here's the scoop ...When dogs are carsick, they feel nauseous which is unpleasant. In fact, in
the unpleasantness sweepstakes, nausea can rank above pain in "wow would
I like to avoid this." Just like we humans, nauseous dogs don't always throw
up, which means we might be missing it. Sometimes they salivate and are
restless and sometimes they just pant and look glassy. Interestingly, it's easy
to mistake this for a primary car-anxiety. Also, it doesn't take many such car
rides for anxiety to be added: "oh no, here comes that place where my tummy
feels bad...pleeeease can I not go in there." The anxiety is also aversive, which
could exacerbate the ill feeling, and so on.
Sometimes even if the carsickness is resolved, the secondary anxiety may remain
alive. If this is the case, your interventions—making positive associations
with approach and the considerable cumulative effect of so many car
rides to enjoyable dog sports—are on the right track and you will probably
continue to make gradual gains. Although it's intuitive to not feed in order to
avoid the product of vomiting, check with your veterinarian about whether
or not this will help reduce nausea, as opposed to a light, bland snack prior
Your veterinarian will help sort this out and, if she thinks it's indicated, try a
course of anti-nausea medication to help break the cycle. In the can't-hurtmight-
help department, I've heard that static charges may be implicated in
cases of carsickness in both dogs and humans. Cars can drag lines from their
undercarriage to the road to dissipate charge.
If it's a primary car anxiety, it means he's not as fine as you think once he's in
the car. To firm this up, look very critically for signs of anxiety. Those signs
that can mimic nausea include trembling, a blown-pupil deer in the headlights
look and whining.
If he really, truly is fine once in the car, and not suffering from carsickness,
we need to consider a superstitious fear of some part of the jump-in process.
Dogs acquire these fears all the time. For example, if the first time a dog attends
a baseball game, fireworks go off, he could subsequently fear kids in
baseball uniforms. Likewise, if, twice in a row, a conformation handler steps
on the dog's foot after the rosettes are presented, the dog could get spooky
about ribbons. These are considered "superstitious" because there is no logical,
rational basis—kids in baseball uniforms don't make big booming noises
and rosettes don't hurt feet. The fear remains alive because of the nature of
avoidance learning. Subsequent to the chance association, the dog behaves
fearfully—balks at the end of the leash or growls at the kids, scrambles away
from the rosettes, rushes into the car—and, in his mind, avoids the fearful
stimulus. "See how well my behavior works?" He never finds out that the
scary thing wouldn't have happened anyway.
Try blocking his avoidance response. Mechanically prevent him from rushing
through "something" to get into his crate so he finds out something is
nothing. To facilitate this, separate the crate and car elements. Practice going
slowly into the car as well as slowly into the crate you use in the car. A halter
or plain buckle collar held taut could get you started (keep it taut to avoid his
rushing and getting an inadvertent jerk). Do pauses at the "sticky" point (die
place he needs to rush through) and provide him with treats and praise. The
more you hang out at the spot he thinks is dangerous, the more evidence you
are giving him that there is nothing scary there. Jean Donaldson
Dave and Molly
Ian Dunbar was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award from I.P.D.T.A. Here's a picture of me accepting the award on his behalf.
Member of IAABC ,International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants , Member of Pet Professional Guild
Last edited by davetgabby; 06-19-2014 at 05:48 PM.