How to train your dog for stress-free car rides

Digby Bodenham
1 December 2020 - 2 min read

To many dogs, a car trip might feel like being put in a noisy metal box that makes sudden and unexpected movements. But it is possible to help them get used to it and feel comfortable while making sure they're restrained in a way that complies with the Highway Code.

The Dog Coach, Vicky Carne, has created a short guide that makes it easy to get your dog used being in a car.

ManyPets pet insurance customers can get discounts on The Dog Coach training course and you can find more guides on our YouTube channel.

If your puppy or older dog isn’t yet comfortable with car journeys, you need to take your time to build up their confidence.

Start by just sitting with your dog in a stationary car. Treats or a favourite chew will help them feel good. Keep the sessions short.

When they seem comfortable with that, start the engine, still without going anywhere. The next step is to take them on short drives. Maybe just around the block.

As you progress to longer drives, it would be a good idea to break the journey with a pleasant walk so that getting in the car begins to be associated with fun activities.

Some dogs will settle happily quickly. Others may need many short sessions over a number of days to get really comfortable.

If your puppy is regularly carsick, it will often resolve itself as they get older. If not, speak to your vet about possible remedies.

Car restraints and harnesses for dogs

You also need to think about car safety. That’s not only to keep your dog safe but the driver and any passengers as well. There are a number of options for restraining your dog in a car. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard. What’s best will depend on the type of car as well as the size of your dog.

With small dogs or puppies, a carrier or crate, either in the footwell or held in place with a seat belt is likely to be your best option. If you have an estate or hatchback you could put your dog in the boot and use a dog guard to ensure they stay there. Make sure it’s strong and firm enough not to be pushed over by the dog.

Plan ahead, especially in warm weather when it isn't safe to leave your dog in a parked car. Even with the windows down and sunshades, cars heat up very quickly, which can prove fatal.

Finally, train your dog not to jump out of the car until you give them a cue to do so. Happy travels with your dog!