How to Keep Your Dog Calm on Car Rides

small terrier mix in a car and wearing a dog car harness

For some dogs, an adventure in the car can be the highlight of their week! However, they can get too excited and act up, which can become a danger in your car. For other dogs, a car ride can be a very stressful experience. They might exhibit signs of overstimulation, or experience motion sickness or anxiety. In either case, driving can be stressful for you and your dog. Here’s how to keep your dog calm on car rides:

1. Introduce Your Dog to Your Car

Dogs do best in familiar environments, and your car may not be that familiar to them. Getting them to associate positive feelings with your car can help alleviate stress.

Trying the counterconditioning technique can be very helpful in keeping your dog calmer during car rides. Counterconditioning works to create positive experiences for stressful situations, such as separation anxiety. Rewarding your dog with treats or praise in the car will help them adjust to the car.

Start the process in small increments. Let them hang out in your car, and get a feel for the layout. Reward them for trying it out. Next, start your car and take a short trip, like around the block or even just to the of your driveway. Be sure to reward them for giving it a chance.

Be sure to monitor their behavior as you are in the car. If possible, it’s helpful to have another person in the car, either to drive or to comfort your pup and give treats and praise.

2. Stay Calm

It’s very important to try and stay calm while driving or in a car with your dog. Dogs can sense human emotions very well, so they will be able to feel your stress if you begin to panic. If they begin to act up, remember not to yell at them.

Yelling at your dog will alert them to your stress and will only make the situation worse. Instead, stay calm and talk in soothing tones. This will help your dog stay calmer and associate the car with a calm environment.

3. Provide Mental Stimulation

Some dogs get overwhelmed on car rides and a way to distract them is to offer different types of mental stimulation. It can be helpful to cover or darken your windows so your dog isn’t overstimulated by the constantly changing scenery. Make sure they have their favorite toys to keep them company.

According to one study, some dogs may respond well to aromatherapy with scents like lavender and chamomile. Try soaking some cotton balls in these essential oils and having them in the car with your dog. Just make sure your dog cannot get close enough to eat them!

If your dog is exhibiting extreme excitement, it could be because it’s their only outlet. Make sure your dog is getting adequate exercise. Making every pit stop a walk stop is one of the tips for traveling with dogs and can help make sure your dog can get some exercise during the trip. This will help your dog manage stress and feel more at ease.

4. Use a Crate

Using a crate in the car will give your dog a sense of security. It’s also one of the car safety tips for dogs because a crate or a secure seatbelt harness also will keep them from crawling all over the car, which can be distracting and dangerous to the driver.

Make sure the crate you’re using is certified for use in vehicles and, if possible, choose a crate that allows your dog room to stand. Dogs feel less anxious when they can change positions. When dogs feel secure in their crate, they will enjoy their car ride a lot more. This can also help reduce car sickness in dogs.

These are just a few ways to keep your dog calm on car rides. Implementing these tips will hopefully make car rides a lot less stressful for both you and your pup!