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Puppy Travel: Car Rides

6 Training Tips for Puppy Car Travel

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Puppy Travel: Car Rides

Make sure your puppy is restrained in a crate or behind a barrier.

©Amy Shojai, CABC

Puppy travel and car rides can be a hassle especially if your puppy fears or hates the car. My first puppy threw fits, cried, and even got sick on the drive home from the breeder. And that experience probably colored his entire future expectation of car rides.

Why Puppies Hate Cars

The first ride in the car takes him away from the only family he’s ever known. The next several car rides end up at the veterinarian for needle pokes for puppy vaccinations and rude cold thermometers inserted in uncomfortable places.

New owners want to comfort the frightened, fussy baby. But whining back at your cry-puppy can backfire. That tells the puppy that you agree that there’s a good reason to fuss, and that car rides ARE horrible!

6 Tips to Ease Travel Fears

Instead, associate cars with fun, happy experiences instead of just trips to the vet. The process, called desensitization, takes patience and time, but works whether a pet acts scared, sick, or just hyper. And once your puppy realizes a car ride means wonderful things she’ll look forward to every trip.

  1. Make meal time car time. For very frightened pups just set the bowl next to the car. After several days when she’s used to that, feed her in the back seat while leaving the car door open.
  2. In between times, throw treats in the open car door for the pup to find, and play fun games near the car. She should learn that only these good things in life happen when you’re near the car.
  3. Next, when your pup’s eating or otherwise distracted in the back seat, get in the front seat behind the steering wheel. Just sit there for a while, no big deal, then get out, so she understands nothing scary happens when you’re in the car too. Do this for one day.
  4. The next day, when you’re behind the wheel and your puppy’s munching treats in the back seat, start the car. Then turn off the motor and get out without going anywhere. Do this three or four times during the day until the pet takes it as a matter of course.
  5. Finally, after you start the car, back the car to the end of the driveway and stop—do this two or three times in a row, always letting the pet out after you return. If the puppy whines or paces or shows stress, you may be moving too fast for him. The process takes forever! but it works.
  6. Continue increasing the car-time by increments—a trip around the block and then home, then a trip to the nearest fun place like the park before returning home. Go somewhere you know your dog will enjoy—get him French fries at the nearest fast food restaurant, or a doggy treat from the tellers at the bank or dry cleaner. Make every car trip upbeat and positive so the experience makes the dog look forward to the next trip.

It’s a very good idea to crate train and confine your puppy while in the moving car. A loose animal inside the car can be dangerous both to the pet and the driver so invest in a seat belt, car barrier and/or a carrier. Puppies can be crushed by airbags deploying so keep the little guy in the back seat. Once she’s too big to fit in a car-size crate, consider installing a gated barrier or fit him with a harness and seat-belt him for safety.

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