I’m really happy with how well my dog Mojito has taken to car rides. He is a lap dog first and foremost, so our first few trips left him confused and dejected about being forced to sit in the back seat all alone. We worked through it, though, because letting a dog sit with the driver or even in the front seat is incredibly dangerous for everyone in the unfortunate event of an accident. Besides being a potential distraction up there, a dog is in danger of being hurt by the vehicle’s airbags should they go off.
Luckily, Mo does not have a fear of the car itself, or seem to suffer from motion sickness, so I wasn’t totally starting from scratch with him. We began by taking him along on short trips, like to get gas. I would sit in the back seat with Mo, who was tethered to the seat belt with a harness. Every time he tried to get up and crawl into my lap, I had him sit back down in his proper spot, then reward him with a small treat. A lot of talking and reassurance isn’t necessary – it can reinforce his belief that this is something to get upset over. Just keep calmly reminding him to sit or lay down.
At first, I was putting him back in his spot constantly, over and over and over and then over again. I really had to ignore his sad whines, flat ears, and the huge why-me eyes, but after our third or fourth 20 minute drive, he caught on. Once we started on the road and began to pretend he wasn’t there, he would sigh and lay down all on his own.
When we went on our first longer trip to my in-laws, I put in one of his smaller beds just to make it a little more comfy. This was obviously more to his liking, because after that, he would groan and cry if forced to sit on a bare back seat. Once when I forgot a bed, he guilted me into giving him my own sweatshirt! He promptly curled up on it and napped.
Now that it’s summer, we travel quite a bit on the weekends, so I just picked up a Bolster Travel Seat to give Mo his own dedicated car bed. I’m glad to report that he loves it! It’s the smaller 22” version, which covers one seat in the back of the car. He’s a snuggler, so he settled right into it with a sweet potato snack, then slept with his head on the bolster. In fact, once we arrived home again and were unpacking the car, he jumped back in while the door was open and went right back to sleep! For him to do that on his own is the most positive review he can give.
Although he obviously loves home best, he puts up no resistance when it’s time to buckle up and get going. I’ve also worked with him not to get into the car until he’s been told, because a personal peeve of mine is having somebody else’s overly excited dog barrel into my open car. More importantly for his safety, he’s also not supposed to jump out until his leash is clipped on and I tell him it’s okay.
Other safe travel options: