Carsickness – How to Help Your Pup Adjust to Travel

As owners, we feel terrible when our pup doesn’t tolerate riding in the car well. We consider leaving them at home to avoid the whining, pacing, drooling, barking, and the potential mess that can come with traveling in the car. However, by avoiding this stressful situation and only taking our pups out once or twice a year, we actually make it worse because they never learn that it can be a happy experience.

Young puppies may experience motion sickness because their inner ear is not fully developed. This means that what they feel in their body doesn’t match what their eyes see as the car moves. Just like small children are more prone to getting car sick than adults, young puppies are more likely to be affected by motion sickness. Luckily, most puppies outgrow this by their first year of life as they fully mature.

Unfortunately, some pups are not as lucky and don’t outgrow their car troubles. The idea of going for a quick ride around the block is enough to bring out the anxiety we hate to see. This learned anxiety needs to be handled differently than regular motion sickness in a young puppy.

Tips And Tricks To Prevent Carsickness

The best way to prevent car sickness in your young pup is to make every car experience a positive one from the time you bring them home.

  1. Ensure your pup is drained of excess energy and has a full potty break before getting into the car.

  2. Provide them with a soft space and a comfortable blanket to lay on. Some pups do better in a booster seat designed just for them, where you can safely strap them in. This forward-facing spot is the best way for them to travel.

  3. Break the car ride into shorter sessions with plenty of time for potty breaks. Offer water but avoid giving them their regular food during the ride home, as a full stomach can be challenging. Giving them a small treat every thirty minutes can help create a positive association with the car without filling up their belly.

  4. Roll the windows down slightly to create better pressure and allow fresh air. The fresh air coming in the window also gives your pup something to focus on as they take in all the information through their nose.

What Do I Do Now That My Pup Hates The Car?

The best way to help your anxious puppy with riding in the car is to stay calm and recognize that it will take time and patience to help them overcome this. There are two ways to create a better outlook for your puppy in the car. They can be used together or separately, depending on the severity of your pup’s symptoms.

Behavior Modification

When a puppy has had several consecutive negative experiences in the car, they can develop extreme anxiety, to the point of showing fear or avoidance behaviors such as hesitating to approach the car when it is turned off, avoiding going into the garage, or hiding upon hearing the car keys jingle. At this stage, it is crucial to work on creating a positive association with the car to help alleviate their anxiety.

  1. Observe behavior patterns in your pup in and around the car that indicate anxious or nervous behavior, such as lip licking, pinned back ears, whining, and avoidance.
  2. Begin offering high-value rewards to your pup at a safe distance from the car and gradually get closer without pressuring your pup to get into the car.
  3. Feed your pup in the car, with the car turned off, and spend quality time petting and playing with them before walking away.
  4. Bring their favorite toys, beds, and blankets into the car.
  5. Once your pup feels safe and confident with all of this, you can begin the same steps with the car turned on but not going anywhere.
  6. Eventually, you can start by backing down the driveway and pulling forward a couple of times, and only go on longer rides when your pup has shown they are happy.


If you have tried all the above tips and tricks and your pup still feels unwell on car rides, it’s time to involve your veterinarian in the conversation. There are various medication options, both natural and prescription, that can help alleviate the mess and stress of being in the car. The types of medication used vary from aromatherapy and calming supplements to anti-nausea and anti-anxiety medications. Each has its pros and cons, as with any medication, and should be used only when necessary.

Many pups respond well to over-the-counter meds, while others may require medication prescribed by your vet. Always talk to your vet about the safety, side effects, and dosing for your pup before medicating them. You and your vet will decide together what works best for your puppy.

Most puppies respond well to a combination of prevention, behavior modifications, and medication. Some just need time to grow and adapt to their new environment, while others may require more assistance from external sources.