Dog Anxiety When Traveling in a Car

We have an 11year old male dog who has become very sensitive while travelling in the car, he is a very calm dog ,happy at home and in the garden and always happy to get in the car. For 4 years we travelled from Spain to England and many other journey's with no problem until 18 months ago gradually getting worse,he so anxious his tongue is out and breathing fast, at the end of journey he is fine, also certain noises on the tv make him stressed out, he has no problem with fireworks. We have had him about 10years.can you help us please we hate to see him in this state.

Anxiety in dogs is a very stressful issue for both the owners and the dog who suffers from it. Sometimes problems with anxiety can start in one part of a dog’s life, such as with an over-reaction to a loud noise and then the dog can become anxious in other ways. The most common types of anxiety are travel/car anxiety, separation anxiety, and noise phobias such as thunderstorm anxiety.

Many owners report that their dog is uneasy in the car. Some may begin the journey okay and then by the end they are a nervous wreck, tearing up the upholstery, salivating excessively, barking and panting to the point of being breathless. It is much better if the dog starts out a little nervous and then becomes at ease as travel goes on. With some of these dogs, it may be worthwhile to ‘wait it out’ and see if he or she calms down before resorting to calming medications.

How can you help dogs with travel anxiety?  One way to help is to create a calm place for the dog. Many people do this by crate-training. Dogs that are successfully crate-trained are very bonded to the crate and are calm/relaxed when they are in it.  When the crate is put into the car for a trip, the dog will often feel more at ease and secure, calming the pup and aiding to prevent ‘anxiety attacks.’  If your dog is not crate trained, it can easily be done by making the crate a good experience.  Feeding him in the crate will help to make it a ‘happy place’.

It is always best to have your veterinarian examine any dog with a new phobia or anxiety problem. Sometimes these behavioral changes are due to aging changes in the brain in older dogs or could be caused by an undiagnosed medical problem.  Some pets require calming medications if they become too worked up when an ‘anxiety attack’ happens. Holistic veterinarians can offer botanical and other herbal remedies to help promote calm that can be used before a trip.

Behavioral modification should also be used for dealing with anxiety. Always keep yourself calm while you are working with him. Start by ‘desensitizing’ him to travel, by taking short car trips often and use treats to reward calm behavior. It can be very beneficial to put him in the car and leave it parked, rewarding calm behavior as you sit there. This can take some time but many owners report that it works. My favorite treat to use for training exercises is the Cheerios brand oat cereal, each little ‘o’ is crunchy, tasty and just enough to let your dog know that he’s being rewarded – but they don’t contain too many calories.