Among the dogs there are real car junkies, but also some who prefer to give the vehicle a wide berth. The latter can have many reasons. Bad experiences with the car can happen quickly if the dog gets scared or tucks his tail, for example. Car journeys often have negative connotations for the dog, because the first (usually too long) car journey involves separation from the siblings and the mother in a completely new environment. But if you take enough time and approach it slowly, your pet will gradually become more relaxed with the situation.
When preparing, always remember that less is more. We humans tend to want too much too fast. Introduce the dog slowly to the car and encourage each step positively. Depending on the dog’s emotional state, it may be sufficient at the beginning if you just walk past your car or stop in front of it. Start the engine even if your dog is sitting a little bit away, so that he can get used to the noise. Gradually, you can let your dog jump into the trunk or back seat.
Reinforce all these steps with lots of praise and treats. Close the door even for a short time and move away a few steps. Come right back. If your dog shows relaxed and stress-free behavior during these exercises, you can start the engine to get your four-legged friend used to the vibrations. Drive short distances little by little, preferably always to nice places, so that the dog combines the trip with swimming or other activities, for example. The dog learns with it: "Car = Great!" You can also have a canine buddy ride with you at times or put someone in the back seat so your dog is not alone. This training should take place over several weeks and be built up in small steps. A new exercise every few days is enough for man’s best friend.
How you transport your dog is up to you. You can take him in a transport box in the trunk, put a seat belt on him, or transport him in the trunk. The transport box offers the most protection. Our expert video of the dog trainers of "Freude am Hund" in Munich shows you the different transport possibilities in the car. If you want to harness your dog, please always use a well-padded harness. Remember that you would not strap your children by the neck either. The trunk should be secured with a partition that gives the dog support even in the event of emergency braking. Inform yourself in advance about the different safety regulations in the countries. In Italy, for example, dogs are allowed to travel in the back seat only if they do not pose a danger to driving (impairing vision and hearing), i.e. they could disturb the driver.
If your dog vomits regularly, you should consult a veterinarian. Because then, on the one hand, it is important to exclude an illness, on the other hand, your dog can also get motion sickness – and there are good medications against this. Make sure that he cannot look out of the car, for example, with a sun screen.
Expert advice from Rita Kampmann
One thing in particular we would like to urge you to do: Try to see the world from your dog’s perspective. Our four-legged friends experience the world differently than we do. Therefore, we should always try to put ourselves in the dog’s shoes without anthropomorphizing it.
Shortly before the trip
Load your dog again properly before the trip. Take a long walk, go for a jog, or engage your dog in his favorite activity. It is generally not advisable to play with balls, as this will stir up the dog internally and the four-legged friend will have to sit in the car for the next few hours pumped up with adrenaline. Do not forget to challenge your dog mentally as well. Shortly before you leave, go through the checklist of our dog experts from "Freude am Hund" again, so that you do not forget anything. Do not feed your dog excessively just before or during the trip.
During the trip
Do not listen to the radio loudly, but if, then calm and quiet music. If possible, do not argue during the journey, because your mood is transmitted to the animal. Drive carefully and with foresight to avoid jerky braking or acceleration. If the dog howls, whines or barks, do not yell at him in any case. Once your dog is calm in his place and seems relaxed, you can give him a good talking to and encouragement. But also here applies: Less is more. In addition, water should be available to your dog continuously.
The most important thing is to remain calm – even and especially in tense situations. Our mood is transferred to the dog. Most of the time we don’t even realize the many signals we are sending to our dog. Therefore, a calm expression and deep breathing can work wonders. The more excited the dog, the calmer you need to become. Here also a stretched and quiet voice has a calming effect.
If you have a long trip ahead of you, try to divide it into several stages. Always plan breaks for smaller walks so that your dog can get loose and move around. How many breaks a dog needs varies from animal to animal.
Make your dog feel uncomfortable or anxious
If you notice severe stress symptoms (heavy panting, sweaty paws, restlessness, urinating/ defecating, trembling, salivating, exaggerated vocalizations, or similar) in your dog, take a break immediately. Wait until he calms down and then continue the trip. The first thing to think about is mood transfer! Also, Bach flower remedies, globules (Cocculus), calming vest, calming collar, or something to chew on can help.
If you are traveling by ferry
Find out how and where the dog is allowed to move around or do its business. Some companies do not allow the dog on deck, but it must remain in the parking floor. Often dogs are only allowed to travel in dog crates. This means that for a few hours they are placed directly next to strange animals. Add to this the noise and strong smell if they are not allowed on deck with you. On some ferries, the boxes are also left on deck in the blazing sun.
Dogs can get seasick just like us. At the vet you can get medicines against seasickness before the trip. Fear of heights can also be a problem with large ships. Watch your dog throughout to see if they are comfortable in the situation.
In case of a mishap, always have your emergency cleaning kit (household roll, plastic bag and room spray) and a disarming smile for the other passengers to be on the safe side.
Get your dog used to large crowds and loud noises beforehand to avoid subjecting him to unnecessary stress during the trip. For tips on getting accustomed to larger crowds, see "By Train". Think carefully beforehand whether you want to put your dog through the ferry trip or whether you would prefer to leave him at home with friends or in a boarding kennel.
Your dog will be full of energy after a long trip and will be looking for opportunities to unload. In addition, the stress of the trip is let out through various valves. This can manifest itself in wild jumping around, pulling on the leash, strong barking or biting the leash. It’s the same with us humans: after a long day at work, a round of sport in the evening clears the head again. Therefore, allow your dog to open its valves and go for a long walk. Make sure, however, that not too many new impressions are added and that mainly the body is used to capacity, but the head can relax. Once you arrive at your accommodation, give the dog the opportunity to rest and sleep. All the new experiences now have to be processed first.
Expert opinion by Rita Kampmann
The dog should already be accustomed to driving before a long trip. Be sure to take regular breaks and avoid smoking, loud music and stress while driving. Secure your pet well and give him enough space to stand up, turn around and lie down. Driving a car can trigger nausea just as it does for us humans: if this is the case for your dog, hopefully aids (see article) will help you out. Sometimes a smooth, harmonious driving style can help too.
I wish you and your four-legged friends a nice relaxing vacation and… come back healthy again!