Motion sickness

As I said yesterday I will discuss car sickness and dogs this morning; it is a common problem and an easy fix. Almost all dogs are car sick as youngsters; but if a breeder has made a point of getting their puppies out in a car from a very early stage you may be one of the lucky ones and dodged a bullet. I remember bringing home Jessie; a tiny white bundle of adorable she rode on my daughters lap, my daughter was 9 years old at the time. The kids were all smitten; oooooing and awwwing and trying to pick a name when SPLOSH. Jessie puked on my daughters lap; of course there was a commotion, lots of GROOOOOOSSSSSSSSSSS so we pulled over and cleaned it up. She rode the rest of the way down the country roads on my lap.

All of my dogs have been car sick dogs except for Luke; it is very common. Being someone who gets motion sick myself; I understand completely. And I feel for dogs as they start to drool; long strands of saliva hanging from their mouth, their eyes filled with "I don't feel well." It is a horrible feeling. Some dogs get over it quickly and on their own; others need help and if you don't step in and assist in their rehabilitation the issue can lodge in their brain and cause unnecessary prolonged vomiting in your car. Basically what happens is that your dog starts to relate the horrible feeling of motion sickness to the car.

Tilley was one of these associated vomiting dogs. I noticed very quickly that she would start drooling before we even got into the car. So it was all in her head; I hate this phrase but it was all in her head. So we had to re-associate; and that is what you must do to help your dog get over their car sickness. Just like most behaviors with dogs you need to go slow; baby steps. If your dog is like Tilley and started before even getting in the car you need to start there. I would put Tilley's collar and leash on and head towards the car. We would stop at the car; I'd ask her to sit and give treats, tons of praise and then we calmly walked away. And did it again and again until she was giving me a positive response to approaching the car.

Next we worked on just opening the car door and creating a positive response. It is important to give all the treats and praise while in the "bad" zone. This puts the focus on building positive right at the correct place. When you walk away from the car or get your dog out of the car you are to say nothing. You want to build the association that the car is a great and wonderful place, not getting out or moving away. So from there you move slowly to sitting in the car for treats a praise. Only do this for very short time span and only move onto the next step once you have complete success at the present step.

You then progress to you sitting in the drivers sit and tossing treats back to your dog. Make that a great place by simply chilling, chatting and getting treats. When you have success there you start the car; don't go anywhere as this is a big step and you must ensure a positive association to it here. Your next step is to simply back out your driveway and drive back in; always quit while you're ahead. Don't push it; be happy with small successes. The next step is down your street and back again and from that point in time you build on time.

Make sure not to feed your dog before any of your car sick training. A full stomach is detrimental to your hard work and dogs tend to vomit much quicker on a full stomach. Use special treats that are only given in the wonderful, amazing and glorious car. Of course with all this training there are a few dogs that will remain motion sick; it is sad because it is a horrible feeling, I know only too well.


  1. I love that way of shaping them into feeling more confident and calm.

  2. Hey Sherri: This is exactly what I did with Mandi. She was 7 months when I got her from a breeder in North Carolina, her very first car ride. On the way back to my daughters house, 2 hours away,she was very sick and then on my ride hope to NY the following week she had to be medicated. I thought hard about this and decided she was so traumatized that first car ride, being 7 months old and ripped away from the only home and family she knew. Starting after my return trip from NC in November, we would go to the truck and I opened all four doors and actually had to lift her into the back seat. Gave her treats and lots of praise, after about 5 minutes of sitting there, I got her out, actually physically lifting her out, and then praised and gave treats, did this for about a week then put her in and closed doors but opened windows and sat and did same thing. Eventually, she was just jumping into the truck on one "IN" command. Eventually moved up to starting engine and sitting with windows open, for a week, all the while treating and praising, then moved to driving down the driveway, then to the post office, and last trip was 3 hours in the truck with me doing errands, and she is at this point great. I grab the leash and tell her "In truck" and she runs over and sits and waits for me to open the door, she hops in without being told and is great. When she gets in she gets a treat and praise, and when she gets out she is treated and praised.

  3. Thanks Sherri!! I have a Spoo with car sickness- I hate to medicate him- plus having to medicate him means he does not get to go anywhere on the spur of the moment like the other dogs do- We are headed out to the car with treats in hand now!!


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