Dogs Trust

Problems travelling in vehicles

From a dog's point of view, travelling in a vehicle is really strange and potentially frightening – animals evolved to walk everywhere on foot and so it can be really difficult to persuade them that car, bus or train travel is safe!

These can include:

  • Barking at things outside of the car
  • Whimpering, shaking or salivating during travel
  • Sickness or diarrhoea
  • Jumping around excitedly in the car
  • Destructive behaviour in the car - chewing the car interior

Possible causes include:

  • Over-excitement in anticipation of an exciting or fearful event at the end of the journey, i.e. a walk or visit to the vet
  • Car sickness, or fear of the car's motion
  • Aggression or protectiveness of the car
  • Over-stimulation from seeing exciting things out of the car windows

So, what can you do?

  • Choose a period of time when you'll be able to avoid taking your dog anywhere in the car for a few weeks. During this time, you'll need to do the following training.
  • Start by getting your dog a new mat or towel that can be taken anywhere. Then bring the mat out for lots of short sessions (10 minutes max.) where you ask your dog to lay down on his mat for treats and lots of calm stroking and praise. The idea is to build an association for your dog between calm, happy behaviour and sitting on his mat. Only bring out the mat for these sessions and put it away again afterwards.
  • After a couple of weeks of doing this everyday in the home (the more often the better), you can start doing the same with the mat and your dog in the car with the engine off. If all goes well, after a few days, try it with the engine on. Then move the car forward a few feet and back, slowly building up to very short journeys, middle length journeys and then finally long journeys.
  • For very bad problems you may need to see a behaviourist or trainer to assist you.