Friday, October 30, 2009

Fear Of Car Rides and Car Sickness

Suzi did not enjoy her first ride home. As she sat in my lap, she barked, whined and even howled the entire 25-minute drive. So two days later when it was time to take her to the vet, 10 minutes away, I decided the safest thing would be to transport her in her crate. While this definitely was a smart move, being confined in the cargo space of our CR-V made her even more fearful. She threw up going and coming home.

The next time we went to the vet I decided to withold food until after the appointment. With our the first puppy I had that had carsickness, this seemed to do the trick. This seemed to work, until the ride home. Drat.

Experience, as well as my vet, reminds me that many puppies simply outgrow car sickness. But when you need to transport your puppy frequently, wait-and-see is not much of an option.

If your puppy or dog hates the car and/or gets car sick, I'll tell you what I tell my clients. "Different remedies work for different dogs."

Whether a dog is afraid of cars or gets sick, making him feel more comfortable is required. The idea is to slowly re-introduce the dog to the car in short sessions, creating positive experiences. Drives are only introduced and lengthened with increased success. Fairly detailed steps on car desensitization can be found in "Help my dog is afraid of car rides! " by Krista Mifflin for

One aspect of car rides Mifflin's article does not address is restraint. A travel crate may help some dogs feel more secure. But, like people, other dogs may do better if they can look out the window. Window-watchers will need a canine seatbelt harness or, for toy and small breeds, a pet booster seat (a separate harness may be required - check packages carefully).

Don't forget that you will probably need some stress reduction. Even when able to ignore whining or barking, most people get tense during these car rides, too. That is another reason to keep initial practice runs brief. If you stress-out and end up shouting "Shut up!" at your dog, this will not help matters. So put in some ear plugs or put on some soothing classical music to keep yourself calm and in control.

There are a number of different things you can try giving your pet. I am a fan of trying natural remedies before medicinal. A number of my clients have sworn by a slice of fresh ginger root. There are also quite a number of herbal car sickness and anti-anxiety concoctions on the market for pets. Whether or not these will help your pet can only be determined by trial and error.

Veterinarians sometimes often recommend a dose of Benedryl or Dramamine. For severe or otherwise appropriate situations, vets prescribe stronger medications.

All these options seem to work best if administered 20-30 minutes before the car ride. Also, please be sure to consult your vet regarding anything you give your dog. Even herbal and natural remedies can cause adverse reactions, or interfere with any medications your dog may be currently taking.

As with most everything in life, there is no quick fix for doggie car issues. As you work through this process keep the following in mind: Be safe; Be comfortable; and carry plenty of towels.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What I Did On Summer Vacation

You may notice the last blog posted before this was a few months ago. There is a very good reason for this hiatus...I lost my mind. Somehow - I can't remember exactly how it was accomplished - my family convinced me to adopt a puppy.

Our original plan was to adopt in the beginning of August, while the boys were still home on summer break. As it turned out, there were not any puppies that fit our particular requirements in our local shelters. We found a wonderful organization through So near the end of August, we found Suzi at the Lonely Hearts Rescue (based in Frederick, MD) and brought her home. (Note: although she looks like a mini-Chloe, they are in no way related)

You may be thinking "You're a dog trainer. So what's the big deal?" Well, being a professional trainer, I knew EXACTLY what I was in for. Housebreaking, nipping and biting, whining...oh, and did I mention housebreaking?

So not only do I agree to adopt a puppy under some temporary insanity, I - yes it was me - chose this dog. As you can see, Suzi has some Beagle in her. The other half is reported to be Jack Russell Terrier.

I've always been a big fan of JRT's, and think Beagles are awfully under-rated. Both breeds make fabulous family dogs when they are properly raised and trained. But both breeds are high energy. We've been living with calm, adult dogs for about 10 years. It was really hard to prepare myself for this shock to the system.

Suzi seems to have the best traits of both breeds. She is an extremely social, intelligent dog. I'm actually suprised at how easily she is adjusting to our family life. The past couple months required a lot of re-organization and rethinking on our part. But I think we've finally gotten into the groove. More to come...