Handling your dog’s car sickness

Photo by Martin Usborne.

My childhood dog, Emma, was not a great car passenger. The car made her extremely anxious and caused her to drool uncontrollably and vomit (even when the car was standing still). At the time, we were all fairly ignorant of any training techniques to mitigate her car sickness/fear. Her vet recommended Dramamine and so we gave her a small dose any time we had to take her anywhere in the car. It mostly worked, but she was always (understandably) woozy whenever we arrived at our destination.

Because of her terror of the car, we didn’t often take Emma anywhere. I always regretted this and have since been hoping for a dog who was an easy passenger. But I don’t know if I’ve actually encountered any dogs who actually enjoyed the car; most of them who are termed “good in the car” seem to express small signs of distress. Bo, for example, totally balks any time we ask him to jump in the Jeep. I always have to pick him up and put him in. Once we start going, he doesn’t get sick, but he does drool more and seem anxious about the whole endeavor. In another instance, I once took a short car ride with my friend Anna and her German shepherd Heidi. Anna told me that Heidi was great in the car, but Heidi flipped out for the duration of the ride. She kept trying to climb into both of our laps (a restraint would have been a good idea) and started crying and screaming like she was in physical pain–but as soon as we opened the door, she was happy-go-lucky and acted like she had no memory of her former panic attack. It was a stressful 10-minute car trip, to say the least.

So, if you have a dog who rides well in the car, how did you do it? Is it something you trained, or did you just get lucky? Do you have any tips for training a dog out of his or her fear of the car? I’m all ears!