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RECYCLED LOVE: Take it one drive at a time

There are baby steps you can take to improve your dog’s car ride experience. - 123RF
There are baby steps you can take to improve your dog’s car ride experience. - 123RF

I had the honour of driving a foster dog to her veterinarian appointment last week. On the way to pick her up, I found myself thinking about dogs and car rides. Some dogs love going for a drive, but many dogs struggle and become very anxious.

My husband and I have been fortunate that our dogs have always enjoyed car rides. It certainly makes taking them to the veterinarian or on holidays simpler. We refer to our current dog as “Driving Miss Lazy” when we take her in our vehicle. She is always delighted to go for a drive and jumps into the car with ease. She stretches out, lies down and sleeps until we arrive at our destination.

If you own a dog that is terrified or suffers from anxiety during car rides, there are steps you can take to help alleviate their stress. It will take time and patience to help them out, but begin with baby steps.

Try feeding them a high-value treat in the car. All the dog has to do is get in the car and they get a treat. Then, let them get out of the car and back into the house. Over a few weeks, try pushing the experience a little more.

Start the car and turn it off when they are in it. Try backing the car out of the laneway or even driving down the street. Hopefully, over time your dog will start to associate the vehicle as a good thing.

If your dog is so anxious that they become physically sick in the car, you may want to discuss medication with your veterinarian.

Some dogs love going for drives, but they jump around and have a hard time settling down from the excitement.

You may need to restrain them with a dog seatbelt, crate or barrier. We have always hooked our dogs up with seatbelts to keep them safe.

I was a little concerned about the foster beauty I took to the veterinarian last week. She arrived in rescue only a few days prior and she came from horrible living conditions.

Most likely, her first car ride had been when she was surrendered and picked up by a rescue volunteer. I draped two large blankets over the backseat and floor of my car in case her belly was upset.

Her foster mother came with me to the appointment and I am happy to report the dog was great in the car.

Surprisingly, she was not anxious or nervous. She sat in the backseat as if she had been in my car many times. She would try to kiss us if we were talking too much, so we stopped talking.

I hope your dogs enjoy going for car rides and if they do not, I hope you can eventually help them enjoy the experience.

Sadly, I must admit the foster dog I took for a drive this week is blind.

She has most likely been blind since birth and she has gently figured out everything life has to offer her.

She likes car rides, playing with dogs, meeting people, sleeping on the couch and cuddling. I hope maybe on some level her story will inspire you and help your dog conquer obstacles they may encounter.

Please be kind to animals.

Tracy Jessiman is a pet portrait artist who lives in Halifax with her husband and their three pets. She is a volunteer with Animal Rescue Coalitions of Nova Scotia. She has been rescuing animals most of her life, but more intimately, animals rescued her.

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