A puppy with car-induced anxiety can be unpleasant to take on trips, but training and preparing your puppy for a long trip can increase his comfort and reduce anxiety. A positive attitude and puppy essentials will turn your puppy into an ideal travel companion.
Introduce puppy to the car with positive reinforcement. Put a leash on your puppy and walk to the car. Open the car door and have your puppy's favorite toy or treat inside the car. As puppy climbs into the car, praise him enthusiastically while giving him treats. Repeat these steps three to four times per day, according to BestFriends.org.
Feed meals inside the car. Have your puppy go to the car for his treat, but when you open the door have his food dish full inside the car. As your puppy eats, close the door and sit in the driver's seat with the car off. During the next meal, follow the same steps, but turn the car on and remain parked. Drive a short distance during the third meal as long as your puppy is eating comfortably. This gradual process reduces your pup's anxiety and keeps him comfortable for long trips.
Bring your puppy's favorite things and more. If your puppy is crate trained, bring a crate and have a travel pillow, blanket and toy. Bring treats, ice water and enough food to last the entire trip. If your puppy is teething, keep teething toys in a cooler.
Restrain your puppy. If you don't have a crate, purchase a restraint harness that attaches to the seat belt. While your puppy is in a crate, secure the crate with a seat belt. A quick slam of the brakes can send your puppy flying, which could cause an injury or reinforce anxiety of being in the car.
Control the environment. If it's hot, keep the air conditioner on or the windows down. If it's cold, keep the heat on. Never leave your puppy unattended in the car, especially during extreme temperatures. Keep the volume of the radio low or off.
Allow puppy potty breaks every one to two hours. Have your puppy eliminate before getting in the car, then stop at rest stops frequently. Keep your dog on a leash at all times. During rest stop breaks, provide cool water and playtime.
- Puppy needs to wear a collar during the trip with ID tags containing an address and two telephone numbers. Take a picture of your puppy just in case he escapes or is stolen, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
- If puppy appears car sick, let him out of the car for a few minutes, but keep him on a leash.
- Organize your departure in advance to reduce your puppy's anxiety, according to American Dog Trainers Network.
- If your puppy has extreme car anxiety, ask your veterinarian about a sedative to help him sleep during the long trip.
- Leaving a puppy unattended can result in death from heatstroke or freezing. There also is a risk of the puppy being stolen.
- Not restraining your dog in the car can result in a car accident causing death or serious injury to you, your puppy or someone else.
Melissa McNamara is a certified personal trainer who holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and communication studies from the University of Iowa. She writes for various health and fitness publications while working toward a Bachelor of Science in nursing.