Why Dogs Love (and Hate) Car Rides

Updated On: Tuesday, September 28, 2021 13:18:52 PM America/Los_Angeles

A cool breeze, fun scents, and exciting scenes -- what’s not to love about a car ride with the windows down? It’s no secret that dogs love a good car ride. Or do they? While many dogs enjoy being out and about with their human, others might show signs of anxiety when taken for a car ride. So, what gives? Why do some dogs love car rides while others hate them?

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez

Why Do Dogs Like Being in the Car?

There are a couple of theories explaining why dogs might enjoy car rides so much. One likely possibility is that riding in a car is a sensorially exciting experience. As they breeze through the city, dogs get to sniff new scents and see new sights (Crowds! Hot dogs! Other dogs!). Another theory proposes that being in a car can resemble hunting with the pack. Moving and exploring with other family members can mimic their ancestral hunting process of heading out into the world to look for sustenance. 

Why Do Some Dogs Hate Being in the Car?

Dislike of car rides usually happens for two primary reasons -- car sickness and/or negative associations. Sometimes motion sickness can become the negative association dogs make with car rides, but only being taken into cars when they have vet visits or are being dropped off at the kennel can also cause pups to equate cars to bad news. 

How Do You Get Dogs Used to Car Rides?

If you’re trying to get your pup used to the idea of car rides, help them develop more positive associations with being in the car. A stroll in their fave dog park or rolling around in some fresh grass is the perfect way to end a trip and assure your dog that not all car rides are bad!

If you’re going on a longer trip, having a portable dog bathroom like DoggieLawn can also help quell some anxieties. If reasonable, you might even consider bringing along a (very) slightly used pee pad, which not only provides a place for your pup to go potty, but also offers a sense of familiarity for dogs who are a bit nervous about the prospect of going somewhere new. 

Other familiar objects such as their preferred bedding or blankie can make a car ride more tolerable for sensitive doggos. If that doesn’t do the trick, consider feeding natural calming treats before the ride to help soothe nervousness.

Wherever you and your pup are headed, a little preparation can go a long way! 

TAGS: dog-travel