ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Q: I need help controlling my Sunny in a car. I have had big dogs all my life but never had this problem and it’s getting scary to travel and worry about the distraction. In all other situations he responds to speech commands and treats. In this he is oblivious to my existence!
Dr. Nichol: Oblivious to your existence, eh? I’ve been to that movie. You might as well be raising children.
Pacing and barking in the car is a common problem. Many dogs have a strong need to interact with everything they see flashing past them. This behavior can be influenced by fear of all those strangers, noises and scary looking dogs. If Sunny is drooling he may also have motion sickness. There is no amount of scolding, arm waving, or swearing that will help. Threats to “turn this car around and go right back home” won’t work either.
You can tether this big boy in the back seat and cover the rear side windows to diminish the visual arousal triggers but the most reliable approach would be to have Sunny ride in a dog crate covered with a sheet or towel. You can further reduce his sensory overload with a Calming Cap. This facial covering, reminiscent of a mask worn in a vain attempt to sleep on a cramped airplane, is well-accepted and comfortable for most dogs. Fabric, collapsible crates are available at local pet supply retailers.
Sunny’s body signaling would be telling. Post a short video of his antics on my Facebook page and I’ll decipher his messages for you. If he’s freaked out, you can give him the natural antianxiety supplement Anxitane (available from your veterinarian) prior to car rides. An Adaptil pheromone collar would help promote a calmer emotional state. You can also mist the inside of Sunny’s crate with Adaptil spray just before the two of you saddle up for your next motoring adventure.
Finally, for drooling dogs green with nausea, Dramamine II (local pharmacy) can be given in advance. Serious vomiters can catch a break with a prescription medication called Cerenia (from your veterinarian). Be safe, and may the force be with you.
Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video, blog or a Facebook Live to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.