Many pet parents report problems with car sickness, especially with young dogs. While research does not point to a specific breed’s inclination toward motion sickness, highly intelligent and sensitive dogs may be more susceptible to the emotional and stress factors that cause travel sickness.
First encounters leave a powerful impression. Some pet psychologists think the problems begin with the first car ride - often the day when he leaves the security of his mother and littermates, or for a traumatic visit to the vet.
- It requires patience, but desensitisation is often effective in reversing problems. Replace negative triggers with positive conditioning.
- Put your dog in the car (where he will be sitting) with the doors open and engine shut off. Let him settle for five minutes. Praise and reward him with words, contact, and small treats.
- Start the car, but don't drive. Observe for signs of stress - shaking, drooling, or drooping ears. If these are present, turn off the car until your dog calms down.
- Do not attempt to calm him down. Soothing and attention to the anxiety can reinforce the behaviour.
- Once he can manage this, go for a short drive, not more than five minutes. Preferably go to a place he enjoys, like a park. Reward him with a toy, treat, or praise.
- Continue this desensitisation over several sessions until your dog is no longer queasy in the car.
Quick travel hacks
- An empty stomach is the best illness prevention. Don't feed your pet for up to five hours before a long car ride.
- Travel with his crate - if it can be securely fastened on the car's seat or floor. It comforts your dog and gives him a place to lie down.
- If car sickness is truly motion related, your vet can also prescribe medications.
- If the problem persists, speak to your vet for medical solutions.