Dog Car Anxiety: Everything You Need to Know

If your beloved dog gets agitated or shows signs of distress in a moving vehicle, it is most likely due to anxiety. Dog car ride anxiety is a common problem. It makes life difficult for both owners and dogs because you need to take your dog to the vet regularly in the car. It also limits you from taking your dog on trips you can both enjoy. Fortunately, there are ways to help your dog overcome dog car anxiety.

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Dog Car Anxiety Symptoms

Following are some symptoms of dog anxiety in a car. Your dog may show only a few of these symptoms.

  • Not wanting to get into a vehicle
  • Trying to get out of the vehicle
  • Trembling
  • Whimpering or whining
  • Excessive barking
  • Heavy panting
  • Salivating excessively
  • Hyperactivity or fidgeting
  • Excessive yawning
  • Licking paws continuously
  • Vomiting
  • Urinating
  • Defecating
  • Diarrhea

Reasons for Dog Car Anxiety

One of the main reasons for dog car anxiety is that your dog has associated a car ride with something fearful. For instance, when a puppy is brought to a new home, his first car ride comes right after being separated from his mother and siblings.

Afterward, the dog associates the car ride with trips to the vet. Most dogs do not like getting examined and receiving shots in the vet clinic. If that is the destination of most car rides for your dog, the car will always cause anxiety.

Your dog may also fear the vehicle’s vibration, the sound of the engine, the car horn, and noises from traffic. Getting off-balance as the vehicle moves and stops intermittently will also cause fear.

Dog Motion Sickness

Another common reason for dog car anxiety is motion sickness. Some dogs get nauseous from the vehicle’s motion. If this is the cause of anxiety, it must be addressed.

Ask your vet to check on your dog and request the appropriate motion sickness medication. This is given before each trip. Follow the dosage prescribed and how many hours before the trip it should be given.

If your dog responds to treatment, it may eliminate dog car anxiety. However, in some cases, the dog has already associated car rides with feeling nauseous. Even if the nausea is no longer there with medication, the anxiety can remain. Fortunately, you can learn how to calm dog anxiety in a car.

dogs in the back of a car

Dog Car Anxiety Solutions

Here are some dog car anxiety solutions you can implement.


It is essential to get your dog to associate the car with positive feelings. You must not force this. Since your dog is already anxious about the car, start by playing near the vehicle. Whenever he looks at the car, give him a treat. Do this daily. Progressively stay closer to the car while playing with your dog.

Next, have the car door open before going out with your dog. Progressively move closer to the open car door until you are playing right beside it. Continue to praise your dog and give treats. Do not force him to get into the car.

Once he is comfortable playing beside the open car door, try putting the treat on the car seat where he can get it without entering the car. Let him get used to this for a few days.

Afterward, put the treat farther in so he has to get into the car to reach it. Praise him and give additional treats when he does so. If your dog is too small to get into the car alone, help him once he moves toward the car. Allow your dog to leave the car any time he wants to. Make this a game for several days.

Gradually increase your dog’s time in the car by playing with him there. Then try closing the door. If he shows signs of distress, open it immediately. Allow him to go or stay as he pleases. Try to extend the time that the door is closed every day. Play some music. You can find music specifically meant to calm dog car anxiety.

Once your dog is comfortable playing in the car with the door closed, start using the regular dog seatbelt. Continue playing with him for several days with music until he associates wearing the restraint with positive feelings. Make a game out of going out of the house, getting into the car, closing the door, and playing.

The next step is to have your dog get used to your being in the driver’s seat while he plays in the back in his seatbelt. Talk to him while you sit in front.

After a few days, turn the car engine on. If your dog panics, turn it off. Give him a treat. Try to have the engine on for more extended periods. Continue to play calming music and talk to your dog. He will soon realize that the sound of the engine is no threat.

Once you feel your dog is ready, drive the car for a short while. Start with just a few meters. Always end with a treat. Make the ride longer every day. Finally, end the ride in a dog park or wherever he can have fun. Ensure that he has a great experience there. Do this often.


In addition to calming music, you can spray the car with dog pheromones similar to those released by their mom when suckling. Some dogs also feel comforted when wearing compression jackets.

You can further help your dog by keeping him as comfortable as possible. Ensure that he does not have a full stomach before a car trip. Keep your dog facing the front of the vehicle to see you. Put him on a favorite blanket or soft bed as a comfort zone. Lower the car window a bit to let fresh air in. Also, keep your trips as short as possible.

Dog Transportation

Sometimes, you need pet transport to have your dog brought to you. It is crucial to ensure that your hired service does not trigger dog car anxiety. All dog transport companies must know how to prevent or manage this problem.

Pet Van Lines offers reliable and stress-free nationwide ground transport for dogs, with drivers trained in reducing dog anxiety. Get a free quote now for your dog’s safe transportation.

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