How to Calm Your Dog During Long Car Rides (8 Ways)

How to Calm Your Dog During Long Car Rides (8 Ways)

Calming your anxious dog in the car is entirely achievable, even if your trip is a long one. You might be stressed just thinking of an upcoming long car ride with your dog, and you want the trip to be comfortable for the both of you.

Thankfully, it's possible to do this!

To make the long car trip stress-free, you can calm your dog in these ways:

  • Train your dog to be comfortable in your car.
  • Bring your dog's favorite toys, snacks, and blanket.
  • Bring clothing that smells like you.
  • Safely secure your dog in the vehicle.
  • Create a relaxing environment.
  • Bring a passenger who knows your dog.
  • Tire out your dog before your journey and take breaks.
  • Consider giving your dog anti-anxiety medication.

    I know that traveling in the car can generate a lot of anxiety in pets. But there's no reason to stress because this article will give you advice, tips, and tricks to make your long drive enjoyable. I'll also describe why your dog gets anxious in the car and how to spot it.

    1. Train Your Dog to Be Comfortable in Your Car

    If your dog infrequently travels with you in your car, they may understandably be nervous. This fact is especially true if the only time they’re in the car is when you head to the vet.

    Like small children, dogs need time and positive reinforcement to get used to new experiences. Training your dog can work wonders in restoring peace while traveling. Reward-based training will teach your dog how to behave appropriately in a vehicle.

    They may even grow to like riding with you! Here are some tips:

    Feed Your Dog Next to Your Vehicle

    If your pet is afraid of even being near your car, try feeding them meals and snacks next to it. They’ll start associating this delicious food with being close to the vehicle. Their car-related fear will decrease gradually, and their familiarity with your car will grow. Positive associations with your car will go a long way to making your dog more confident. 

    Let Your Dog Explore the Inside of Your Car When It Is Stationary

    Your dog will figure out your car's smells and become more relaxed with the environment. Consider the Plush Paws Protective Car Covers to protect your car's interior. 

    Next, try placing some of your pet's favorite treats and snacks in different places inside your car. Make it a fun game, and your dog will grow more comfortable.

    Get Ready to Drive

    You can now add the motions of getting ready to go. Sit in the passenger seat, put on your seatbelt, adjust the mirrors, start the engine, etc., so your pet gets used to the routine. Give them positive reinforcement and encouragement all the while. A yummy treat or two will sweeten the deal considerably. 

    Start With Shorter Journeys

    Give your dog time to get comfortable in the car by starting with short trips. As they become more relaxed, you can venture out for longer and longer rides. Try going around the block a few times, then gradually building up to the lengthier trips. Your dog will gradually become accustomed to traveling with you by increasing your journey’s length. 

    Reward Your Dog for Traveling in Your Car

    Studies have shown that aversive-based training increases stress for dogs. Reward-based, positive reinforcement training will get your pup comfortable and excited for their trip.

    Starting small and working your way up to more significant accomplishments will increase your dog's confidence. Make sure you give them plenty of treats and rewards when they've behaved well. Dogs respond to praise more than discipline and naturally tend to please their human companions. 

    Adopt a Relaxed Demeanor

    When training your dog to get familiar with your car, you want to adopt a calm, cheerful, and inviting demeanor. Animals – especially dogs – can pick up on people's emotions and react accordingly. Be encouraging and relaxed to show that there’s nothing to fear.

    It’ll take some time and effort to successfully implement these steps with a very anxious dog. But it’ll be worth it when you hit the road on a long trip. A happy traveling companion will make your travels more stress-free.

    Speak to your dog in a calm and even tone while driving. Chat about the journey or your day; your dog will respond to the sounds of your voice and feel comforted. Besides, it will give you someone to chat to if you are making a long journey alone!

    2. Bring Your Dog’s Favorite Toys, Snacks, and Blanket 

    Toys and Snacks

    How better to keep your dog entertained in the car than bringing along their favorite toys and snacks? As discussed above, you can also use your dog’s favorite treats for positive reinforcement.

    You can combine toys and snacks by giving your pup a puzzle toy with food hidden inside it. This fun distraction will help occupy them during a long car journey. It’s also possible to purchase chewy treats designed to reduce anxiety and stress in dogs.

    However, keep in mind that it's best not to feed your dog too much before or during the journey. Why? Because they may get motion sickness and vomit. Small snacks are a better choice. And it's probably better to stick with dried food as wet food could get messy!

    Your dog can release some anxiety by chewing on a toy (instead of your car's interior!). The Plush Paws car seat covers, door protectors, and cargo liners will help preserve your car's interior for added security. You’ll want to cover your car seats, as an anxious dog may become sick.

    Comforting Blanket

    Furthermore, a cozy, comforting blanket with which your dog is familiar can help soothe their fears. They’ll feel extra secure if they can access objects they’re familiar with during a long car ride. Like a security blanket for young children, a blanket can also soothe your pet.

    Your dog will greatly appreciate these comfort objects on a long ride. The familiar smells of these items will help relax them). It’s like bringing a bit of the comfort of home along on the ride.

    3. Bring Clothing That Smells Like You

    Your Dog’s Sense of Smell

    Dogs have an incredible sense of smell (and an equally impressive sense of hearing). Their noses have 300 million olfactory receptors (compared to just 6 million in humans!). This heightened sense of smell is why you must let your dog sniff around inside your car and get used to it.

    According to the article by Phoenix Veterinary Center: "the part of a dog's brain that is devoted to analyzing smells is about 40 times greater than ours." Can you imagine having a sense of smell that powerful?

    Therefore, smell is so central to dogs. Odors that are recognizable to them can help to calm them down. To help soothe your buddy, bring along a piece of your clothing that has your scent on it. You may find some suitable clothes in the laundry basket!

    You could also take along a cozy blanket or towel with your scent on it.

    Pheromone Products

    Did you know you can purchase pheromone products? Pheromones are chemicals that "communicate" messages between members of the same species. 

    Some pheromones calm a dog down, and it’s possible to purchase synthetic forms of these pheromones in sprays, wipes, diffusers, and collars. Consider spraying, wiping, or diffusing these relaxing pheromones around your vehicle. Or purchase a special pheromone collar.

    Remember how central your dog's sense of smell is to their lived experience. It’ll go a long way to understanding their behaviors and relieving their stress. It may be challenging to relate to just how powerful your dog’s sense of smell is. But familiar odors can alleviate some of their agitations.

    4. Safely Secure Your Dog in the Vehicle

    The laws about dogs in cars vary around the world and between states. In some jurisdictions, you must have your buddy restrained in the vehicle (check your local area's rules around dogs in cars). Your dog should never be a distraction while driving.

    Your pet should never get in the way of you having control over your car, and they shouldn't be sitting on your lap. So, if your dog has the kind of anxiety that makes them pace around, jumping all over your car seats (and potentially distracting you), it's best to secure them safely.

    Also, many dogs feel more secure if they're buckled in or in a crate. Here are some ways you can secure your pet while transporting them. Double-check to ensure that the product is safety-tested and has the correct dimensions for your pet.

    • Travel crate. Crates come in different sizes and materials to suit your dog. 
    • Dog harness. These are great for dogs of any size. You can also purchase adjustable dog seat belts that clip onto their collars.
    • Pet barrier for the cargo area. If you're transporting your buddy in the back of your car, you can set up a pet barrier, so they'll be unable to access the front of the vehicle.
    • Booster seat. Booster seats are designed for smaller dogs.

    When transporting your pet in the cargo area, protect the rear of your car with our Plush Paws Waterproof Cargo Liners. They’re easy to use, easy to clean, and very durable. 

    The Plush Paws range of premium car products (including seat and door covers) are specifically crafted to safeguard your car’s interior on journeys with your dogs.

    5. Create a Relaxing Environment

    Are you going for a really long ride? You want the trip to be as pleasant as possible. Help make it happen for both you and your furry friend. Playing relaxing music, making the car seats extra snug, and keeping the car's interior a comfortable temperature all help soothe your dog's anxieties.

    Soothing Music

    Thanks to the internet, there are many options for playing calming music designed for your dog. Search on YouTube or Spotify for tunes to soothe your furry friend on their long journey. You might even like the music too!

    Here is a great calming track for your furry best friend, and the best thing is that it lasts for 12 hours!"target="_blank"

    Music has helped many fur-buddies worldwide to relax and sleep to the soothing sounds. If you add some tracks, such as the above, it can last hours, perfect for extra-long car rides.

    Comfortable Temperature

    It's essential to ensure the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold. In particular, ensure that it's not too hot for your dog. If you notice them panting heavily (due to anxiety or being too warm), open the windows to let in the fresh air. They need access to water too.

    Remember that cars can heat up quickly. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association: "The temperature inside your vehicle can rise almost 20°F (-6.67°C) in just 10 minutes, and almost 30°F (-1.11°C) in 20 minutes. The longer you wait, the higher it goes."

    This rapid heating means that it’ll be 110 degrees inside your car on a 70-degree day. If you do open those windows, it’s advised not to allow your dog to stick their head out the window. Although your pet may want to feel the breeze, this can result in injury.

    Rather not have the windows open? Try the air conditioner instead.

    Pet Hammock

    Furthermore, to help your dog feel extra cozy, you can use a pet hammock on your back seat. This device will make your pet feel like they have a safe space of their own. Create a cozy environment with our Plush Paws Rear Seat Covers (waterproof, durable, and easy to clean).

    Of course, drive safely and responsibly. If your dog has learned that your car is a safe, relaxing environment, they’ll be more eager to join you on future car rides. Keep the temperature nice and comfy, set up a cozy space for your companion, and put on some relaxing music.

    6. Bring a Passenger Who Knows Your Dog

    While you're driving, it's convenient to have a passenger riding alongside your dog. The best scenario is if your pet is already close to this person. Your companion can play with, pet, reassure, and feed your dog, so they don't feel insecure and anxious.

    They can also watch out for any signs of doggy distress. You’ll be busy concentrating on driving, so another human companion for your dog can help in significant ways.

    It's also convenient because it prevents your pet from trying to distract you from driving. If your journey is super long, you can sometimes let your (human) friend take the wheel, so you can get a break to spend with your dog.

    7. Tire Out Your Dog Before Your Journey and Take Breaks

    Tire Your Dog Out Before the Journey

    Another excellent tip is to let your pet burn off lots of nervous energy before starting their long journey. You might've experimented with your dog on shorter trips but aren't sure how they'll cope with a more extended adventure. Exercising your dog before the trip can help tire them out.

    Experts recommended that you conduct vigorous doggy exercise roughly 20 or 30 minutes before the long car ride begins. They’ll be too weary to kick up trouble in the car!

    Take Breaks on Your Long Ride

    It's a great idea to let your dog get out of the car sometimes. Everyone gets cranky after being cooped up for too long. So, when you're out on your long journey, you’ll want to pull over and stretch your legs. And it's another opportunity for your pet to burn off nervous energy.

    They’ll also get to explore a new area, with new sights, sounds, and smells, while you keep them company. For your safety, too, it's a good idea to break up a long road trip. It can be dangerous to drive for too long without resting.     

    8. Consider Giving Your Dog Anti-Anxiety Medication

    Have you tried these tips and need extra help? Maybe your dog is extremely upset or aggressive. In this case, you should consult with your dog's veterinarian on how to proceed. They may recommend some anti-anxiety medication to calm your dog.

    Also, if your pet gets car sick, your vet may be able to prescribe them some medications to assist with that. Most dogs will respond well to the prior advice in this article. But in cases where your dog is seriously distressed, you may need to consult a vet.

    It’s very common for pets to become overstimulated or anxious in the car. Your vet will advise you on how to help an agitated pet. 

    Why Dogs Get Anxious in the Car

    Not sure if your dog is distressed or not? Being cooped up in a car on long journeys isn't exactly natural for your pet. Unfortunately, your dog might be getting stressed in your car for these reasons.

    They associate the car with trips to the vet. Depending on your pet's personality and previous experiences, they may fear going to the vet. And your car could remind them of these stressful vet appointments (or visits to the groomers or boarding kennel).

    • Motion sickness. This reaction is common in dogs, especially in younger dogs. This illness could be due to their inner ear (involved in balance) not being fully developed yet. Most puppies will outgrow motion sickness when they turn one.
    • They feel like they’re trapped. Nobody likes feeling trapped. But while people understand that they’re still safe inside cars, dogs can feel frightened in the small, moving space of a vehicle from which they can’t escape.
    • New and unusual stimuli. New sights, sounds, smells, and other stimuli can cause stress through their novelty. Your dog may be both excited by and overwhelmed by these new sensations.
    • Heightened senses. Related to the previous point, your dog’s nose and ears are highly sensitive. They’ll need time and positive reinforcement to adjust to all these new stimuli. Have patience with your pet.
    • A previous negative experience in a car. Did your dog have an unpleasant event happen while riding in the vehicle (such as an accident)? Like humans, dogs can develop trauma and fears after negative experiences.

    How to Tell if Your Dog Is Anxious in the Car

    How do you know for sure that your dog has car-related anxiety? For some owners, it can be easy to tell. But if you don't take trips with your pet often or your dog has a calm temperament, you might need a keen eye to notice. 

    Watch out for the following signs of stress and discomfort:

    • Barking
    • Whining and whimpering
    • Pacing back and forth
    • Inactivity or fear (e.g., shaking)
    • Excessive drooling
    • Lip-smacking
    • Panting loudly
    • Vomiting
    • Any other abnormal and unusual behavior

    If you want to protect your car seats, consider Plush Paws Products, including car seat protectors, car door protectors, and cargo liners. Protecting your car's interior is necessary in case of an over-active, frightened, or sick pet.

    Even with a calmer pet, it's essential to preserve your car seats and doors. We all know how messy pets can be and how accidents can happen. Plush Paws protective covers' added protection can save you from the worries and hassles associated with long car rides with pets.

    When your dog isn’t used to riding in the car or just doesn't like car journeys, they’ll probably show some of the above signs of anxiety. If you spot these behaviors in your dog, I recommend following the guidance in this article to help quell your pet's fears.

    But if you’re very concerned for your dog's wellbeing and health, please consider enquiring with a veterinarian about your pet's symptoms. To keep your buddy as healthy as possible, feed them Plush Paws Multi-Mineral Supplement.


    Many dogs experience car-related anxieties. The good news is that there are ways you can create a pleasant journey for you both. By following the strategies outlined in this article, you can ease your dog's stress and make your long car ride a fun and exciting one.

    While you’re out enjoying the ride with your dog, remember to protect your car's interior with Plush Paws Products. Looking after your car's interior will give you added peace of mind. A calm owner helps a pet to be relaxed too. We wish you the best on your journeys with your furry friend.


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