by David the Dogman
The first thing to realize when dealing with car sickness is that in
95% of cases it is stress related and not motion related. The most
powerful memory imprint of any dogs brain is probably the car ride when
it was taken away from all it ever new to be safe and secure, its litter
mates and its mother. The most traumatic memory a young dog has is in
relation to a ride in a car. So its not surprising that subsequent rides
in a car should evoke very strong mental and subsequent physical trauma.
The solution is very simple. If the dog has been sick in a car then
estimate how long it was in the car before it was sick, say 20 minutes?
Find a park about 5-10 minutes from home, preferably one just around the
corner, even one within walking distance that the dog has been to
before.... but this time drive there. Ideally have someone else in the
car too, to soothe the dog and distract him from the ride. Keep him
happy all the way to the park. When at the park do all the enjoyable
things that the dog loves, fetch the ball, chase the Frisbee, frolic
with dad etc. The stay at the park doesn't need to be that long.... just
as enjoyable as possible. Then drive the dog home soothing him all the
way again and when home make just as much fuss of the dog as you did at
the park. Finish the session with his meal or a treat if time and
This exercise is repeated several times a day or daily if time is
limited. Once the dog is enthusiastic to go in the car then the length
of the trip is lengthened slightly to 10-15 minutes etc. Once you can
drive with the dog for 30 minutes with no signs of stress or anxiety
then you have the problem pretty much licked. Some dogs may take a
little longer than others. The idea is for as many happy repetitions as
possible to overwrite the initial mental imprint the dog has from its
youth (or whatever other event caused the initial trauma).
I have had a (clientís) dog that suffered from chronic carsickness
totally 'cured' (if that is the right term) in 3 days. That was with
five car trips per day over the three-day period. The owners were
impressed (even if I say so myself) and I am still getting referrals
from them as a result.
This method has always worked, but I have heard of one dog that was sick
due to some kind of balance problems and this method didn't work for it.
A trip to the vet after the method failed brought the problem to the
surface. But if it only works for 95% of the dogs itís used on then I
think itís quite successful!
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