once your dog is more comfortable with jumping in the car on their own, try a quick drive around the block. When your pup is calm, praise and reward them. Work up to a little bit longer drive, then perhaps go to the park or another fun place. Your dog will start to realize that car rides don’t always mean a trip to the vet.
Stay Calm and Cool
No matter how stressed out your dog’s barking makes you, try to stay calm and cool. Your dog can sense your emotions, so if you start getting worked up, it’s just going to raise your pup’s anxiety. Plus, yelling at your dog to be quiet doesn’t do any good either; you actually just reinforce your pup’s barking and they’ll likely just get louder.
Use Positive Reinforcement and Distractions
In addition to staying calm and positive, bring some treats with your on car rides to offer positive reinforcement throughout the drive. You can start to train and condition your dog to nix the barking during car trips and to stay calm.
If your dog starts to get antsy or bark, you can incorporate some verbal commands like “Settle” or “Quiet.” You can also work on these commands outside of the vehicle to get your dog used to what you expect them to do. Always keep training calm and consistent, stay patient and positive, and don’t raise your voice.
Sometimes, just giving your pup something else to do during the drive can keep them distracted and focused long enough to ease the barking. Offer your dog an engaging, treat-filled toy like the Rolly Cannoli to occupy them during the ride, plus the licking helps calm your pet too by releasing endorphins.
Talk to Your Vet
If your pup suffers from motion sickness, talk to your vet about possible solutions or medications. Your vet might also recommend using a product like ADAPTIL Travel in conjunction with some of the other steps to help ease your dog’s car-related stress.
Learning the reasons behind your dog’s barking in the car, then implementing the appropriate steps can help take the stress out of your drives. Check out our blog for more valuable tips on how to help your dog handle other stressful situations. You’ll also find all sorts of helpful info that can help you sharpen your skills as a fantastic pet parent.