Movies tried to trick us into believing that a dog in a car will stick its head out of the window and seemingly have the time of its life. But what if they don’t and your dog poops in the car to express their discomfort?
Not all dogs love car rides, especially if they’re not used to it or if these car rides often end up at the vet. Your dog can easily associate car trips with unpleasant experiences, so you need to make sure to train them properly.
What do you do if your dog poops in the car?
First of all, of course, you should remove the dog from the car and make sure they’re somewhere safe and comfortable while you clean up the mess. You should also walk your dog in case they’re not done with their “business”.
Puppies are known to be famous car-poopers, but it’s usually a problem that goes away as they grow up and get used to it. However, you might have an adult dog and have no idea of what happened before you adopted them.
In fact, some dogs may have trauma related to car trips and in order to solve the problem, you first have to find the cause and treat it accordingly.
This might mean that you will have to train your dog not to be afraid of cars. It may take a few minutes or a few days, and it may also not work.
If you’re concerned about the reason why your dog pooped in the car, consult your veterinarian and see what can be done.
Usually, medications are not necessary to solve this problem and it would certainly be better if you didn’t have to put your dog on meds, but sometimes there may not be other choices. Nonetheless, keep it as a last resort.
Why do dogs poop in the car?
A dog pooping in the car might do so because they feel scared, anxious, uncomfortable, or excited.
The car may be a new experience to them or an old one that they’d rather forget. Dogs are highly intelligent and emotional animals and react to certain events or situations in a very similar way to humans.
A dog that is just scared of a new situation will be easier to train than one with trauma related to car trips. In the latter case, it may not always be possible to find a cause, and training them may not be enough for them to overcome their trauma.
It is nonetheless fundamental that you never scold your dog for pooping in the car. They won’t understand what they did wrong and raising their voice at them will only increase their discomfort and anxiety about car trips.
The most common reason behind dog poop in your car is motion sickness. Dogs, like humans, can get car sick, especially if they’re not used to it.
Puppies are very susceptible to car sickness while growing up, but it can affect adult dogs as well.
Common signs of car sickness in dogs include:
If your dog gets car sick and you can’t go back home immediately, make stops along the way to let them walk around and get some fresh air.
Dogs with an anxiety disorder will show similar symptoms to those that are car sick, such as whining, shaking, drooling, urinating, and pooping in the car.
Your dog may feel anxious about being inside a car for different reasons:
– They may not feel safe being locked inside what looks like a moving box to them;
– They may have previous experience of a car accident that you may or may not be aware of (if adopted);
– They may be traumatized in general: cars are very loud and fast, dogs that are very sensitive or experienced abuse may not find it reassuring;
– They associate car trips with the veterinarian because you probably first introduced them to cars when you brought them in for vaccinations and deworming treatments as puppies.
Identifying the core of the issue is the first step to treat your dog’s fear and anxiety. When it’s not possible to find a specific cause, you will have to proceed step by step to make them progressively comfortable riding your car.
How to stop your dog from pooping in the car.
Unless you want to clean poop off your car seat for years to come, you will need to find a solution to your dog’s pooping habits.
There is no magic trick to make a dog stop pooping in the car and changing this behavior may take a while and a bit of effort and patience on your side.
Get them used to motion sickness
Especially if you have a puppy, you don’t want to lock them into a car, shake them up on the road, and see what happens. As with everything else, your dog needs training.
Playing games like rolling on the carpet or in the yard will make your dog used to the feeling of being unstable and unbalanced. Make sure to address them with a happy voice when you’re playing, so they will feel that what is happening is a good thing.
Get them used to your car
Dogs explore the world with their nose and this is how they recognize things, places, and other animals. The same principle works with cars: your dog will feel much safer if the car becomes something they “know”, like an extension of your home.
Start by letting your dog explore the car from the outside, smelling it, walking around it, studying it until they are comfortable with the vehicle. Repetition is key: make your dog do this same thing for several days so that they get used to it.
When it’s time to take it a step further, sit with them in the car with the engine off. Don’t go anywhere, just sit with them in the backseat and let them explore the car and register its scent.
Then, you can move to the front seat, always without turning the car on and leave your dog alone in the backseat. After a few times, you can start turning the engine on and locking the doors, so they can get used to these sounds.
Always make sure to talk in a sweet and reassuring voice so that your dog knows nothing bad is happening. If it’s still hard to get your pooch to do these things, try offering treats every time they complete a task.
Take the right precautions
Turn your car into a comfortable place for your dog. If your dog gets car sick, make sure the temperature in the vehicle is cool enough.
Bring their favorite toy or place their favorite blanket on the backseat to make them feel at home.
Just like with children, let your dog go to the bathroom before a car trip. Taking a long walk with your dog before riding a car might also make them too tired to be excited, as excited dogs may sometimes pee or poop themselves.
Do not feed your dog in the hours before a car ride, but do bring treats with you so you can reward them if they behave when the trip is finished.
Start with short car trips
When your dog is comfortable enough, it’s time to get on the road, but do not exaggerate: start with very short trips, a tour around the block, or even just getting out of the driveway and immediately going back.
Praise your dog while you’re driving and give them a treat when you’re back or play with them. Progressively, take longer trips to places they enjoy, like the dog park. This way, your dog will associate a car trip with happy things.
Avoid making trips to the vet or the groomer at first, and if you have, make sure they’re very sporadic in between the “good” trips. Especially reward your dog after a “bad” trip to make sure they don’t fall back on their smelly coping mechanism.
Treatments and medications
This kind of training will work with most dogs, but if your dog feels uncomfortable with car rides even after all your attempts or if you have any concerns, it’s time to talk with your veterinarian to see what techniques and therapies are available.
Before you try your hand with medications, consider home remedies like lavender and melatonin, which are said to help dogs relax.
However, these therapies are not a cure for anxiety disorders, which should be treated accordingly to the cause.
How to keep your dog safe during car trips.
Sure it’s important to keep your car clean, but it’s even more important to ensure the safety of your pooch when you’re driving.
Here are some tips to keep you safe during car trips:
– Do not let your dog ride in the front seat: not only it’s a distraction for you, but in the case of accidents, the air-bag could instantly kill your dog;
– Use a proper harness to keep your dog secured and facing forward, which helps with motion sickness;
– Your dog should be sitting near the middle of the backseat, facing the front. That’s the best place to avoid motion sickness because your dog can focus on the front window instead of the side windows, which could cause nausea and dizziness;
– Roll down the windows just enough for fresh air to come in, but do not exaggerate because if your dog suddenly gets excited or scared, it could jump out of the window while the car is moving.
The bottom line is to always be patient and understanding with your pet. Helping them overcome their anxiety and fear may be a long and tiring process, but it’s always better than cleaning up their poop after every car trip!