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10 Signs that Your Dog Hates Car Rides (And What to Do About It)

Dogs may hate car rides for a wide range of reasons but there are ways to make your pet more comfortable while traveling.

August 2, 2022 5 min read
10 Signs that Your Dog Hates Car Rides (And What to Do About It)

Many dogs love traveling. The fresh air in their face, new sights, and the excitement of going to a new place can be a fun experience for your canine companion. However, car rides are not well received by all dogs.

Some dogs find car rides to be a frightening or stressful experience. Not knowing why your pet is reacting in a certain way towards car travel or how to relieve his discomfort can be disheartening to pet owners.

If you’d like to cease your dog’s distaste for car rides, you’ll need to implement some strategies to help your pet overcome his irrational fears. Here are some signs that your dog hates car rides and how to help your dog warm up to car travel.

Signs that Your Dog Hates Car Rides

  1. Uneasiness

Dogs often become uneasy when exposed to stimuli that they find uncomfortable. Your dog may be uneasy due to the sight of the car itself, the car in motion, having to sit in the backseat or a series of other triggers. Dogs that are uneasy may shake, shiver, or display unusual changes in body posture, such as stillness.

  1. Yawning

Yawning is often considered a sign of boredom or fatigue. However, in dogs yawning can actually be a sign that your pet is stressed. The biggest difference between the two is that stressful yawns tend to be more prolonged and intense compared to sleepy yawns.

  1. Panting

Dogs may pant for a wide range of reasons, such as when they are hot or excited. They also pant when experiencing stress. Excessive panting, coupled with other signs of distress, can often signal that your dog is not enjoying the car ride. However, it’s important to rule out other possible causes, such as it being too hot in the vehicle.

  1. Whining

Just like small children, dogs may whine when they are feeling scared, stressed, or anxious. Whining is one of the few ways that dogs can verbally communicate with their owner. Some dogs will whine for other reasons, such as attention, food, a toy, or when they are in pain.

  1. Lip-Licking

You may notice that your dog frequently licks his lips while riding in the car. Unless there is food around and your pet wants a taste, you can usually assume there is another cause. Lip licking is often referred to as an appeasement gesture and dogs exhibit this behavior when uncomfortable or stressed.

  1. Drooling

Some breeds of dogs drool naturally, such as Bloodhounds, Newfoundlands, Mastiffs, and Saint Bernards. However, if your dog usually doesn’t drool and only does it in the car, anxiety could be a factor. Anxiety-ridden drooling is often accompanied by trembling, panting, or other signs of nervousness.

  1. Changes in Eyes and Ears

When looking for signs that your pet may be stressed, pay attention to the eyes and ears. When stressed, your dog’s pupils may become dilated and he may begin to blink rapidly. Stressed dogs may also open their eyes widely to reveal more sclera (white) than usual. When on alert, your dog’s ears may be pinned back against his head.

  1. Shedding

A normal amount of shedding is normal for dogs; however, if your dog starts to shed excessively in the car, it could be due to anxiety. When your pet is stressed, there is a release of epinephrine which results in some hair loss.

  1. Vomiting

Stress caused by unwanted car rides can cause tummy troubles in some pets. When fearful or upset, there is an increase in nerve activity that causes spasms within the intestines. Stress hormones can direct blood away from the intestines, resulting in vomiting and sometimes diarrhea. This vomiting and diarrhea can continue to occur for up to 48 hours after the stressful event.

  1. Urination/Defecation

It is not uncommon for dogs to experience changes in bodily functions while stressed in a vehicle. Your dog who is normally house trained may have the sudden urge to use the bathroom inside the car. Getting into a vehicle can also cause some dogs to engage in marking behavior.

How to Help Your Dog that Hates Car Rides

When helping your dog become more comfortable with car rides, it’s important to go slow and not force your pet if possible. The goal is to create a positive association with the experience.

Start by enticing your pet to the vehicle instead of physically putting him inside. You could do this by creating a trail of treats that lead to the backseat or by providing lots of praise as you slowly edge your way to the vehicle. Just like people, dogs can have phobias and it’s important to allow your dog to gradually get used to the idea of car rides.

Take time to bond with your pet inside the vehicle. This should be done initially when the car is parked and you have time to put your entire focus on your pet. Allow your dog ample time to smell the vehicle, look out the windows, and get used to simply being in the car before you even start the ignition. Start with the car doors open and slowly close them as your pet becomes more comfortable.

Some dogs can handle shorter trips but don’t do as well with extended drives. If possible, start with very short drives to get your pet more comfortable with the idea. For example, go around the block and come back home. It’s also a good idea to bring your pet to fun destinations, such as the park or drive-thru so that he associates car rides with fun. If your pet continues to experience severe stress during car rides, speak with your vet about alternative ways to keep your pet calm and happy.

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