auto(mobile) anxiety

Picture that classic scene of a carefree dog and his owner traveling down life’s big open road together. The dog is gleefully peeking out the window, mouth open, ears flapping in the wind. But not all pets enjoy car rides — and some are downright terrified of them. If your pet falls into the latter category and a car ride is imminent, read on for tips to calm your scaredy-cat (or dog).

motion commotion

Car anxiety can stem from motion sickness in some pets, especially youngsters. To combat nausea:

  • Encourage your pet to face forward, so his visual cues match what his brain is telling him about his movement. The best way to do this is with a proper pet restraint system (which will also keep your pet safe in the event of an accident).
  • Crack a window to ensure a steady stream of fresh air.
  • Ask your vet about the use of over-the-counter or prescription motion sickness medications.

peaceful, easy feeling

There are a few ways to help pets relax before you head out:

  • Spray dog- or cat-specific pheromones on your dog’s travel seat or your cat’s carrier blanket to help him feel more relaxed.
  • Many owners and veterinarians swear by Rescue Remedy, a homeopathic tincture that helps some pets relax without sedation. You can administer it by mouth prior to your trip, or put it in your pet’s water bowl the day of your planned outing. Ask your vet if this is a good idea for your pet.

car conditioning

Pets with severe car anxiety will need patience and dedication as you recondition them to the car. Go back to basics and show your pet the car can be a fun (and yummy!) place:

  • Start by simply having your dog or cat sit in a parked car, all the while praising and treating like crazy. Do this two or three times a day. Once your pet accepts this calmly, go a half step further.
  • Turn the car on, but don’t go anywhere. Again, give tons of tiny treats and praise until your pet is completely comfortable.
  • Next, coast to the end of your driveway, offering treats and praise.
  • You get the picture. If at any point your pet shows anxiety, go back to the prior step.

Once your pet can ride easy, choose a fun spot to visit together or just enjoy a nice, carefree ride with your best friend.