Travel sickness is a rare condition that can take hold of certain dogs just as it can individual people.
Understanding the cause and effects of travel sickness in dogs as well as, obviously, identifying a potential cure for the problem is often easier said than done.
Some dogs get carsick just the same as many small children do. Not all dogs who suffer car sickness dislike travelling. Equally, dogs who have a deep dislike for car travel are not always travel sick.
This is a guide to help dogs who don't like car travel to become more comfortable with the experience.
If you depend on a car for most of your transportation, you will want to help your puppy overcome carsickness as quickly and easily as possible. You can do a number of things to help your dog avoid or overcome travel sickness.
Help your dog form a positive association with the car.
Without starting the engine, sit in the car with your dog on your lap for a few minutes every day. Praise your dog but don't overdo it, the idea here is to simply get the dog to view the car as another environment in which not much happens.
If your car is kept in a secure place, such as a driveway with protection from the road, you can sit with your dog in the boot of the car with the boot open.
Just sit there, allow the dog to explore on their own terms. Don't make a big deal of it. As your dog sees you sitting in and around the car, they will begin to realise nothing dramatic is going to happen.
You can take a ball or toy and encourage the dog to play with it in the boot while you sit there calmly.
Another effective method for getting the dog to make a positive association with the car is by feeding them in the boot with the lid open.
This can be in the form of treats or go the whole hog and actually give them their main meal in the boot of the car (again, keeping the boot lid open initially so they don't feel trapped).
If your dog is happy to have their meals in the boot of the car and you are able to repeat this exercise on a daily basis, you'll soon notice how eager they are to get to the car and may even start jumping into the boot happily.
As with anything that your dog is afraid of or unsure of, the objective of our training is to flood the dog with only positive, safe emotions around the object of their fear.
Our job is to be calm, not overly excited and to ensure we can control the environment so nothing upsets the dogs while we are in this most vital phase. Only positive or neutral associations.
I sometimes play a game where I throw a tennis ball into the boot of the car and allow my dog to retrieve it.
I then advance this game by allowing the dog to see me place a ball in the boot of the car (again, boot lid open at all times), before walking the dog in the opposite direction on a lead and then I send them for the retrieve.
I find that even before they've realised what they're doing, a dog who was previously very fearful of getting in a car will sprint to the back of the vehicle, leap into the boot and then bring the ball for me.
This creates two great associations for the dog:
1. The car is not a trap. It is possible to get in the car and get out of the car.
2. The car is just another place where fun things can happen.
After a week of these positive association games, start the motor. Allow your dog to explore the car, let them become comfortable in the environment while the engine is on but the car is stationary.
Praise, making the experience agreeable but don't go over the top. We want to keep things calm and normal. After a week of repeating this, we can try a short journey.
Take a short ride around the block. Each week increase slightly the distance that you travel. (One-week intervals for each of these steps are not cast in stone. Shorten or lengthen the time depending on your dog's reaction.)
Be sure that when you ride with your dog, you do your best to monitor their anxiety levels (while driving safely, of course!).
If they start to express growing anxiety, don't worry about going back to the start of the training process.
Once your dog begins obedience training and understands to lie down and stay, employ this exercise in the car when travelling. Associate trips in the car with fun.
Every car ride should not end up at the veterinarian, groomer, or boarding kennel. Use the car to take your dog to the beach, park, or woods.
One of the biggest reasons why dogs develop travel anxiety is because, from the very earliest moments of their lives, car travel is associated with upsetting experiences.
Think about it. Car ride one is often the journey that takes them away from their mother, siblings and the only environment they've ever known.
Car ride two might be to the vet's for an injection. Before we know it, we've accidentally trained our young dog to associate the car with things that they find upsetting.
Our job is to banish those memories by associating the car with fun.
Most dogs, like most children, outgrow travel sickness. Car travel sickness for dogs can be a result of anxiety at being in the car, being given food too close to the journey or, quite simply, motion makes them nauseous.
By doing the work to ensure our dog is relaxed whilst in the car we can eliminate anxiety as a driver of sickness. By planning our journey better and ensuring we feed our dog after, rather than prior, to car journeys, we can eliminate food as a cause.
For dogs who just get sick as a result of the motion of the car, in my experience, this is something that we largely have to learn to live with.
Like people, some dogs just get sick when they're in a vehicle. Sometimes it happens a lot, other times they can get through a journey without issue.
In the interim, doing the right things can minimise messes, limit nervousness, and shorten the time it takes for your dog to learn that car rides can be a lot of fun.
If none of the above steps seems to help, contact your veterinarian. In this article we're not going to touch on the medical approach to curing dog travel sickness, we'll leave that for a future article as it is a subject in its own right.
13 Things to Take With You When Travelling With a Dog
In order to have a comfortable and enjoyable time when travelling with your dog, you need to prepare certain things ahead of time. You need to be ready in case of an emergency or any unpredictable situation that may occur.
So keep in mind the following 13 items and make sure that you have them ready and available before you go on that road trip with your dog.
1. A dog crate or den with a small blanket inside for your dog's safety and comfort, or a seatbelt harness if you prefer to have him stay on the seat.
2. An adequate supply of dog food to last for the entire trip. Make sure to bring enough extra food, especially if your dog is a fussy eater.
3. At least three gallons of extra water for your dog. If you are going to a different country, keep in mind that the water there may be different from the water you have at home.
Since your dog may be sensitive to the differences in the water which could make him sick, be sure that you carry enough water to last for the entire trip.
4. A water bowl, particularly one that is heavy enough to prevent spilling so that it can be used inside a moving vehicle. An alternative to this is to teach your dog how to drink out of a water bottle.
5. A first-aid kit specifically made for your dog.
6. A suitable collar with a clear and legible ID tag.
7. Two – five chew toys.
8. Extra toys for him to play with, which will also help to keep him busy during the road trip.
9. An extra lead and extra collar. It's amazing how many problems you can encounter if your dog's lead and collar break!
10. Any vitamins or medication that he is currently taking.
11. Paper towels and plastic bags to clean up after his potty breaks.
12. His regular grooming kit, which includes a brush, flea comb, nail clippers, toothbrush, and other items that you regularly use during his grooming sessions.
13. Thick towels and large blankets in case he decides to jump in a river or run on the muddy ground when you stop the vehicle for breaks.
Essential Pet Travel Supplies: Recommended by K9 Magazine