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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-20-2017, 10:39 AM Thread Starter
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Anxiety in the car

Was wondering if anyone could give me some advice on this issue! I will apologize now for the length of this post!

Zuko will be 5 this year. He has been an absolute joy since the moment we brought him home as a puppy, has taught us so much (he is our first Doberman!) and we love him to death. However, ever since we brought him home, he has had severe nausea/anxiety while going on car rides. Over the years it has gotten better -- no more nausea, no more excessive drooling -- but he still gets very agitated/anxious/excited when he gets in the car, no matter where we are going -- vet, dog park, relatives across town, daycare. We can't bring him on casual cruises around town because the entire ride he is just so anxious and excited, it overrides his mind and reason goes out the window. He will pace back and forth in the back seat, go back and forth to each open window (the fresh air helps his nausea, we have found) and will make these loud whining/crying anxious vocalizations that don't stop until we arrive at our destination. It is a mix of extreme excitement and extreme anxiety. I will try to get it on video and post it when I can.

After he's romped around at the dog park and has gotten nice and tired, he's great in the car, but will still have a little pacing.

As far as trying to curb the behavior itself, I feel as if we have tried everything -- Benadryl, giving him a walk before car rides, sitting with him in the driveway until he calms down, treats during the ride(not great for his nausea), soothing him with petting while on the car ride, ignoring him completely while on the car ride, telling him to be quiet firmly, holding him still. Some things help a little, but eventually his anxiety and excitement come back. Our cars aren't big enough to fit a dobie-sized crate in it, otherwise we would've just kept him in his kennel for rides. Having someone in the back seat helps him from pacing but he still is visibly anxious.

I feel like I was on the right track with waiting until he was calm in the driveway before we even begin driving, but it takes him some time to settle down, especially if he hasn't exercised that day yet (winter weather, ugh) Several minutes at least until he's calm. So we could possibly start doing that again, wait until he's calm before we start driving, and any anxiety he shows we stop the car, and wait for him to settle again. But do we ignore it until he stops? Soothe at all? Or just say 'good boy' when he is calm and no touching?

Time is also an issue here. We both work full-time and don't exactly have half an hour to wait for him to calm down for every trip, we have places to be and dinner to make, lol. So, would a few (3-4x a week), after work, drive around the block and wait until he calms down sessions work? Do we just suck it up and do this every car ride, wait for him to be calm before we go anywhere? Or does anyone have any other suggestions?

Any advice appreciated here Thanks for reading, again!!!

Jackie, Jake & Zuko

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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-20-2017, 11:16 AM
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read case #2 in this link...........

I had a red girl years ago who hated riding in cars too, she did get a bit better as she got older but is was always stressful for her. if I had known about bach flower essences then I would have tried them.......

let me know if you do and how it works.

Hugz to your boy.

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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-20-2017, 11:38 AM
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jeitzen - a well written post / unfortunately our Kelly (aged 4.5 years) has the exact same problem.

Our first 2 pups loved car rides and never got sick.
Kelly at 10 weeks old, tried getting sick driving up town.
- so I stroked her in the front passenger seat...that worked
- my truck parked in driveway / I would feed her a little kibble make front seat a happy place
- eventually she loves the idea of a car or truck ride...and don't want to be left behind
- once we got into traffic, people walking on sidewalk...movements distracted her
- even mothers pushing a baby carriage, on sidewalk...set Kelly off
- I tried to keep puppy from looking out the window by laying beside me...but she grew up & got to tall
- her prey drive as a pup was very high and as she came into her first heat at 9 months...her anxiety ramped up
- covering up Kelly's eyes, with race horse blinders might work...LOL
Kelly only rests in vehicle when we are travelling at Hwy. speeds, @ 50 mph or 80 kph.

Between age 2-4 months, I held puppy on my lap in front passenger seat.
- covered her with a bath towel...when wife was driving
- this prevented car sickness attempts...keeping baby calm

Now she only naps on the highway but wakes up when I slow vehicle down, entering city limits.
- she constantly gets triggered by city lights and movements
- constantly looking for people & dogs in vehicles or on the street
She hasn't gotten any better.
- early puppy drooling & foaming at the mouth has been replaced with aggressive looking snapping
at side window glass & excessive barking (baring K9 teeth)

------------Kelly & (Amy - RIP @ 11.7 y/o)

Last edited by Beaumont67; 03-20-2017 at 11:59 AM.
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-20-2017, 12:18 PM
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First off - my guess would be your dog still has some nausea. Have you tried a prescription nausea med for car rides? It can make a WORLD of difference for dogs that have some nausea. Once they stop feeling so sick you can actually make progress with them with some behavioral modification. He's had a VERY long time of associating car rides with not feeling well, so it's going to take some work on your part. Step one for me would be to get a good med from your vet to curb the nausea. Follow the vet's directions, which likely will be to give the meds a little bit before the actual car ride.

The second thing you'll need to do is start a counter-conditioning program. For a LONG time the car has been a source of stress and anxiety. It's going to take some work for it NOT to be that. I'd start with putting the car out in the driveway, with the doors open (so he can easily jump out and not feel forced or trapped). Get the highest value treat for him - steak, cheese, cheetos cheese puffs - whatever floats his boat. If he can be off-leash, it's ideal, because you want him to feel in control, but if that's not an option give him a long leash if you can. I'd start by simply placing a treat on the edge of the seat, easily accessible without entering the car. Let him take it - if you clicker train, I'd click when he has his nose in there and right before he takes the treat. Keep the session short and positive, just let him easily take a few treats without having to get in the car. The next day I'd move them just a little farther inside the car. Again, short session. I'd progressively move them farther in, always letting HIM choose to go in the car, and mark getting in if you have a clicker or with a "yes!". Let him choose to get back out - it's okay if he does right away. The car should be VERY positive. I'd continue progressively doing that until he was very, very comfortable getting in and out, then maybe shut a door on one side and see if he's okay. Basically, you are wanting to make the car a really positive place to be, always his choice to go in and okay to go out. Just continually build up to longer stretches, then closing the doors, then turning the car on (but not going anywhere - and for this, you'll want the meds on board), then going around the block, etc, etc. - just slowly building up to riding in the car with it very positive. I think you will find that once he's on a nausea med he is able to take treats, which will make the car much more pleasant for him and you can work on conditioning the car as a good place to be. It'll just take time. Once you get to the point where he is more comfortable you might try some Kongs or something like that so you don't have to constantly treat him, and then he'll hopefully wean off those, too.

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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-20-2017, 02:08 PM
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I have the same problem with Jack, my 6 yr. old dobie. It doesn't matter where we're headed off to~ the vet, McDonalds drive-thru, the park~ he just hates the car, whines and cries constantly and makes all of us miserable. I've tried all of the things you have as well, without success. My friend is involved with pit bull rescue and she swears by this tip for any anxious dog behaviors: purchase "lavender oil" (an essential oil) sold in some health food stores. Rub a little lavender oil up and down, along the spine of the dog and it apparently creates a calming sensation. I have not tried this yet myself, but I intend to.
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-20-2017, 04:00 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks so much for everyone's input so far!!

I am looking into the Bach flower essence, I found it on Amazon for pretty cheap. I'm surprised how many people use it on themselves too, and the reviews for it are pretty decent.

I like the idea of working with Zuko with all the doors/windows open on the car in the driveway. He would dig that. I should have mentioned though he has absolutely no trouble getting in and out of the car, he is MORE than happy to hop in the back seat. He loves the IDEA of a car ride but the actual ride itself and actually moving is what gets him worked up. This is what causes me to believe this is nausea, and he may definitely need to get on some meds for him. I will definitely look into talking to my vet about nausea medication, see what they think he needs, that could seriously help him with the issues.

Jackie, Jake & Zuko

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Last edited by jeitzen; 03-20-2017 at 04:07 PM.
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-21-2017, 09:36 AM
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I would say if the nausea is still persisting then that is the primary cause of his anxiety and discomfort. Mine had nausea when he was a baby and has since grown out of it thankfully, but he still has his whiny moments in the car. I think it's mostly because he doesn't have enough room, it's a extended cab pick up and his head almost hits the ceiling and he has to stand sideways because the seat itself is too narrow. That being said, an SUV is in our very near future!

I would definitely try to help his nausea and then see if his symptoms abate. Good luck!
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-21-2017, 05:34 PM
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It's probably either excessive excitement or nervous/fearful anxiety, but I doubt it'd be both. To manage the situation, it'd help to find out what it is.

I wouldn't assume that the vomiting is necessarily due to carsickness or nervousness. I made the mistake of assuming that Kira was a combination of carsick and maybe nervous or overstimulated until I paid closer attention to her behavior and demeanor, which I simply hadn't been doing since it's a good idea to watch the road while driving. What your guy is doing sounds a lot like how she was behaving.

She would get pretty worked-up, making lots of vocalizations (mostly excited yelps, whines, and barks, which) while looking out windows or trying to edge her way into the front seats. She never shirked from going places, though, if it was an unpleasant experience for her, would she be so eager to jump in a vehicle? I don't think so.

Another clue was how she has always been much more calm on the way home. It doesn't even matter if the activity isn't intense enough to wear her out, she's always more mellow on the return trip, no vomiting, pacing, excessive fussing, or anything.

So, after thinking it through and watching her, I realized that she is just so excited to go do something (mostly running in the forest) that she was getting so worked-up in anticipation of an activity, that she would go bonkers and even vomit. When she senses we're headed home, she settles-down immediately because the anticipation is gone. It's almost like flipping a switch.

I found that taking some rather short trips in which we don't stop or do anything has helped a lot; trips to nowhere but looping around back home were the key. If I keep her guessing as to whether there will be some activity at the end of the trip, she doesn't get quite so excited, and when her excitement is lowered by a notch, she doesn't vomit or screech. She's still very eager to jump in vehicles because she really wants to go places & do things, but managing her unbridled anticipation has made for her being a far less obnoxious passenger.

What I would NOT do for that type of excitement is try to use anti-anxiety products or coddle the behavior. You can't effectively calm a dog that isn't nervous or fearful by treating them for anxiety. The only way to change what has become a conditioned response is to alter the conditioning. Likewise, nervousness, fear, and motion-induced nausea have their own solutions as well, such as comforting and altering the conditioning as well. Generally speaking, if a particular group of approaches don't seem to be bringing appreciable success, it's always worth re-evaluating if you've correctly identified the problem.
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