Is Your Dog Anxious about Getting in the Car? + 8 Tips to Calm Him Down

Translated by Nick R

There are times when you will need to go someplace far away or you simply need to get somewhere sooner and you decide to go by car with your pet.

The problem is your furry one may hate the car and it may be big trouble to take him with you. Here I’ll explain why some dogs don’t like cars and what you can do if this is your furry friend’s case.

How to know if your dog has car anxiety? 

Every dog can react to stressful situations in a different way. However, I’ll name some symptoms that will indicate that your dog hates getting into a car.

  • Whining and whimpering from the moment he gets in the car.
  • Faster breathing and panting.
  • Trembling.
  • Barking.
  • Dizziness and vomiting.
  • Excessive drooling.
  • Some may even become aggressive.

Why does your dog feel anxious about being in a car? 

Usually, dogs who hate the car are either because they haven’t had good experiences in it, or the destination you always take them to in the car doesn’t appeal to them and they relate it to the car.

On the other hand, they may simply not have adapted to being in the car from puppyhood and something new like this may scare them.

Tips to help your dog stop being afraid of car rides 

Now you can do the following to calm your canine’s fear of the car and get him used to the ride.

1. Get your dog used since he is a puppy. 

First of all, if you have your furry friend since he is a puppy, it is essential that, during his socialization period, which starts at 3 weeks of age and lasts until 12 weeks, you expose him to different factors.

You should get your puppy used to the car since he is young so he won’t be afraid as an adult and; it’s very important to make the trip always a positive experience for him.

So, when taking him to the car you can drive him to a park to play and try to make the trip as pleasant and comfortable as possible. Associate the ride with something positive, like the park or playing with you.

2. Exercise before traveling 

If you have already read the blog we have for treating stress and anxiety in dogs, you will know that exercise is a good way to calm them down.

Take your canine for a walk before getting in the car, make sure he does his business, runs, and relaxes so he releases all the energy he has accumulated and the trip will be much calmer.

For small or medium breed dogs, a walk of 30 minutes to an hour will be perfect, and for large breeds, it might be 1 hour, although all dogs are different, so make sure you get to know your dog well.

3. Don’t feed your dog before the trip. 

As he is not used to the car, a ride may make him feel sick and vomit, which won’t please your dog (or you) so he’ll avoid traveling by car.

So, if your dog is the type that gets carsick and vomits, it’s better for him not to have any food before the car trip. This way you’ll prevent him from getting carsick easily and vomiting, creating a bad experience for both of you.

You can feed him several hours before the trip or after you have arrived at your destination.

4. Positive reinforcement 

Positive reinforcement will always be a great help for your canine to associate the car or different activities you want to teach him with something positive.

You can give him something he likes when he gets in the car or during the trip to make him happy.


You can give dog treats as positive reinforcement, such as different snacks that you can make yourself or get in pet stores.


You can also relate the car with play, give your canine a toy during the trip and even play with him inside the car for a few minutes.

5. Suitable space for your dog? 

Keep in mind that your dog needs to be comfortable during the car ride, especially on long trips.

You can adapt the trunk to make him comfortable, with a blanket or mat and his toys. This is only if the trunk faces the inside of the car because if it is completely closed, it would be a danger!

Also, check that it has the safety necessary in case of an accident, there are special straps and chairs for dogs to install in your car.

One is a kind of backpack that is secured to the car seat with different straps, you just place your furry inside, and these are more suitable for small or medium dog breeds.

There are also harnesses or “kangaroos” with which you dress your furry one and tie it to the seat, and of course, you can also put a seat protector or seat liner that extends in the back seats of the car leaving your furry one surrounded.

6. What is the destination? 

Sometimes, even if your dog is not anxious about getting into a car, he may still be uncomfortable about temperature changes or other factors of going on vacation.

Also, as I had said before, if you want your furry one to love car trips you can’t take him constantly to places he doesn’t like or where he has had bad experiences for he will associate this with the car trip.

A long or short trip 

You must understand that a long trip will make your dog tired and bored. Make stops as many times as necessary so your furry one can stretch his legs, walk around, get some air and relieve himself.

7. Open the car window 

Let air into the car for your pet to calm down and not feel cooped up.

You’ve probably seen many dogs sticking their heads out of car windows as they usually love the wind and the different smells they can perceive while traveling.

However, keep in mind that he must be leashed so he won’t jump out or fall out of the window, which is very dangerous. And, in addition, the wind and the speed of the car could blow some debris into their eyes or cause corneal dryness.

They could even swallow something in the wind that could hurt them or suffer from ear pathologies.

So, although they love to stick their heads out it’s not very advisable, just leave the window a little bit open to let enough air in, but don’t let your furry one be stuck to it.

8. Kennel 

If you have accustomed your canine to being in the carrier, it can be ideal on the car trip since he will be safe and will also feel comfortable, being in a familiar place that gives him comfort.

On the contrary, if he is not used to the kennel or just doesn’t like it, don’t force him to enter it because the situation will be worse.

Note: The carrier should be the right size so that your dog can stand up and turn around comfortably in it.