My puppy Ruby is almost six months old, and we are currently avoiding the car like the plague.
Because she is so puppy car sick, it’s unreal. I’ve tried putting her in a crate in the boot, on the back seat on a travel harness, and on the front seat too. (with airbags off)
Nothing helps. She has puked absolutely everywhere, including inside my cup holder and all over my gearstick… grim! ;)
And if she’s not vomiting, then she is shaking and drooling the entire time. She is just beyond stressed out in the car.
What if puppy car sickness is normal?
Yesterday I had a consultation with a dog trainer to help with many teenage behaviours that are becoming a little tricky!
I learned that everything I am experiencing is completely normal and just a part of Ruby’s natural development. That’s not to say there is no training to be done, there is. But it’s taking into account her developmental stage and what she’s experiencing to develop a training plan that meets her where she’s at.
Anyway, back to puppy car sickness. What I learned from my wonderful trainer is that a lot of puppies struggle with car travel. And that it’s actually developmentally totally normal.
Your puppy’s vestibular system takes time to develop. And until their inner ears are fully developed, they can suffer motion sickness.
Your puppy may outgrow this by around 5-6 months of age, or if they’re a large breed, then it may take a little longer.
Why do puppies get car sick?
Aside from the development of your puppy’s vestibular system, there may be other factors at play that contribute to your puppy feeling car sick.
If your puppy has had a traumatic or scary experience on their first car ride or during their early trips, this can lead to a negative association with the car.
For my puppy Ruby, her first car ride home from the breeder was 4 hours long. She had just left her siblings, her mother, and her home to get into the car with a complete stranger. This was a stressful time for her, and she was very car sick on that first journey.
If your puppy isn’t crate trained and you use a crate in the car, then this could add another layer of stress or discomfort that can lead to negative associations with travel.
Or, if your puppy likes to be close to you and they travel in the boot, this could be a source of worry for your puppy.
How can I help my puppy with car sickness?
Begin by spending short periods in the car without going anywhere. This will allow your puppy to get used to the sights and smells of your car without the added sensory exposure to movement and sounds.
Next, you can spend some sessions in the car with your pup with the engine running but no movement to help your puppy acclimatise to the sound and vibrations of the car when it’s running.
When you progress to driving with your puppy, make your trips short and sweet so your pup can gradually get used to the experience.
For us, we ditched car rides for a few weeks as the sight of the car was becoming a source of concern for Ruby. She wouldn’t relax on a walk until we passed the car, and she knew she was safe from having to get in!
I’ll be working with my trainer to help get her used to the car. It might be that now she is a bit older that her vestibular system will be developed, but there will likely be a bit of a hangover from her previous experiences with the car.
It’s a pain in the ass for sure. I want to be able to take her on lovely outings to new places to explore, but right now, she wouldn’t enjoy that. Hopefully, we have many, many years ahead of us where we can enjoy those adventures together.
But right now, it’s simply too much for her. And if I push it, then we’ll likely create much bigger problems to solve.
Car sickness tablets
My vet explained that they could prescribe travel remedies for dogs. So if you need to go on a long trip with your puppy and are prone to travel sickness, then it’s worth talking to your vet to prepare.
These can’t be used regularly, but they are a good solution for trips away or long days out when you can’t leave your pup at home.
8 Top Tips to help your puppy with travel sickness
Aside from waiting for your puppy to outgrow travel sickness, there are some things you can try which may make car travel more comfortable for your puppy.
Time meals for after travel so your dog isn’t travelling on a full tum
Crack the window to allow airflow
Leave music off while travelling to reduce sensory overload
Make sure your puppy doesn’t only get in the car for experiences like the vet and groomers!
Have your puppy facing forwards for travel
Try your puppy in various locations in the car to see where they are most comfortable (always ensure safe travel by checking out our guide to car safety for dogs)
Make sure your puppy has an empty bladder and bowels before travel
Bring something comforting like your puppies blanket or dog bed for travel
Many of the things we experience through the puppy and adolescent stages are just a normal part of their development. It can be exhausting, overwhelming, and worrying for us puppy owners, but there is some comfort in knowing it’s normal, and with support, it will pass.
If you’re struggling with any puppy behaviours, get in touch with a local force-free trainer or behaviourist. Having one person to turn to for all your questions and woes is a huge relief that will have you and your puppy feeling much, much better!