You’re trying to enjoy a nice car ride with your dog.
But they’re always whining when inside.
And you wonder,
“Why does this happen?”
“Is my dog trying to tell me something?”
Keep reading to discover:
- 9 tips to stop dogs from doing it.
- The 5 signs of travel anxiety in dogs.
- 15 reasons why dogs whine in the car.
- Why you should play music for your dogs in vehicles.
- And much much, more…
Table of contents
- Why does my dog whine in the car?
- 15 reasons why dogs whine in the car
- #1: Your dog’s so amped up
- #2: Stress
- #3: Negative experiences
- #4: Car phobias
- #5: Travel anxiety
- #6: They know the destination
- #7: They’re adjusting
- #8: “I wanna go potty, hooman”
- #9: They don’t like it if the car moves or stops
- #10: Motion sickness
- #11: Someone/something inside is bothering them
- #12: Uncomfortable temperature
- #13: Displacement behavior
- #14: You have an impatient dog
- #15: They know it gets them rewards
- How to stop a dog whining in the car? 9 tips
Why does my dog whine in the car?
Your dog whines in the car because of stress. Another possibility is that they might also find it exciting. They can have travel anxiety or motion sickness. They’ll do it when they want to go potty, feel uncomfortable, or impatient while inside. Whines also function as displacement behaviors.
15 reasons why dogs whine in the car
#1: Your dog’s so amped up
“I’m going in the car with my hooman!”
If your dog shows signs of excitement the minute you say,
“Let’s go for a ride.”
It means they’re looking forward to the car ride.
Here are the signs that signal excitement:
- Spinning in circles.
- Poor impulse control.
- Unable to settle down.
But these also are dangerous if your dog is always excited.
Read on to find out why.
Dogs can experience this in two ways: positive or negative stress.
When your pooch shows signs of excitement, it also means high arousal.
According to the VIVH, this means that your dog experiences positive stress. Which is also called eustress.
They experience it in situations where they like what’s happening.
But their body reacts to it in the same way as negative stress.
That’s why constant high arousal in dogs is dangerous.
The stress hormones remain inside the body for many days.
This will make dogs hyperactive. And unable to focus.
It will make these difficult to do:
- Exposure to new places.
“How do I make sure my dog isn’t always aroused?”
Dogs need balance in all things.
To neutralize stress hormone effects, dogs should have equal amounts of these:
- Mental exercise.
- Physical exercise.
So take your pooch out on walks. Provide them with enrichment toys. And let them meet new people and dogs.
In the end, you’ll have a well-adjusted pooch.
#3: Negative experiences
Negative experiences with the car may be the cause of the in-car whining.
Your pooch associates the car with something terrible. So they try to tell you that they’re not okay.
Other than whining, they might do these other behaviors:
This also means that your dog is in distress.
“What do I do when my dog displays the signs?”
The best thing to do is remove your dog away from the cause.
In this case, the car.
Take them to a quiet place. And let them relax.
Warning: The effects of negative experiences can lead to fears. And this can lead to phobias. These are hard to correct. And will need extensive training.
Behavior training can help your dog learn a different reaction for car rides.
#4: Car phobias
Phobias are deep-seated fears.
They might come from a single traumatic event. Or repeated experiences that your dog had to go through.
According to the AKC, phobias are irrational. Because our dogs don’t always know the reason why things happen. So they just react.
Some dogs develop a lot of phobias such as:
- Sound phobias.
- Needle phobias.
- Fear of strangers.
- Situational phobias.
A car phobia can be a combination of the 4 kinds.
Your pooch doesn’t like the sound of the car. Or being in a vehicle meant going to the vet.
In the end, you may never know the reason for your dog’s phobia. But with patience and some training, you can correct it.
Wanna learn how?
Then keep on reading till the end.
#5: Travel anxiety
But wait, Petya.
Aren’t stress, fears, phobias, and anxiety the same?
Why do you discuss them separately?
They’re actually not the same. But they’re related conditions with differences in how they affect dogs.
“How are they different?”
Stress is the body’s reaction to a trigger. Such as thunder or barking dogs.
And it’s natural to have fears. For example, most dogs have a fear of heights.
While phobias come from repeated experiences with fears.
Anxiety is the feeling of anticipating that something wrong’s gonna happen.
For example, you have a fear of needles.
But your flu shot is due today.
You don’t feel comfortable when you go to the doctor’s office. And maybe you’ll panic when the syringe comes out.
“How does this affect dogs?”
Dogs are prone to this because of their heightened senses.
They can sense changes in their environment. And according to PetMD, they will react to these unknown dangers.
The reactions due to anxiety are like those of fear.
- Elimination of bowels.
Dogs who experience this in cars have travel anxiety.
“What’s travel anxiety?”
It’s when your dog displays signs of anxiousness when doing things related to traveling.
Some dogs vocalize a lot. And others would defecate while in the car.
Take for example…
She is a very gentle Rottweiler. But she also has travel anxiety.
Duchess is a huge dog. So her family has to put her in the backseat when traveling.
Before going inside the car, she’d whine. And even plant her lower body firmly on the ground.
On long trips, she’ll pant and pace around the space.
And on one rather memorable occasion, she just did her business right in the back.
Her family stopped and leaped like gazelles out of the car.
Desensitization and counterconditioning techniques helped her enjoy car rides.
Want to know how they did that?
Keep reading till the end for valuable tips on how to do it.
Read further: 19 Proven Ways To Calm Your Anxious Dog (How-To Guide)
#6: They know the destination
Dogs have a solid sense of direction. And humans have used that ability for years.
They were messengers during World War I.
And saved many lives while going through enemy lines.
Today, we hear many stories about dogs who find their home even after many months.
The AKC tells us of this dog’s journey:
In 2012, Mark Wessels traveled to Virginia from South Carolina. Unfortunately, his new home did not allow pets. So his dog, Bucky, had to live with his father.
A few months later, Bucky showed up back in a South Carolina forest.
Someone found him and scanned his microchip.
Bucky got back with his dog parent. And they had a joyful reunion.
But what’s so amazing is that this pooch could still find his way. Even after many months apart from Mark.
“How can dogs do this?”
Studies prove that dogs are sensitive to the earth’s magnetic field.
They can sense fluctuations in it. And it’s the reason why dogs will circle a few times before pooping.
In fact, biologists have found that dogs have an internal compass that allows them to find their way home.
A 2020 study says that dogs use two techniques, scouting, and tracking.
Tracking is using scent trails to go back the same way.
Scouting is finding an entirely new path to the destination. This method suggests that dogs have an innate sense of the 4 directions.
In the study, the researchers equipped 27 dogs with GPS trackers and cameras. They observed over 600 trials.
In the experiment, the dogs roamed around a forest tracking a scent. And then went back to their owners.
According to the results, 399 times, the dogs followed their scent trail. This served as their return strategy.
And they used scouting 223 times. And utilized a combination of both 50 times.
Want to know the most exciting part?
Each of the dogs who “scouted” did a “compass run”. They started by running along the north-south geomagnetic axis for about 20 meters.
What’s more, the scouting dogs made their way home faster than the dogs who tracked.
The researchers proposed that this run helped to establish a mental map. And helped them get their bearings.
#7: They’re adjusting
It’s a new experience, so your pup is apprehensive of the smells and the sounds.
Dogs who have never seen or heard one will flip out when a vacuum cleaner’s turned on.
How much more when it’s a bigger shiny machine that vibrates when it moves?
Our pooches should have time for adjustments for new things in their life.
Watch out for tip #1 on how to get them used to car life.
#8: “I wanna go potty, hooman”
Whining is one way of saying that your pooch needs to do their business.
So if they’re doing it in the car, there might be a disaster waiting to happen.
Regular potty breaks are essential for our doggos.
Keeping it in for long periods can result in UTIs or constipation.
So stop the car and take your dog out if they’re doing the following:
#9: They don’t like it if the car moves or stops
Cars are noisy and vibrate a lot when they move.
You might not feel it, but your dog can sense the movement around them.
This may be the reason for their whining.
Your pooch may not like it when the car moves or stops and vice versa.
Speaking of movement, there’s another reason why your dog isn’t a huge fan.
#10: Motion sickness
According to the AKC, it’s a condition that happens to your dog for physical or psychological reasons.
Dogs can have a problem with maintaining their balance, especially in a moving vehicle.
And they may associate the car with getting sick. This is why your dog develops travel anxiety. And get sick every time.
It may happen even if they no longer have motion sickness. Because of their repeated negative experience in the car.
“What are the signs of motion sickness?”
Other signs include:
- Smacking lips.
“How do you treat it?”
According to Today’s Veterinary Nurse, only 25% of dogs with motion sickness get vet treatment.
Vets will prescribe medications for the doggos whose physical conditions cause motion sickness.
Behavioral treatment suits dogs who have a psychological reason for their condition.
#11: Someone/something inside is bothering them
Sometimes it’s not the movement but what’s inside the car that’s making your pooch whine.
Dogs can dislike certain textures.
Maybe they’re bothered by the texture of the car seats. Or they don’t like enclosed spaces.
They could also have problems with the people inside the car.
Dogs also do this because they may have sensory processing sensitivity (SPS).
Dogs with this condition are a product of their environment, this study says.
They will have:
- Ease of excitation.
- Aesthetic sensitivity.
- Low sensory threshold.
SPS in dogs isn’t a well-studied area. But study results have shown that dogs with c-SPS show similar traits as humans with SPS.
#12: Uncomfortable temperature
Another reason why dogs whine in the car is that they feel too hot.
In the summer, temperatures can soar high enough to 140° F. Especially in closed cars.
PETA states that animals can suffer from heatstroke in just 15 minutes. Dogs are vulnerable because they only cool themselves while panting.
Leaving windows open doesn’t do anything about the temperature. In any case, it stays the same.
And this is dangerous for your pooch.
So keep an eye on them, especially in the hot summer months.
As they are at risk of heatstroke.
“What are the symptoms of heatstroke?”
Dogs experiencing this will have the following signs:
- Thick saliva.
- Dark tongue.
- Heavy panting.
- Excessive thirst.
- Bloody diarrhea.
- Rapid heartbeat.
- Lack of appetite.
Warning: It’s dangerous to leave a dog alone in a car. And 28 states have laws against it. If you see a dog in a car, call the emergency hotline. And keep an eye on the dog while waiting for help.
#13: Displacement behavior
Displacement behaviors are something dogs do when they want to do something but can’t.
It’s similar to twirling your hair in awkward situations. Or bouncing your knee when bored.
It gives the body a way to spend excess energy. Which is produced because of a particular stimulus.
Dr. Patricia McConnell says that dogs often do this when they’re unsure of what to do. It happens when the animal has two conflicting desires.
Take, for example, this Spaniel’s story.
A Cocker Spaniel named Meggie
Meggie likes squirrels. A lot. Every time she gets to chase them, she does so.
But the problem is, Meggie’s an inside dog. And they don’t get many chances to get outside.
So Meggie’s mom had a brilliant idea. To set up a bed for her by the front window. Where she could see the squirrel’s tree.
From that time on, whenever Meggie saw a squirrel, she’d do quirky things.
Displacement behaviors point to low-level anxiety. This is normal for dogs because they encounter some kind of conflict every day.
#14: You have an impatient dog
We talked about dogs getting excited back in reason #1.
But dogs can also be impatient if they know something they like is coming up.
My friend’s dog, Hela, likes coconut shaving treats.
When her dog parent takes them out, Hela immediately performs a “Sit”.
If not given the treat immediately, Hela whines. And tries to paw my friend’s knee.
It happens less now than when she was a puppy.
Back then, she’d snap up the treat like a crocodile. It’s a wonder my friend didn’t get serious bites.
#15: They know it gets them rewards
In some cases, whining is a learned behavior.
Your dog knows that it tugs at your heartstrings.
And you reward them with your attention.
This only happens on rare occasions. As dogs will either love, tolerate, or hate car rides.
As the SFSPCA states, there are other attention-seeking behaviors aside from whining:
- Jumping on you.
- Pulling or nipping on clothes.
- Stealing things to let you chase them.
Note: A lot of factors can cause why your dog whines in the car. Observe your dog and figure out the cause behind the behavior.
How to stop a dog whining in the car? 9 tips
#1: Train them to love the car
If your pooch’s still a puppy, who hasn’t ridden a car, it’ll be your responsibility to help make a smooth introduction.
This ensures that your dog will not have negative experiences associated with the car.
Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Let your pup sit in a parked car for a few minutes. Have them sniff around to their heart’s content.
Step 2: Have them perform a “Sit” or a “Lie down”. And give treats once they do so. This helps them form a positive association with the car.
Step 3: Once your dog looks comfortable inside, you can start the engine. Young pups may find the additional noise startling. But let them get used to it.
At the same time, you can give them pets and treats. And let them lie down or sit in their designated area.
Step 4: Start going on 5-minute rides around the neighborhood. Keep giving treats.
Step 5: Make the rides longer and longer. And ensure that your puppy isn’t overwhelmed by making gradual steps. Until they look forward to car trips. And associate the car with fun.
These are wrap-around vests that apply pressure on the dog’s torso. The action releases calming hormones such as endorphin and oxytocin.
The Thundershirt helps your dog calm down in situations filled with anxiety.
This is how to use the shirt:
Step 1: Introduce the shirt to your pooch in a non-stressful environment. Let them sniff it. And have them eat their favorite treats on it.
Step 2: Put the shirt on during car rides.
Step 3: Reinforce calm behavior with high-value treats.
#3: Crate training
“But I don’t want to put my dog in a crate even when we travel.”
If this is what you think, allow me to explain.
Crates will keep dogs safe in the car. In addition, it provides them with their own space to relax.
It may prevent motion sickness. As your dog can’t look out the windows.
In times of accidents, dogs can become projectiles. They’ll hurt themselves. Or other people in the car.
While in the crate, they can chill out. And make it easier for rescuers to take them out in case of accidents.
Watch this video for the best method in teaching your pooch to love their crate:
#4: Limit food before the trip
One of the reasons dogs often vomit in the car is a full stomach.
Feed your dog at least 2 hours before your trip. This prevents unwanted accidents that can happen while in the vehicle.
And while you’re traveling, make sure to keep your pooch hydrated. And have frequent stops to let them go potty. Or have a bit of exercise.
#5: Motion sickness or anti-anxiety medications
PetMD lists the common motion sickness medications for dogs.
These are the following:
This blocks NK1 receptors in the brainstem vomiting center. Dogs at least 8-weeks old may take this once daily.
It’s an antihistamine with sedative and anti-vomiting effects. But the downside is that dogs can get drowsy.
Vets usually recommend giving this once daily.
This has sedative effects. Meaning your dog will be conked out for the rest of your trip. But it also has potential side effects:
- Decreased appetite.
The recommended dosage is once every 8 hours.
Like Benadryl, it also has sedative effects. And it’s most effective if you feed it to your pooch with a little food.
It’s recommended to give the medicine every 8 hours.
But there are times your pooch experiences motion sickness because of travel anxiety. The vet may pair the medicines above with anti-anxiety medications.
- Alprazolam (Xanax).
- Dexmedetomidine (Sileo).
- Clomipramine (Clomicalm).
Note: These are for mild to severe anxiety. Consult your vet on which will fit your dog best.
#6: Try dog appeasing pheromones
An example of this is Adaptil. It’s a calming pheromone that only dogs can sense.
Use the spray 10-15 minutes before traveling. Apply it on your dog’s:
Just wherever your dog stays while inside the car.
You can use the collar daily for calming your pooch.
#7: Use music
Studies have shown that music can relieve a dog’s anxiety, as this review states.
In 9 studies, exposure to classical music resulted in positive behavioral changes. Even with dogs in stressful situations.
But this idea needs more studies to back it up. Use it as a supplementary therapy for dogs with car anxiety.
#8: Exercise your dog
This helps your pooch to calm down. And release excess energy.
So that when they go into the car, they’re more relaxed. And less likely to feel stress.
Do this about 20 minutes before the trip.
You can go for a short walk. Or play some indoor games like:
- Find the treat.
#9: Make sure they’re comfortable
Give your dog a pleasant car experience. Especially if you’re in the process of introducing it to your pup.
Take note of the car’s temperature. Keep it at a nice balance. Not too hot or too cold.
Open the car windows once in a while. This lets the fresh air in for your dog.
And you can have a supply of favorite chew toys and treats ready for them.
This helps them make positive associations with the car. Take it slow. And with time, your pooch will learn to love car rides.