How to Train Your Puppy to Ride in the Car
We all love to go on road trips and taking your Toller puppy in the car with you makes your trip even more fun but how to train your puppy to ride in the car and feel comfortable even during longer rides. Well, preparation and positive association is key.
Traveling with Dogs – Introduce Your Puppy to the Car
When our Toller Stippy was a puppy one of the first things we did, besides socializing, was to introduce him to the car and riding in it. He was scared of riding in the car so we began by “introducing” him to the car by just sitting in it without turning on the ignition so he could get used to the environment. After doing that a few times we started the car so he could get used to the noise and vibrations. During this, we played with him and gave him yummy treats for a positive association.
After that, we took Stippy for short rides. The first few rides I sat in the back with him on my lap and playing with him. After a while it was time for the next step, I sat in the passenger seat while my husband was driving and Stippy on the back seat alone. During that ride, I gave him positive attention but each ride I gradually gave him less attention until it was completely normal to him and he knew it was okay.
If he cried or whined I didn’t give him any attention and ignored him otherwise he would associate crying and wining with getting attention and that’s not what we wanted to teach him. After a while he wasn’t scared anymore and became very relaxed he even fell asleep while driving. When we take a long car ride he still sometimes falls asleep, however, most of the time is too curious and wants to look outside (yes, a typical Nova Scotia Duck Tolling retriever, always curious!).
When you’re in the process of getting your puppy used to the car, make sure your car rides end in fun, happy things like going to the beach, the forest or other positive experiences so your puppy will realize that a car ride means wonderful, fun things and will eventually look forward to every car trip.
If your puppy is or remains very scared you can also try to set his or her food bowl near the car, give him or her the yummiest treats near the car or play with your puppy near the car for several days. After a few days, the next step is to give your pup yummy treats inside the car in the back seat or throw some (non-messy) dog treats into the car for your puppy to find. Or you can play with your puppy inside the car. This way your pup also learns that the car means yummy treats and good things.
Make sure your car is parked in a safe place away from the street with the parking brake on and never do car training or play games with your dog or puppy in a moving car or on the street.
Leader of the Pack
Also in my experience, it’s important to be a strong leader of the pack. Besides showing your puppy the car is fun and nothing to be scared about by giving your pup positive associations as mentioned earlier, another great tactic is not to make a big deal out of things.
For example, if your puppy cries, barks or whines just ignore him or her. Keep calm and pretend everything is fine and most of the time your puppy will stop whining. If you’d give your pup attention when crying he or she will see this as a confirmation that there is “something” going on and worth crying about. It will make things worse. If you get emotionally upset, such as yelling, your puppy will begin to associate your emotional outbursts with something being “wrong” with the car.
It’s very difficult to ignore this, believe me I know and have been there but hold on and be consistent in ignoring that behavior and staying calm, it works in the long run! If your puppy is vomiting or peeing, whether it’s in the car or at home, also don’t make a big thing out of it. Just stay calm and clean it up when it’s safe to stop or when you arrive at your destination. The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed your puppy is and he or she won’t become scared or anxious.
So when your puppy is used to the car and loves going on trips with you it’s important to keep your puppy safe while riding in the car. Learn what you can do to keep your puppy safe during car rides and road trips.
How to Keep my Toller Puppy Safe in the Car
The safest way to transport your puppy or dog is in the back seat or in the boot of your car. Confine your pup in a crate or buy a harness specially made for dogs, a kennel or a car barrier. Never keep your dog in the front of the car, it can be dangerous for both the dog and the driver. Besides the risk that your loose dog can come between your foot and the brake or accelerator when in case of an accident a loose puppy in the front seat can be crushed by a deploying airbag or thrown to the windshield of the car with all the consequences, you don’t even want to think about.
Here are a few good products (with links to Amazon for your convenience) which will keep your puppy safe while traveling in the car so definitely worth investing in:
Best Dog Travel Crate
If you have crate trained your puppy he or she will be most comfortable in a Travel Crate with his or her blanket, toy and some water.
A Dog Kennel is mainly used when you own an SUV or car with a big boot. It keeps your dog safe and confined while traveling and your puppy has all the space he or she needs. You can put in a blanket and water bowl as well so your puppy is always comfortable and safe.
Keeps your puppy safe and secure while driving. A Pet Carrier can also be used when flying with your puppy or when you travel by train.
Back Seat Hammock
The Back Seat Cover or Hammock keeps your dog safe and secure while driving and it has a non-slip surface to prevent your dog from slipping every time you apply the brake or take a turn. It also keeps your seats clean and free or dog hair and scratches. We used it for Stippy in our previous car (a BMW 4 series) in combination with a seat belt for dogs for extra safety.
Dog Car Harness
A Car Harness is more comfortable for your pooch as the harness fits around the chest area so if you have to stop the car abruptly it won’t pull on his neck like it does when your pup has a collar on which can hurt him more so I recommend a dog harness when traveling. With most car harnesses a clip is attached to the ring on the harness which plugs directly into the seat belt socket.
Dog Seat Belt
A Seat Belt for Dogs will keep your puppy safely restrained and secure in the car while driving and allows your dog to sit, stand or lie down comfortably in your car without distracting the driver. We used one for our Toller Stippy when we had our previous car (BMW 4 series) in which he had to ride along on the back seat because he didn’t fit in the car boot.
Dog Car Barrier or Dog Guard
A Dog Barrier or Dog Guard in your car will keep your dog safe and secure while traveling in the boot of your car and is perfect for all size dogs.
Cargo Floor Mat
Keeps your car boot clean and prevents your dog from slipping while you brake or take a turn. We use one for our Volvo XC90. Click here to go to Amazon to see which floor mat fits in your car.
Dog Ramp or Adjustable Dog Ramp
For our Toller Stippy, we also use a Folding Dog Ramp so he can walk into and out of the car boot of our SUV (a Volvo XC90) safely instead of jumping. First of all, he can’t make the jump, it’s too high for him but if he could make the jump I wouldn’t let him jump into or out of the car. It’s bad for his joints especially when you have a young dog or puppy, they shouldn’t jump at all! Also, a dog ramp keeps your clothes and coat clean, free of dog hair and dry because it saves you from having to lift your puppy in and out of the car boot.
Here are a few other helpful tips and stuff we use or bring with us when traveling (by car) with our dog:
- Water bowl (I use travel bowls which fold for our dog Stippy, very handy!)
- Dog food or Dog Treats
- Baby wipes (for cleaning your puppy and yourself if needed)
- Cleaning wipes and paper towels (for cleaning your car)
- Dog Waste Bags for picking up after your puppy
- Pet First Aid Kit
- Dog toys or (in our case with our dog Stippy tennis balls)
- Anti-nausea medicine (approved by your veterinarian)
- Extra Dog Collar and Dog Leash
- Attach a Dog Tag to your dog collar or harness
When we go for a long walk or hike with our Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Stippy we always take a backpack with us with most of the things mentioned above, especially the freshwater, dog treats, dog waste bags, and Pet First Aid Kit.
When traveling with a young puppy always take sufficient breaks. Young puppies need to relieve themselves regularly so my advice is to take a 15-minute “bathroom” break every one or two hours. Take him or her for a short walk or play with your pup so he or she can release some energy and will most likely fall asleep in the car. For you as a dog owner, some exercise is always healthy and taking a break from driving, stretching your legs after a few hours in the car will do you some good as well.
What To Do When My Toller Puppy Gets Car Sick?
So when your puppy is used to the car and finally associates it with exciting, fun things but he or she gets car sick, what then? When our Toller Stippy was younger, about 6 months to 1 year old he suddenly became car sick during our drive to our holiday destination. I felt so sorry for him, my poor baby. After he puked out his breakfast on his blanket (which we could throw away immediately) he felt better and when after stopping at a gas station and giving him some water we continued our trip and he was fine for the rest of the car ride.
For the next trips with the car, we gave him anti-nausea medicine approved by our vet and that helped. After a while, he must have grown over it because for 2 years (he’s now 4,5 years old) he no longer needs anti-nausea medication and can ride along in the car without any car sickness problems.
CBD Dog Treats + Stress & Anxiety Relief
Besides anti-nausea medication approved by your vet, you can try to avoid having your puppy traveling in the farthest backseat where there is the most motion and where they can only see from the side window. From the side windows, they only see objects “flying by” which creates a blur and fuzzy view which can result in motion or car sickness. When your pup is more in front of the car, for example in the middle seat, he or she can look forward to the windshield and will see less movement which can make him or her less car sick. Remember to always secure your puppy in a crate or seat belt harness while he or she is in the middle seat for safety reasons.
Unfortunately, some dogs never get over car sickness or anxiety, in that case, go to your local vet and ask for advice, but with a young puppy and having him or her get used to the car by teaching your puppy positive associations you are more likely to have a successful outcome which will allow you to enjoy fun and wonderful trips with your dog!