What To Do If Your Dog Is Afraid Of Cars

Reviewed By Tom •  Updated: 11/15/22 •  4 min read
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Dog Is Afraid Of Cars

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Sometimes a dog is so afraid of riding in the car that every trip becomes a nightmare. What should you do in this case?

Desensitization and controlling techniques can help us. These words may sound scary, but don’t be alarmed. It’s an effective way to calm your dog and change its attitude.

This is especially important if you want to rent a car. Cars rent is a hugely popular service and the choice of car hire options range from small hatchbacks to luxury SUVs and supercars. And today, car hire is no longer a luxury, it’s become a great solution for everyone. Let your pet get the most out of the journey too, but before you start, you need to prepare thoroughly. You’ll need the car, your dog, and your pet’s favorite treat. You’ll also need some time and patience.

There’s no need to rush!

Quietly introducing your dog to cars and the noises they make will get used to them, and keep calm on the street.

Start by introducing your dog to parked cars. Walk your puppy past parked cars on the street and give your pet plenty of time to explore and sniff them. If you own a car, make sure he’s used to the inside of it and the part you’ll be putting the dog in soon. After a while, you might want to start the engine, briefly at first and then for longer and longer. If the dog gets anxious stop the “experiment”.

Take your puppy for a walk beside the road. Once he’s used to parking cars, take your dog to the next stage. Start walking along pavements. If the dog finds this too much of an ordeal, limit walks to a few minutes and then return to quieter areas.

Increase walks along the roads, gradually moving on to busier, noisier streets. Try to be patient as dogs need time to adjust. You’ll see how the pet adjusts to the city conditions over time. And don’t forget the treats!

Stick to familiar routes. If you have a few different but regular routes, the puppy will eventually start to see them as the dog’s own. Why? By walking the same routes you’ve created the conditions for the pet to sniff and tag along the way!

What to do if your dog is frightened of cars: A step-by-step plan

The first thing to do if you want to travel comfortably is to find out at what point your dog realizes he’s near a car (or is already in one) but is still calm. Is it three meters away from the car? A meter? When you open the door? When she’s already in the car but you haven’t started the engine yet? Basically, identify the tipping point. And start working up to it.

It’s vital to note the very first, very subtle signs of discomfort! And also to give the dog a treat at the right time. And don’t allow fear or panic to set in. Otherwise, the effect will be exactly the opposite. And instead of improving your attitude toward the car, you will develop an aversion to your favorite food, which is unlikely to be helpful.

Next, you break down the task into small steps and practice each of them one by one. For example, you approach the car for two steps, for a step, open and close the door, ask the dog to jump in the car and jump out at once, jump in and sit for a few seconds while you give the dog treats, sit for longer, sit, start the engine and immediately turn it off, start the engine but do not move away, drive a few meters and stop and so on and so forth.


If you relax and do it right, you can get rid of your dog’s fear of cars. But if you’re unsure, it’s worth seeking help from a positive reinforcement specialist (face-to-face or online).

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Tom has always loved to write since he was little - he wanted to be either a writer or a veterinary doctor, but he ended up being a professional writer while most of his works are based on animals. He was born in San Francisco but later moved to Texas to continue his job as a writer. He graduated from the University of San Francisco where he studied biotechnology. He is happily married and a soon to be father!

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