I love taking road trips, be it a few hours driving the back roads eastbound to a hidden lake in the Columbia Valley or a few days travelling along the Fraser Canyon visiting the little towns along the way, and I love having my dogs with me.
It is somehow calming having them in the back seat of my truck, their heads out the window, catching the wind on their face. I can’t even begin to wonder as to what they could be thinking as they hang their heads out, closing their eyes into the rush of oncoming wind and allow their tongues to gloriously slap against their smiling gums.
Maybe it would be similar to a roller-coaster ride at the fair, which allows the rush of wind to pass over you as you are propelled along the tracks.
In any case it is clear that they are filled with delight. It’s simple things like this that bring them joy and it makes me happy to see them in such a state of unabashed bliss. Like my dogs, most dogs enjoy a car ride and take to road trips like a Duck Tolling Retriever to water.
But for some it can leave them an anxious mess and the jingle of car keys sends them seeking cover under the bed.
Why do some dogs go nuts at the word “Car Ride!” while others play dead?
Well, if the only reason your dog ever gets into the car with you is to go to the veterinarian, then its not likely that it views the car as a source of fun. But if the car takes them to parks, beaches or play dates with their buddies then the car is the taxi service to fun.
To help the nervous back seat driver become a fun co-pilot, you have to begin making the driving experience a pleasant experience for your dog.
Often new dog parents have the best of intentions taking their dogs for car rides and outings but become disheartened when the dog gets car sick, decorating the back seats with their last meal.
They then give up and resort to “emergency trips” to the vet as the only ride for Fido, so it is inevitable that the dog views the car as an unpleasant place.
But if these new dog owners knew that Fido eventually grows out of this car sickness they might be more inclined to not give up so soon.
Make sure that the pup has only a small amount of food in their tummy first, and start by making the trips short and ending somewhere fun.
Try to avoid driving too fast, turning sharply or changing lanes often so the pup learns to find its sea legs in the vehicle. There are also anti-nausea medications that can be recommended by a veterinarian.
If Fido starts drooling the moment he sits in the car, then start by just hanging out with your dog in the car without going anywhere.
Bring some of his favourite treats and your patience. Wait until Fido starts showing a more confident and curious attitude and quietly praise him and give him a treat.
Keep this training short and after a few positive sessions you can take it to the next step which would be sitting in the car with the engine running but still no movement. Take small incremental steps to increase Fidos confidence about car rides.
I of course have to discuss keeping Fido safe within the vehicle.
It would be best for your safety and those you share the road with to place Fido in a crate or some other restraining device or at the very least preventing him from sitting in the front seat, if you find that he simply can’t settle down and is becoming a distraction.
And driving with your dog in an open bed pick-up will get you a large fine under the Motor Vehicle Act.
Hitting the road with a dog as your co-pilot is a wonderful way to explore and visit new places. Even just going for a drive along some quiet back roads without a destination in mind can be a great way to wind down after a busy week.
There are plenty of songs written about the mental and emotional benefits of driving along a long and winding road, and with a little preparation beforehand both you and your dog will be able to enjoy the ride.
Joan Klucha has been working with dogs for more than 15 years in obedience, tracking and behavioural rehabilitation. firstname.lastname@example.org.