On the Go with your Canine Companion: Dealing with the Nervous, Panting Traveler

By: Tracie Hotchner

Practice with your pup before traveling.

Raising a “well-adjusted” dog who is able to handle new situations with aplomb is not something that happens overnight. It’s much easier to acclimate your dog to new experiences, such a traveling by car, when she is a puppy than when she is older and more set in her ways.

When training a new puppy, or even an adult dog you’ve recently adopted, it’s important to try and help her develop a positive association with car travel. For example, if you start out with short, fun trips that involve a “payoff” for her (a trip to the beach, the dog park, etc.), she will be more inclined to welcome a car trip and less likely to be nervous about it.

There are some dogs, however, who remain stubbornly anxious about riding in the car and when pressed to do so exhibit signs of stress such as whining or panting, generating copious amounts of drool all over over the car seat. If this sounds like your dog, there are some other strategies that might help.

First, don’t respond verbally to her grousing – that may make the behavior worse. Second, make sure you have a towel on hand to clean up after her. I always keep one or two in the car for any necessary doggie cleanup. Next, try changing her seating position. Some dogs do better if they can’t see out of the window. Or, if you have a small dog, she might do better elevated so she CAN see. If that doesn’t work, try using a travel crate in the car; she might feel better being confined in a smaller space.

Another strategy you can try with someone else driving, is to put your arm around her and apply gentle pressure to try and allay her nervousness. Perhaps this will help her get over her fear.

If you have a nervous canine traveling companion, you need to be patient. If you get upset and show signs of frustration, that’s only going to exacerbate your dog’s anxiety. Try to keep the atmosphere in the car low key and don’t lose hope. Remember, dogs are programmed to be with their humans, even if it is in a moving vehicle. She may come around – eventually.

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