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Riding in cars with dogs

Riding in cars with dogs

If you’re bringing home a young pup or a dog that has never been in a car before, it can be a stressful experience for them. Start slow and increase the duration of your car rides as your dog gets more comfortable.


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  • A harness or carrier can help contain your pet so they are not a distraction to the driver, and lessens the chances of injury for you and your pet. Start by introducing the harness or carrier at home, with lots of positive reinforcement.
  • Young and older dogs may be hesitant to jump in or out of the car. Consider a pet ramp or lifting them in and out of the car if you’re able to.
  • Never leave your dog unsupervised in the car on a warm day, even with the windows open.

Getting going

  • Once your dog is comfortable with your selected safety restraint, try it out in the car with the engine off, making it a positive experience with treats and praise.
  • Start the engine and continue this process without going anywhere.
  • Go for a short drive around the block, or shorter if needed, continuing to give treats and praise. You will need another person to drive or be with the dog for this step.  If your dog is showing signs of distress, go back a step until they are comfortable to progress again.
  • Gradually increase the length of the drive until your dog is comfortable hopping in and out of the car and is excited to see where the next adventure is!

Don’t forget…

  • Food and water! Having access to clean water and a bowl, no matter the length of the drive, is always a good idea. It is best not to feed your dog before a big drive, but consider taking a portion of food for when you arrive.
  • Frequency of toilet breaks depends on your individual dog. Young and older dogs may need more frequent breaks. Consider stopping every couple of hours for a leg stretch and toilet break. Don’t forget your dog waste bags!

Helping your dog to enjoy car rides opens up new opportunities for adventures and makes Vet visits and the like smoother and less stressful. Find what works best for you and your pooch to enjoy the ride!

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Ilsa is a qualified dog trainer with her own business focused on helping dogs live a happy, fulfilled life and improving the bond between dogs and their families. Bailey is her 6 year old border collie x kelpie who loves exploring and activities and helping with Ilsa’s business.

Ilsa's pets