Car Sickness

by Rebecca on January 14, 2008

in Animal Health

Article By David The Dogman

The first thing to realize when dealing with car sickness is that in 95
percent of cases it is stress related and not motion related. The most
powerful memory imprint of any dog’s brain is probably the car ride when it
was taken away from all it ever new to be safe and secure, its litter mates
and its mother. The most traumatic memory a young dog has is in relation to
a ride in a car. So it’s not surprising that subsequent rides in a car
should evoke very strong mental and subsequent physical trauma.

The solution is very simple. If the dog has been sick in a car then estimate
how long it was in the car before it was sick, say 20 minutes? Find a park
about 5-10 minutes from home, preferably one just around the corner, even
one within walking distance that the dog has been to before…. but this
time drive there. Ideally have someone else in the car too, to soothe the
dog and distract him from the ride. Keep him happy all the way to the park.
When at the park do all the enjoyable things that the dog loves, fetch the
ball, chase the Frisbee, frolic with dad, etc. The stay at the park doesn’t
need to be that long…. just as enjoyable as possible. Then drive the dog
home soothing him all the way again and when home make just as much fuss of
the dog as you did at the park. Finish the session with his meal or a treat
if time and conditions permit.

This exercise is repeated several times a day or daily if time is limited.
Once the dog is enthusiastic to go in the car then the length of the trip is
lengthened slightly to 10-15 minutes etc. Once you can drive with the dog
for 30 minutes with no signs of stress or anxiety then you have the problem
pretty much licked. Some dogs may take a little longer than others. The idea
is for as many happy repetitions as possible to overwrite the initial mental
imprint the dog has from its youth (or whatever other event caused the
initial trauma).

I have had a (client’s) dog that suffered from chronic carsickness totally
‘cured’ (if that is the right term) in 3 days. That was with five car trips
per day over the three-day period. The owners were impressed (even if I say
so myself) and I am still getting referrals from them as a result.

This method has always worked, but I have heard of one dog that was sick due
to some kind of balance problems and this method didn’t work for it. A trip
to the vet after the method failed brought the problem to the surface. But
if it only works for 95 percent of the dogs it’s used on then I think it’s
quite successful!

Previous post:

Next post: