Riding in Cars with Dogs

riding in cars with dogs

Riding in the car with your dog can be a great experience. Maybe you have a quick road trip planned, or you just want to visit the beach after reading about my favorite places in New Jersey. In order to get to these places a car ride is inevitable.

Every dog has a unique personality, and some will love the car right away. Others, though, may not be as thrilled their first time.

Here are a few helpful tips to riding in cars with dogs:

When first learning, don’t feed before the journey. 

When dogs are first learning to be in the car they have tendency to get motion sick. Avoid food right before the trip and this will help their stomach with the bouncy-turny journey.

Let the dog get into the car on their own.

riding in cars with dogs

Maybe you have a little dog, or your dog is resisting getting in the car. Your first inclination might be to pick that dog up and put them in the car. This may be an immediate short term fix, but it could have worse long term implications. Dogs do much better when they learn to get in and out of the vehicle on their own strength. So, avoid the urge to get it over quickly. Make sure you have enough time. If you’re rushed, and it’s your pooches first time in the car, don’t take the dog. It’s better to spend time teaching them how to get in and out of the vehicle themselves.

If your dog won’t budge, get in first.

Some of you might be thinking, Matt, my dog will not get in the car! I have to pick them up. 

This is probably not the case. You’ve probably tried to go too far too fast. The first time you get to the car, the dog may not get in. Your dog is very cued into your movements. How are you approaching the car? Most people walk their dog up to the car, stop and then expect the dog to get in the car. This is counterintuitive for your dog. Your dog is reading your body language and it’s clear you are NOT getting in that car.

So, often when I pick up dogs, I will get into the car first (even the back hatch of my truck) and then apply pressure to leash to bring the dog with me. This is a much more natural process then having your dog get in alone. After a couple of time following you in, they will be much more comfortable getting in and out on their own.

Practice creating a calm experience.

The key word here is practice! You want your pooch to love the car! So instead of going anywhere, spend time in the vehicle with your dog before it starts moving. Just open up the doors or the hatch get in with him/her and sit together. If your dog associates your car with a calm and relaxing experience, you will be way better off in the long run.

Create a relaxing environment.

Along the same lines as the above tip, create a relaxing space. If your dog has a favorite blanket or bed, put it in the car with them. If your dog is afraid of big/odd objects, then remove them from the car before bringing them in. If your dog is sound sensitive, then make sure everything in the vehicle is secured and anything that might make a loud noise is removed.

By creating an environment that is stress free you will help your dog learn to love it’s four-wheeled home.

Increase time and distance gradually.

Finally, increase your time and distance gradually. Like I said earlier, practice just being in the car before moving. When you first start moving try taking a drive around the neighborhood and then returning or go to a local park.

You want to increase time and distance gradually.

Also, increase regularity. Go new places often! One dog I worked with had a car complex because the only place they ever went was the vet.


As always, if you need help getting your dog conditioned to riding in a car or you need to counter condition a dog that is terrified, feel free to e-mail me to set up a free training consultation.

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