How To Help Your Nervous Dog With Car Rides

I recently read a fantastic book called How to be Your Dog’s Best Friend: A Training Manual for Dog Owners by the Monks of New Skete. The part that stuck with me after reading that book is the emphasis on the fact that to you, your dog is your best friend. But to your dog, you are the leader of the pack – their source of socializing, of friendship, of belonging. I really took that to heart. Yes, I work a full-time job and I hate leaving my dog at home, but I do my best to include her when I can. Short trip to the grocery store? Hop in. Let’s go for a ride. The pack is on the move!

My dog loves going where I go, but she’s not exactly crazy about being in a vehicle. Sometimes she gets nervous. Anxious, even. After two years of living with my dog, I’ve come up with a couple of small but helpful things to make her comfortable when we’re mobile.

River was crate-trained as a puppy, and her crate is her special safe-zone. When it’s storming outside, she’s either curled up against my legs or seeking refuge in her crate. It’s supposed to make her feel safe. While not everyone can do this, I have enough room in my SUV to put the crate back there. I then stabilize the crate with straps so that it’s not loose.

When we’re driving, I’ll play something on the radio like NPR. If I’m not in the mood to listen to the radio, I’ll talk to River. Tell her how my day was and what we’ve got to look forward to. I remember reading somewhere that including a dog’s name in a song also puts them in a better state of mind. Maybe not, but I enjoy doing it. I like the Scooby Doo theme song. Pretty sure she does, as well, with all the tail wagging I see. “River Diver Doo, Where are you? We’ve got some work to do now!”

“”River Diver Doo, Where are you? We’ve got some work to do now!”

I usually bring treats with me, too. While we’re driving around, I’ll occasionally reach back and give her one and tell her she’s been a good girl. I’m hoping this positive reinforcement will show her that car rides can be fun and rewarding experiences.

I haven’t tried it, yet, but I know there are stress coats for dogs out there. Something about that tactile contact seems to really help keep animals and people calm in tense situations. Maybe when it gets a bit colder outside, I’ll invest in one and see if that helps.

With that being said, some dogs just get a little freaked out when they’re on the road. We have to do what we can to keep them comfortable. There’s no telling what’s going on in their heads as they’re in a thousand-pound vehicle flying at high speeds, but it’s our responsibility to let them know that they’re safe with the pack.

Photo credit puck90 via

If you enjoyed this post, you should read “Working Dogs And Their Jobs” here.

Do you have any tips for making car rides easier for anxious pups? Share below!

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