Animal Car Sickness
The first thing to realize when dealing with car sickness is that in 95
percent of cases it is stress related and not motion related. The most
powerful memory imprint of any dog’s 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 it’s 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 conditions permit.
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 (client’s) 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 percent of the dogs it’s used on then I think
it’s quite successful!
Train with trust not fear.