Why Do Dogs Get Scared In The Car

If you adore your dog, you’ll want to bring them wherever you go. even if it necessitates using a vehicle. While many dogs enjoy automobile rides, some dislike them and may even slobber, sneeze, or even vomit. This may be the result of motion sickness, a negative driving experience in the past, such as an accident, or fear of being confined within a huge, moving machine. Even if the typical destination is an unpleasant place, like the vet, a dog may avoid car excursions. Everyone can become unhappy in the car if your dog isn’t content. Teach your dog to ride in the car quietly and comfortably so they may be a great travel buddy.

Teach Your Dog to Love the Car

Although it is easiest to prevent car issues in young puppies, employing desensitization and counterconditioning, any dog can be trained to associate the car with great things. Desensitization is a way for introducing your dog to the car gradually and step-by-step. By making positive things happen inside and around the automobile, you can rewire your dog’s emotional response from one that is negative to one that is positive.

You might need to start teaching your dog to ride in the car from ten feet away while the car is parked in the driveway, depending on how strongly they react. You might also begin by placing your dog on the back seat. The key is to locate the spot where your dog feels secure and calm before gradually advancing. Give your dog something he loves, such a special toy, delectable treats, or a meal, at each step of the process. You two can even engage in cooperative activities or practice certain tricks. Whatever helps your dog associate the car with fun and food is acceptable. When your dog is wholly at ease at this distance, only approach. Your movement was too quick if your dog stopped eating or playing. Simply go back a step or two until your dog calms down, then start over. It might only take a few minutes or it might take weeks to get you in the automobile. Move slowly and follow your dog’s lead.

It’s now time to include the other components that come before a drive. such as occupying the driver’s seat, shutting the doors, or activating the remote locks. Remember to add something lovely to each step. Play tug-of-war with one another or toss snacks into the rear seat. Keep in mind that dogs need to be securely fastened in a moving vehicle, so include a crate or car harness connected to a seat belt in your dog training regimen. The last stage in teaching your dog to ride in a car is to start and stop the engine. Let your dog get used to the sound of the engine by associating it with food, entertainment, and games before you leave.

Teach Your Dog to Enjoy Riding in the Car

You can now introduce motion to the situation as your dog looks forward to riding in the car. Start by traveling only a few feet, say to the end of the driveway and back. Increase the amount of time spent driving in incrementally smaller amounts. Make every trip as enjoyable as you can, just like you did previously. While you’re driving, compliment your dog and talk in a supportive, upbeat manner. Better yet, if you can get a friend to accompany you and offer your dog praise while you travel. When you first leave the house, go to places you know your dog will enjoy. Drive, for instance, to the nearby park or the woods that aren’t in your neighborhood. Before going home, go outside and let your dog play and explore.

Your dog should soon look forward to car rides because they are entertaining for both the driver and the dog. Naturally, not all of your travel places will be enjoyable once you’ve taught your dog to ride in the car. Visits to the groomer or veterinarian may be stressful. Make sure these locations are few and far between, and whenever you must go there, always bring toys or snacks to make the experience more enjoyable.

Prevent Dog Motion Sickness

Although puppies are more likely than adult dogs to have vehicle sickness, many of them will get over it as they become older. Fortunately, for those who don’t, following the aforementioned instructions can help your dog get used to a moving car. However, if your dog’s stomach upset is still a problem due to nervousness or motion sickness, here are some suggestions to help:

  • Maintain a cool interior temperature in the car.
  • To let in fresh air, lower the windows.
  • For a few hours prior to the trip, your dog’s food and drink should be limited.
  • Ask your veterinarian about anti-motion sickness or anxiety medications.
  • To reduce stress, walk your dog for about twenty minutes before you leave.
  • In the automobile, spray dog pheromones. These pheromones, which are offered as collars, diffusers, and sprays, calm even adult dogs by imitating the scent of a nursing mother dog.

Training with Treats

All it takes to train your dog is time, patience, and of course a treat. To understand techniques that will improve the effectiveness of your treat training, download this e-book.

How can a fearful dog in the car be comforted?

Many dogs’ primary motive for getting to go on a car ride is to go to the veterinarian. As a result, many dogs connect a car ride with going to the vet. This process is known as “classical conditioning” (does Pavlov come to mind?). Is it any wonder that so many dogs experience fear and anxiety while getting in the car considering that many dogs don’t always enjoy going to the vet?

Other dogs develop car anxiety as a result of unpleasant car experiences in the past, such as being abandoned or a frightening incident like a car accident.

Pro tip: By using these extra suggestions to make vet visits less stressful, you may benefit your dog even more.

The good news is that you can use a technique called desensitization to prevent your dog from ever creating negative associations (and the ensuing stressed state of mind) with the car if you start early. And if your dog already expresses nervousness when riding in the car, counterconditioning can be used to change that relationship. Realizing that it’s not a race is essential for both desensitization and counterconditioning. Slow down. Baby steps increase the likelihood of success.

Desensitizing a Puppy to Enjoy Riding in the Car (Prevention)

  • Start by leaving the automobile parked and in neutral. Sit next to your dog where you intend to ride frequently (we recommend the back seat or cargo area with proper travel safety restraints). Give your dog attention, praise, treats, or anything else they enjoy! Just do this for a short period of time at a time.
  • Introduce driving while your dog is still in their territory after a few practice sessions with them there. When they are calm and quiet, you can reward them by throwing snacks their way. This is an excellent chance to use a stuffed Kong or Toppl to create a favorable association between remaining calm and moving farther away from you in the automobile.

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  • Start introducing turning the car on after practicing with it off. While you switch the automobile on, wait a bit, and then turn it off again, keep your personal energy and attitude neutral. Toss a treat immediately away because the noise can be a little unnerving at first. Increase the length of time you leave the engine running while continuing to give your dog verbal praise and throw treats occasionally to keep him content and relaxed.
  • Don’t get alarmed if you ever experience fear while going through this process. Your dog may withdraw, turn their ears back against their head, or display wide eyes and a closed mouth. A clue that someone is stressed out is when they try to avoid getting closer, get farther away from the car, or want to get out. Yelling, lip-licking, or what are known as “displacement behaviors” are a few more subliminal signs of stress.

When your dog is experiencing emotional turmoil, they may engage in displacement behaviors, which include actions like sniffing the ground, grooming themselves, licking, sneezing, and scratching. Keep your attitude upbeat to reassure your dog that there is nothing to be concerned about and to provide comfort. Then take a step back or make the step you’re on less difficult.

  • Increase the amount of the car ride procedure as you go along, being careful to reward calm behavior with praise and food at each step. A brief journey around the block can be taken before making increasingly longer trips, or you can simply back out of the driveway before pulling back in. Take your puppy to numerous of enjoyable locations so they can learn that road trips herald fantastic things.

Counterconditioning Your Anxious Dog to Feel Better About the Car (Treatment)

You’ll see that the desensitization steps in the method above are extremely similar to the counterconditioning steps that come after them. The main distinction is that your dog already associates being in the car negatively as opposed to a puppy who, when you first start introducing them to the vehicle, hasn’t formed any associations (positive or negative). Because of this, you should concentrate on rewarding your dog for choosing to move closer to the car during these procedures.

Avoid luring them in with a toy or treat or pushing them in with leash pressure. If they are given the option to approach or get in the car and are rewarded with items they enjoy, their confidence around the car will increase. The more a decision is rewarded, the more frequently it will be made. The secret is to be patient!

Desensitization can take less time than counterconditioning, therefore you should move through the processes more slowly and in smaller chunks. To determine which vitamins or drugs may help your dog stay as calm as possible, you should consult your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist as soon as possible.

By demonstrating the stress signals to look out for and assisting you in creating a step-by-step program for your dog, a qualified dog trainer may also help you manage this behavior change process. While you develop the patience necessary for behavior modification through counterconditioning, a trainer can offer support and encouragement.

  • Start Slowly: Some dogs need to start this procedure prior to entering the vehicle. Start outside of the parked car if your dog has severe anxiety and starts to stress before you even get in. Give them a treat and praise every time they glance at the car! Treat and congratulate them if they move closer to the car. You may also play tug of war with them close to the automobile if they enjoy toy play. The first time, only do this for a few minutes, or depending on how tense they are around the automobile, only a few seconds. For a few weeks, do this every day or every other day.
  • Build Confidence: After that, you can open the automobile door and continue to offer high-value incentives for approaching and looking at the car. Instead of shoving them in the car, encourage them to go to the open door on their own before rewarding them.
  • Reward Continued Progress: Once they’ve gained greater self-assurance in approaching the open door, you can introduce the step of jumping in (or, if they’re small enough, being picked up and placed in the car). When they put their feet in the automobile, show them lots of appreciation and give them a special treat. Then, if they want, let them jump out (or take them out) right away. Practice this process until your dog is comfortable entering the vehicle and doesn’t immediately show signs of wanting to exit.
  • Sit in the Car With Your Dog: After you’ve parked the car, take your dog into the rear seat (or cargo area). They should be petted, praised, and given high-quality goodies (like little pieces of cheese, hot dogs, or whatever you know they really love).
  • Build Duration: Gradually lengthen the time you and your passenger spend in the vehicle. Consider giving them their normal meals in the car, or simply sit next to them as you touch and praise them.

Weather Caution: Always stay with your dog and avoid performing these exercises on very hot or very cold days.

Please review our crucial heatstroke information and resources for further information on the major issues that can arise from temperature-related catastrophes.

You’re attempting to make your dog’s previous negative relationship into a positive one. Now, all of your dog’s favorite activities take place in the car, and pleasant car experiences abound. And food is a huge plus for the majority of dogs! But if your dog adores a specific toy or receiving a lengthy, leisurely massage from you, start providing these things while driving.

Start taking brief outings around town to gradually accustom your dog to riding in a car now that they are counterconditioned to just being in one. Visit entertaining locations such as dog parks, play dates with friends’ dogs, pet stores, or anywhere else you believe will be enjoyable for your pet. Regularly perform them and eventually extend your distance. (Tip: You can return to the same location repeatedly by taking a different, longer path.)

Why does my dog shake and pant while we’re driving?

Owing to inadequate exposure and introduction to automobile rides, dogs pant in the car due to heat, dehydration, motion sickness, fear, or excitement.

You’ll learn in a moment why panting is a crucial process for dogs to control their body temperature.

Dogs can experience car sickness as well, though not all can manage it well.

Your dog may be complaining about the driving or he may just be overly eager to get to the dog park.


If it’s very hot or sunny outside, you might notice your dog panting as you drive away or as you return from a long walk.

Each dog has a different tolerance, but my Rottweiler typically begins panting more at 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (16-21 degrees Celsius).

It is characterized by heavy breathing, a wide-open mouth (commonly called a smile), and perhaps even drooling.

Dogs don’t sweat like humans do; instead, they only create perspiration on their paw and nose pads since they lack fur.

It wouldn’t make much sense to create moisture behind the fur because it can’t escape and winds alone won’t be sufficient.

They do, however, have glands that are connected to each hair follicle and that secrete pheromones.

Instead, they use the moisture that evaporates from their mouth to circulate hot and cold air.

We’ve all seen the phenomenon where cars get hotter than the outside air.

Never ever, especially in the spring or summer, leave your dog unattended in the car.

Temperatures can quickly increase to a dangerous level in minutes (even in the shade).


Your dog might only want water to be hydrated if he didn’t drink in the morning or was physically active a lot on a moderately hot day.

A simple game of fetch or a lengthy summer walk can drastically heat up your dog’s body.

To keep your pet hydrated, make sure you always have a portable water dispenser with you.

Car Sickness

Like humans, many dogs experience vehicle sickness, which can cause excessive drooling and even vomiting.

This kind of motion sickness is particularly common in puppies, who typically outgrow it.

If you experience negative feelings each and every time you take a car ride, a good association is not likely to develop.

To lessen the chance that your dog will become queasy in the car, avoid feeding him at least an hour beforehand.

Due of their limited vision, puppies and small dogs are frequently afflicted, which exacerbate human motion sickness.

You can get an elevated car seat for your dog or give him the see-through mesh windowed iBuddy Dog Car Seat Cover.

This is the one I use for my Rottweiler, and despite the fact that I have to replace it a few times, it works.

In order to experience less motion sickness, your dog will be able to see what is happening in front of him even when lying down. Additionally, some dogs become ill while traveling in a car box.


In fact, driving-related motion sickness and the ensuing unfavorable associations with it might lead to travel anxiety.

Your dog may experience this kind of fear even if he has never before puked in a moving vehicle.

The symptoms of anxiety include trembling, pacing, restlessness, drooling, panting, and frequent urination.

For your dog to ultimately love riding along with you as you drive, you’ll want to transform that habit into something beneficial. For the next actionable steps, keep reading.


There are many new smells in the air as the engine roars loudly as vehicles and people pass by.

Remember that a dog has much better hearing and olfaction than a human does.

If I had to endure this mode of transportation without even being aware of what was happening, I would feel extremely uneasy.


Because they haven’t been exposed to or properly taught to driving, most dogs feel anxious and pant excessively inside the automobile.

Your dog will undoubtedly be afraid to ride along with you if you only take him to the vet on special occasions.

Take your friend along on enjoyable outings to the dog park or on nature hikes (if your dog is tiny enough, he may fit into a backpack).

Medical Reason

The rapid onset of heavy panting in a dog in a moving vehicle may indicate pain or an underlying illness.

This panting would continue for a longer period of time and would also happen outside the car.