i have a small dog that is terrified of the car. why? and what can i do?

every time she sees, or even when she thinks i'm taking her to the car she digs her heels in and makes you drag her or pick her up. when the car is moving she sits on the floor in the back seat and shakes and pants. i don't know if it's motion sickness because she has never thrown up. it can't be a bad association because we only take her fun places like hiking and camping which she loves. i can't think of any time in her life that she could have had a real bad experience in the car, she is only 2. she was better in the old car a honda civic than she is in the new car, toyota corrolla, but could that really matter? i have tried holding her up so she can see out, but she just wants back on the floor. i have tried treats in the car and she won't have it. i really need to do something because i feel real guilty every time i make her ride in the car. i love taking her places, and shes happy when ever we get there, but i feel like i'm torturing her. what can i do?

Asked by Member 649793 on Jul 5th 2008 in Car Travel
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There is no answer to the why? question. It just is.

What do you do? Crate! her! Use her regular crate if it is small enough to move easily, otherwise purchase a travel crate. Mine folds up very easily and stores in a small amount of space.

Lily answered on 7/5/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer


Since she's small, she might just be very uncomfortable and scared in an unstable, big, moving environment.

Try putting her in a travel crate with a blanket over the top, and give her something she loves, such as a favorite type of toy, some treats, or a Kong toy stuffed with her favorite food, something that will keep her mind off of being in the car. Being in the crate with the blanket will help her feel safe and secure.

It sounds like you're doing everything else right with always making it a good experience being in the car, I just think she needs some help to feel safe.

Good luck!

Abby answered on 7/5/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer


Maybelle has the same problem. When we first got her she was fine in the car, but when we started taking her to the groomer's she would shake and hide in the car. I mean, it can't be bad association, cuz she only goes to the groomer's every couple of months, and she goes to plently of fun places in the car too. On the way home she's pretty good though, I guess it's just cuz she doesn't know where she's going.

♥Maybelle♥ answered on 7/5/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer

Jazzy (:

I agree, since she is small, that would make her be a bit terrified of it. When she is shaking and panting int he car, that just means she is nervous. Jazzy and the other girls do the same thing, they think we are taking them to the vet. You may try getting a carry/soft crate to put her in. Try it, but if it is motion sickness she will trhow up in there. Anna throws up in the crate but not when she is in the back seat. If you sit her in another seat while you are driving that may be the problem, she might want to be in your lap while you are driving.
I hope I helped.
Jazz and Mom

Jazzy (: answered on 7/5/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 6 Report this answer


You might want to try desensitizing her to the car. First put her in the car and let her sit in it without going anywhere. When she is calm tell her what a good girl she is. It's not a good idea to try and soothe a dog that is nervous this just tells her its ok to be nervous and reinforces her fears, only praise her when she is calm. Take her out of the car and go about your business. Do the same thing again, put her in the car, let her sit and don't go anywhere, take her out and go about your business. Next put her in the car, back out of the driveway and pull back in, let her out and go about your business. Each time you put her in the car go a little further and don't soothe her fears, just praise her when she is calm. Obviously this may take a few weeks to a month but hopefully she will become accustomed to the car. Good Luck.

Roxie answered on 7/5/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 6 Report this answer


Moxie has never (ever) liked being in the car. She pants the whole time and cannot lie or sit down no matter how long the ride is. We too don't know if it's mild car sickness (nature) or a bad early experience (Nurture).

What has been effective is ignoring the pleas and whines and not trying to make the situation 'better.' When we get in the car she gets placed in her dog seat and very clearly commanded to stay there. She's still ill-at-ease, panting, etc. but it's much safer and she's less anxious

I think by our not appearing concerned she is less concerned about her time in the car (even though she's still Shakey McPants a lot)

Finally, it may sound cold, but I've learned with dogs overtime, that it's okay to not let normal human feeling such as guilt take hold. If she enjoys being at other places and is not experiencing real pain or injury, then accept she's not going to be a happy car dog and that she'll be happy when she gets there =)

Moxie answered on 7/11/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer


Try a crate. My 50# dog is terrified until she gets into her crate. That is the only time she is crated. Go figure.

Sable answered on 7/14/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer


I have a Miniature Schnauser who does the same thing. We have a sedative from the vet that helps, but I would sure like to try something else and I would be interested in getting any ideas from your email question. Thanks...Mary

Chuey answered on 7/14/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 1 Report this answer


I think Roxie has the right idea. Desensitize her to the car. This can take a long time but it will be well worth it for her and you. I would agree not to fuss over her because she may interpret this as you're also being worried and this may increase her anxiety. If she is crated at home then she very well may feel much more secure in her crate making sure that it is seat belted and secure so that it moves as little as possible when she does. Placing a phone book under it toward the back of the rear seat works well to keep the floor of the kennel level. It would also help you to have her heal calmly to the car on leash, assuming she has obedience training (this also increases their confidence)do this by desensitizing her to approaching the car too. Use treats and only slowly work your way up to the car. Go as close as you can until she begins to show the first signs of anxiety (ear set, licking her lips, yawning etc) . Give treats moving towards the car and none when going away from it

Paycee answered on 7/14/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 2 Report this answer

Toot Toot

Toot Toot is the same way. But she's not afraid of the pick-up or car she's riding in. In fact, she begs to go and makes us feel very guilty if she's left at home! She didn't start panting and shaking until we moved into a much more "metro" area with lots of traffic and gravel trucks. We are in the process of moving back to a quieter place in the country and she rides happily until we get into the high traffic/gravel truck area. So my opinion is that your dog may be like Toot Toot and is scared of the other traffic Who wouldn't be if they were as little as they are? If so, all I can tell you is that nothing else other than low traffic area's will work 100%, although a crate will help some along with lots of love and understanding. Tooty responded well to being held and petted by myself and/or my husband when the other was driving.

Toot Toot answered on 7/14/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 1 Report this answer


Train her to a travel crate for sleeping at night or when you are away for short periods. Teach her it is a safe haven. Then put her in the crate for travel. She will not only be safer, but she will feel secure.

Member 309131 answered on 7/14/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 2 Report this answer


I have a doberman obviously much bigger than your dog and he would throw up and drool in the car. I started feeding him in the car every day for about 2 weeks and he would go right in the car (food! food!). After the 2 weeks I started the car and we stayed there for about 5 minutes everyday, then drove out of driveway and back in, then took short trips around the block. Now he goes to Florida every winter in the back of my Navigator on his mat.

Gunner answered on 7/14/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 3 Report this answer


I agree with Roxie. You have to take the time to desensitize your dog. However, I would also like to add the use of a doggy seat. We have two Yorkies that love to ride in the car because they are comfortable and can see out of the car windows. Most importantly they are riding safely in the car because our doggy seats have straps that attach to their harnesses. I highly recommend some sort of restraint for your dog. Imagine what would happen even in a small fender-bender! Good luck!

Gnocchi answered on 7/14/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 2 Report this answer


Have you ever tried having a training session with her in the car when it's just sitting in your driveway? Get her comfortable with getting in and out of the car while it's not moving. Give her some good treats and then end the training session. I definately think a crate is a great idea but ideally we want her to be comfortable in her crate while in the car. Another thing to consider is if she's used to a crate in the house. Just sticking her in a crate if she's not used to that can add even more stress.
When you're doing the "car training" sessions, keep them short and positive. Once seems like she can relax in a non moving car, try it with the engine running. Eventually progress to just backing out of the driveway and build the distance. Focus on keeping the entire experience positive.
Hope this helps

Member 226125 answered on 7/14/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 1 Report this answer


Think of Rescue Remedy which is a concentrated combination of several organic flower essences. Found at health food stores or pharmacies and extremely gentle, it needs to touch mucus membranes or given olfactorily. You could try placing it in her water bowel making sure she takes a few sips before travel, but by your description- it is doubtful you can get her to drink when you want her to.
A few drops in a small spray bottle and then filled with water is helpful to have on hand. A spritz in the area of the car where she might go, or gently spraying it where she might breathe it is another way. A dropperful or squirt into her mouth- and she might immediately calm down. It is helpful for anxieties of any kind -great for people or animals and useful to have in your medicine cabinet.
Perhaps find a homeopathic consultant who could work with you both by matching a remedy to her overall state and aid her with a gentle wonderful alternative method of healing. It is safe and effective!

Member 644703 answered on 7/14/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 1 Report this answer


Excessive drooling is a sign of anxiety and car sickness. Panting (with a smile..fear grimace) is a sign of anxiety or excited state. Shaking and trembling means the dog is having a panic attack.

To neutralize some of these symptoms you will want to take your dog on short trips and then gradually increase the time she's in the car and always follow with a reward. For instance, the first week back the car out of the driveway, stop, take her out of the car and follow it up with a fun game of fetch or give a food reward.

The second week, take the car around the block and return home, then reward her. Week three go two blocks and return home and reward her.

Do not look directly at her in the car. Do not turn around to check on her. Do not talk her down from the perch. Often a dog picks up on its owners anxiety and it fuels fear.

You will want to keep an eye on her for behavioral changes without her noticing. Rear view mirror? If you see she is regressing, go back to step one.

Member 523391 answered on 7/15/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 1 Report this answer


leave her on the floor. if she's not running around, you can try covering her eyes with a baby receiving blanket. i get scared, too. i tremble when i hears the trucks and cars pass by but once my mom covered my eyes and i didn't see where the noise was coming from i calmed down.

Jetta answered on 7/15/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer


You might try try something called "Sleepytime Tonic" it will help her to relax not fall asleep, just calms a nervous, anxious or overactive dog. It's perfect for thunderstorms, traveling, etc. It's all natural. I am buying some for my little pooch. I'm getting it thru Happytails. If you want get hold of me for the info.

Member 578228 answered on 7/15/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer


We put both Mocha and Buster in their crates because it's safer if you're involved in an accident. Buster, at 95 pounds can really slobber up the windows if they're available, and his bark at a passing truck can give us heart failure. Mocha is the nervous one, and what really helped her was attaching one of those crate fans. It gives her more air and covers the noise of passing trucks. We got one for Buster too, because of the extra air. We plug them into the cigarette lighters with converters, but they do take batteries too.

Buster answered on 7/15/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer


I don't know if your pup is the same as mine, but with mine I figured out that she got scared because when rocks fly up and hit the front of the car it can be almost like the fourth of July to dog. What we hear are the bigger rocks hitting the car, but they hear them all, even through the radio. So it can be especially traumatic for them on the freeway. So, what I did with mine was take her for short trips only in town. So far she has gotten over her fear of the car, but she still gets scared as soon as we start up the on ramp to any freeway. So I am still taking her for short trips in town only, and like you do, only to fun places. Hope it helps. Take Care.

Brad, and Candy

Candy answered on 7/15/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 1 Report this answer


it may be because shes small and the car is big maybe you need a carrier or to have her close to you so she will feel safe!

Member 626342 answered on 7/22/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer