Fear Of Vehicles

Courtesy of WikiHow
Pippa Elliott/MRCVS


  1. Check for travel sickness before assuming your dog is afraid of the car for any other reasons. If not addressed, a simple case of motion sickness can be compounded by anxiety brought on by associating the car with sickness. See your vet for advice about medication that can alleviate the motion sickness. Some symptoms of motion sickness include.

  2. Whining and pacing
  3. Excessive drooling
  4. Lethargy
  5. Vomiting
  6. Diarrhea

  7. Make your car comfortable for your dog. Creating an environment that is comfortable and enjoyable for your dog will make overcoming his fears much easier and in some cases, may solve your dog’s dislike of the car.

  8. Ensure that his harness fits properly or that his crate is the right size.
  9. Provide a blanket or toy that is special for your dog to help reassure him and to give him something to concentrate on.
  10. Ensure adequate air flow and a cool temperature. Never leave your dog in a car with the windows closed because the car will overheat and can kill your dog.
  11. Get rid of air fresheners. Any overwhelming smell in a car can be too much for your dog’s sensitive nose. Also avoid wearing too much perfume in the car.

  12. Watch for signs of fear and of relaxation in your dog. To train him, you’ll need to know when he is uncomfortable, so you can back off, and when he is relaxed, so you can move on to the next step.

  13. Dogs who are afraid will often tremble, pant, whine, drool, cower, or tuck their tails.
  14. Relaxed dogs will adopt a relaxed posture, breath normally, hold their tails and ears normally (not tucked or lowered), wag, and eat at a normal pace.

  15. Do not take your dog on car trips if he is afraid. Trips in the car will only reinforce his fear, so avoid them, save for emergencies, until you've overcome his fear through desensitization (making him less sensitive to the experience) and counterconditioning (creating pleasant associations with the car to replace the negative ones).

  16. Start by teaching your dog to approach the car without fear. When you go for a walk, give your dog a treat as you pass near the car. Play games like fetch or tug-of-war near the car. Feed your dog near the car, starting further away and moving the bowl progressively closer. When your dog shows no anxiety while eating or walking near your car, you are ready for the next step.

  17. Train your dog to spend time in the car while it is not moving. You may need to lure your dog into the car with treats at first. While he is in the car continue to give treats or give him a chew bone or treat filled KONG. Leave the door open, and take these treats away when your dog leaves the car. Practice this once or twice a day for a week or two.

  18. If it the engine starting that frightens your dog, try turning the car on before he gets in. You can attempt to desensitize him, or simply continue starting the car before putting your dog in it.
  19. When your dog is comfortable in the car, start closing the door.
  20. As your dog’s comfort increases, try feeding him in the car.

  21. Turn the ignition on. Once your dog is comfortable in the car, try starting it with him in it. If your dog shows anxiety, then you might want to desensitize him. Start by starting the car with your dog nearby, but not in it. Have someone give treats as the car starts. Once your dog is comfortable, move him into the car and repeat the process.

  22. Move the car a few feet and back. Drive your car down the driveway or a few feet down the street. Stop and with the engine running give your dog some treats or have a quick play session. Move back to your parking spot and end the session. Continue this until your dog is totally relaxed during these sessions.

  23. Take short, fun trips. You want to make your dog’s first training drives in the car short, with a fun destination – preferably a park or hiking trail your dog enjoys. If there is one within a block or two, head there. If not, get in your car without your dog and drive it to within one or two blocks of your destination. Then, walk your dog to the car and drive the short remaining distance. Afterwards, walk your dog home.

  24. Continue until your dog is comfortable with this short trip.
  25. Park further and further away as your dog grows comfortable in the car.

  26. Add more fun destinations. You want your dog to see the car not as a place of fear, but as a place of treats leading to wonderful destinations. Once your dog can handle short trips, try gradually longer ones to places he loves like friend’s houses, pet stores, or other parks.

  27. Drive on the highway. Uninterrupted motion makes dogs sleepy and will help your dog to relax in the car. The highway is a great way to get your dog accustomed to longer trips in a relaxed manner.