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13 Fast & Proven Ways To Calm A Dog In The Car (How-To)

How To Calm A Dog In The Car

Your pooch is drooling, whining, and pacing every time they’re in the car.

Which isn’t ideal in a moving vehicle.

So before it gets out of hand…

I got immediate yet long-lasting tips for you. 

Keep reading to discover:

  • 13 quick ways to calm a dog down in the car.
  • Why you shouldn’t feed your canine before a car ride.
  • 3 safe calming supplements and medications to give Fido for car sickness.
  • And that’s just the beginning…

How to calm a dog in the car? 13 fast & proven ways

#1: Add some calming music in the mix

Believe it or not, dogs have a musical preference.

Which you can use to your advantage and calm Fido in the car.

This research investigated kenneled canines’ reactions toward music:

Its results show that classical songs lulled the kenneled pups to sleep.

On the other hand, heavy metal music only promoted nervousness.

And the pups showed it through intense body shaking.

Moreover, renowned canine psychologist, Stanley Coren, stated:

Dogs have a sense of pitch.

That’s why they react distinctly to different music genres.

With that, skip your usual car playlist…

Instead, play something by Beethoven or Mozart in the car.

Pro tip: Save a little time finding the right music. Here’s a playlist made by Spotify. It’s specifically crafted to calm dogs down. As most of the songs are soothing and classical-like.

#2: Make frequent stops

When your pooch doesn’t calm down…

They can start to get at you.

And you’ll begin to feel overwhelmed too.

If that happens, it’s time for you and Fido to take a breather.

Stop the car….

Pull over at the nearest place you can.

And if it’s a long road trip, you’ll have to do this frequently.

Because it gives you and Fido a chance for a bathroom break.

Which could be the main reason for them acting up in the first place.

Tip: You can tell your dog needs to pee if they’re whining. As well as when they squat and scratch the car doors.

Moreover, road trips make your dog feel confined.

So a bit of stretching is exactly what they’ll need.

It can refresh them and wear them out a little.

When you return to the car, your pooch will behave well…

It’s like you switched dogs while you were on a break.

#3: Keep a low temperature inside the car 

Apart from whining and restlessness, your dog will also pant in the car…

To avoid that, keep the temperature cool inside the vehicle.

According to vets, dogs have to maintain a normal body temperature. 

Which is between 101.0°F (38.3°C) to 102.5°F (39.2°C).

To maintain that temperature in Fido, cool the car to at least 70°F (21°C).

Then, it’ll make your pooch comfortable, calming them down.

#4: Lower the windows for fresh air 

If you already adjusted the car temperature…

But Fido keeps panting and pacing inside the vehicle…

Now’s the time to crack open the car window.

It’ll improve airflow and ventilation in the vehicle.

Plus, some dogs think sticking out their face in the window is fun.

With that, you just made your pupper happy instead of upset.

Note: This tip is ideal in warm weather. If it’s already too hot or too cold, you should rely on your car’s AC for temperature regulation. 

#5: Make them feel secure using a harness

The motion inside the car freaks your dog.

Because it uncontrollably stirs them from one side to another.

So make Fido feel tight and secure to calm them down.

You can achieve that using a dog harness for car traveling.

I recommend the Kurgo Tru-Fit harness

It’ll comfortably tether Fido in the car seat.

“Won’t the harness choke them? I’d prefer a car seat instead.”

Although I won’t hold it against you to prefer using a car seat for this tip…

That device is more for canine comfort than security.

Moreover, your pup can easily get out of a car seat. 

Which won’t help in calming them. Or prevent you from being distracted.

As for your worries about choking…

Know that a dog harness is more comfortable than a collar.

Because it’s wrapped around your dog’s neck and stomach.

Plus, the harness I recommended has a chest padding for comfort.

With that, the pressure is evenly distributed on half of your dog’s body. 

So choking isn’t likely.

Fact: A dog harness is also for your and your canine’s safety. A study by Volvo reveals that unrestrained dogs cause more car accidents. While car harnesses reduce the chances of casualties by half.

You might also want to know: Can A Dog Wear A Collar And A Harness? 3 Dangers

#6: Make them feel comfortable

When driving around with your pooch…

You must consider their comfort as well.

That said, throw in a cozy blanket they can relax on.

Or if that doesn’t work…

Give your pooch an item with your scent on it. Preferably your clothes.

I guarantee that could help them get calmer.

Because in this research, doctors studied dogs’ brains under fMRI.

They aim to know how dogs would react to different odors.

And the canines’ caudate nuclei lit up when they detected their parents’ smell.

Now, that part of the brain is related to pleasure…

So when you give your pooch something that smells like you…

It cheers them up, relieves their anxiety, and helps them relax.

Read also: 7 Unexpected Reasons Why Your Dog Sleeps On Your Clothes

#7: Place some toys in the car

Aside from a cozy blanket and your clothes…

Also bring your dog’s toys when you drive them somewhere.

Doing so will keep your pooch distracted during the car ride.

Aside from that:

Psychologists and vets theorize that dogs have an emotional attachment to toys.

A study found that canines think similarly to a 2-year-old human.

Then, multiple studies suggest children are emotionally attached to their toys.

So researchers are confident that dogs have the same attitude.

That means having your pup’s favorite toy around can calm them.

#8: Be calm and talk to your dog 

Be Calm And Talk To Your Dog In The Car

You need to try and be calm yourself despite the stressful situation in your car.

Plus, you must be careful about how you react to your pooch. 

Because, as AKC says, your dog can hear your emotions.

That’s based on this study’s findings. It says:

Canines understand your emotions through how you talk.

That’s why they bark back when you speak, especially during an argument.

Moreover, another research tells us:

Your dog can catch your emotions.

That phenomenon is called emotional contagion.

And it means that however you feel at the moment…

Your pooch would sense it as well. 

That said, when you’re in the car with Fido…

Aside from staying composed, you must talk to them calmly and soothingly.

And your pup would take that as a sign they need to calm down too. 

#9: Wear them out before the car ride

Note: Tips from this section and onwards are more for preparing for your next car ride with Fido. Regardless, they’re just as efficient.

Start by exercising your pooch for 20 minutes before putting them in the car.

The thought behind that is:

Before a trip, Fido might have a lot of pent-up energy.

And once they’re in the car, they’ll be restless and hyperactive.

Which won’t be a good aspect once they begin to get anxious during the trip. 

From then on, their nervousness would increase.

Then, they’ll be more difficult to handle.

Pro Tip: Find out whether your pooch is high-energy or not. Because the former needs this tip the most. As they’re most likely to release unused energy during stressful situations.

Related read: 15 Reasons Why Dogs Whine In The Car + 9 Tips To Stop It

#10: Don’t feed them a meal before traveling

Vets say puppies are more prone to motion sickness.

However, any dog can fall victim to it.

And when they do, they’ll be drooling. Which is a sign of nausea.

Now, that’s an uncomfortable feeling that’ll make Fido misbehave in the car.

Not to mention the inconvenience once they vomit…

With stakes that high, you must prevent Fido from feeling nauseated.

To do that, don’t feed them any meals before traveling.

Or ensure they have pooped out their most recent meal before the trip.

For further reading: Why Does My Dog Drool In The Car? 5 Reasons + 7 Tips

#11: Relate car rides to rewards

Although this might sound odd…

Try holding your next play session inside the car.

Because you need your pooch to see the vehicle as a fun zone. 

And you’ll use a technique called counterconditioning

It aims to change your pup’s emotional reaction toward a stimulus…

From a negative to a positive one.

Which you’ll achieve using rewards like:

Moreover, you’ll also employ desensitization

It’s the act of gradually exposing your pooch to a fearful stimulus.

Moreover, it gets them used to the car…

Thus decreasing their negative reaction to it.

And here’s how to carry out both of the methods:

Note: Perform these methods in a stationary car. Only after your pup’s reactivity has decreased can you try it while driving. And only travel short distances so Fido won’t be overwhelmed. Otherwise, you’ll have to start all over again.

#12: Drive your dog to places they’ll love

Your canine remembers through associative memories.

So, their ability to remember lies in relating an object to a specific experience.

However, they don’t exactly remember everything…

Instead, evolutionarily speaking…

Scientists say dogs keep memories that are most useful to them.

To apply this in your pup’s situation:

If the only time you drive them is to and fro the vet clinic…

Fido will only associate car rides with stressful experiences with the doctor.

And they’ll keep recalling it…

Even if you only take them there once every few months.

With that, they’ll dread every car ride and display anxiousness.

So, you need to counter those frightful memories.

Which you can do by driving them to places they’ll love.

Try the dog park where they socialize with their fellow canines.

Or take them on an adventure they’ll enjoy. 

Pick any destination that’ll help them relate car rides to fun times.

For this, I suggest a hike or a trip to the beach.

#13: Take the oral route

If you can’t handle your dog’s anxiety in the car anymore…

Then, you can give them calming remedies or supplements.

Moreover, medications are also helpful in reducing car sickness.

These will help decrease misbehaviors in the vehicle by weakly sedating Fido.

Warning: These methods are inorganic. So, only consider this when your dog’s case is severe. And when you do, consult with Fido’s vet first.

But to give you some idea, here are some that some doctors will suggest:

Calming supplements

You can give your pooch soft chews called Solliquin.

It’s a vet-recommended calming supplement for dogs…

And it contains the amino acid L-theanine which promotes relaxation.

However, it’s meant to be given daily, following this dosage:

Dog weightSoft chews per day
8 lbs (3.6 kg) below1/2
8 lbs (3.6 kg) to 15 lbs (6.8 kg)1
16 lbs (7.25 kg) to 30 lbs (13.6 kg) 2


This bats down nausea and vomiting in dogs.

It guarantees your pooch won’t experience motion sickness and agitation during the trip. 

However, consult with a veterinarian before using this.

Because you must not use it when your dog has bleeding disorders. Or if they’re taking anti-inflammatory drugs.

Moreover, a vet will tell you how to give it to your pup. Some ways to do so are:

  • Tablet.
  • Capsule.
  • Powdered.
  • Fresh root.
  • Liquid tincture or medicinal solution.

Anti-anxiety medications

Anxiety is the main reason your dog isn’t calm in the car.

So if needed, you can give them anti-anxiety medications. 

Now, there are over-the-counter medicines available, like:

  • Benadryl.
  • Dramamine.

However, you must always consult your dog’s veterinarian for the proper dosage.

And if they won’t recommend those OTC medicines…

They might prescribe something else catered for canines.