Car sickness

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Car sickness

Post by Sanlarge on Sat Mar 18 2017, 20:00

Can anyone give me advice, our 6 month old blue staffie suffers terribly from going very wet mouthed to chucking up in the car. He has a seat belt on & sits quietly whilst in the car. Only travelled short distances so far & today on arriving at our training class he was not interested & just wanted to sit down. We have been told he should grow out of it but any advice is welcome.

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Re: Car sickness

Post by LizP on Sat Mar 18 2017, 20:40

I'll get back on this tomorrow.


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Re: Car sickness

Post by LizP on Sun Mar 19 2017, 10:52

First of all, hi and welcome to the forum. If you have a moment, pop over the to the introductions section and say hello!

I'll confess I'm going to cut and paste something from another thread to save me retyping, so apologies if there might be the odd bit that sounds strange.

Car issues are, for me, a form of fear/anxiety and I tackle them the same as I would with other fears. The problem, of course, is that you need to keep safe on the road at the same time. However, my advice starts before you even move the car and it might be that you can make progress without going anywhere.

The first step is to make sure that your pup is secure in the car in a place that's fairly near you. It sounds like you're doing that already.

The next thing is to start to create positive associations with the car without going anywhere. I know you say he sits quietly but you need to make sure that this is relaxed and not 'oh my god I'm so worried I can't move'. There's a huge difference. I would probably train/encourage him to lie down rather than sit. Don't force him, just using treats and positive reinforcement make lying down in the car a nice thing to do. All without going anywhere.

You want to get to the point that he will happily jump in the car, wagging his tail, then lie down happily for a couple of minutes before jumping out again. Happily is the key.

Then you progress to you getting in the car without switching the engine on, and after a session or two sitting there for a few minutes (your neighbours will be certain you've lost the plot by now). The aim is always that he just lies still and remains relaxed and happy. His first signs of stress might be tiny, just a raised head, a swallow, a yawn. All the time you're training for fear you need to be aware of those very first signs and don't push on to the next stage until you can repeat the one you're on with no signs at all.

Once you have the engine running, give him a treat or two to settle him if needed but after that try and do it without if you can so you're not relying on giving him treats as you're driving. It might also help to have something that takes a minute or two to chew as chewing promotes relaxation. If he's on the back seat it might be useful to adjust your rear view mirror so you can see him without turning round.

If you get any reaction to switching the engine on, you can try switching it on and then off again, several times in a row until he doesn't react. That might be an indicator to him that he's going somewhere, so don't give him time to react, just on then off until you get no reaction. Breaking down his anticipation is what this is all about so that he can cope better with the next step.

When all that's fine, absolutely no worry/excitement reaction to all the different stages, then you can start moving the car! To start off with, just back the car out of the drive or whatever, literally just 5 metres or so, enough for him to register movement, then go back, switch the engine off and hop him out. Again, practise this until you get no reaction. Then build up. You might want to drive him down the road then walk him back, for example.

Continue to keep an eye on him so you know when his 'uh oh' moments are. There will be points that you might see him just think what's coming next. Those are the points you go more slowly through and, if necessary, go back a step to rebuild confidence before trying again.

As things settle and he learns to travel well, be very mindful of your driving. Take corners and especially roundabouts slowly, brake as gradually as you can. Remember he can't anticipate the movements as we can. And be aware of any return of stress and be prepared to do a little more training if needed.

The other thing is to be very aware of your own responses and body language. You need to remain completely relaxed and happy, showing no signs of concern even if you are worried about him. He needs to take his cue from you and if he thinks you're worried he will be too. Maybe have soothing classical music on in the car and avoid anything loud and/or high beat.

Some dogs do grow out of travel sickness but in my experience this method is effective, quicker than waiting and also helps your own worry as it gives you something positive to work on.

See how it goes and if you have any questions just ask!




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