Pets (and their owners) often have a few issues that bubble to the surface when the prospect of a car journey together arises. These problems are usually related to motion-sickness, unruly behavior, or various combinations of these.
These behaviors can be very complex and difficult to untangle. Here are a few considerations:
Avoid problematic travel until the behavioral modification has been completed. (Yes I know, easier said than done) since if the pet experiences the undesirable behavior, even occasionally, it continues to be reinforced.
• Drive smoothly
• Allow the pet better visualization during travel (booster seats, access to windows)
• Air conditioning
• Avoid feeding prior to travel
• Restructure your relationship and status with your pet. This requires training across the board. Get detailed training information.
• Try a head collar (eg Gentle Leader) for dogs. Sometimes this has a reflex calming effect.
• Identify and modify the sequence of events leading up to travel that may precipitate anxiety and anticipation.
• Use Feliway Spray or D.A.P (Dog Appeasement Pheromone) Spray to treat the car or crate a couple of hours earlier to provide positive feedback to the pet. A pheramone collar called ADAPTIL is available for dogs that may also alleviate some anxiety issues.
• Start training with regular exposure to a parked car and provide a positive stimulus pet (eg. dinner, special treat)
• Terminate any training sessions at the first sign of anxiety.
• Avoid boredom at home
• Provide obedience training
• Establish a predictable, consistent and reliable relationship between the pet and all family members.
• Use proper restraint such as harness, crates or cages
• For dogs, citronella anti-bark collars may be useful
• Praise only good behavior. Don’t try to pacify bad behavior with praise.
A note on drugs:
Motion sickness can be alleviated with a variety of medications, but they are only useful for long trips and sporadic use as they can take a while to kick in and last up to a day.
Anxiety can be sometimes partly alleviated using spray pheromones in the car. Dogs with ongoing anxiety or neurotic behavior may benefit from training assisted with some medications as part of an over-all approach.
Unruly behavior is not an indication for drug therapy.
So… it’s not simple! Give us a call for detailed information, or better yet, arrange for a consultation with a Veterinary Behavioral Specialist.
Bye for now,