So you try to take our beloved pooch on a road trip, and what happens? You get a barking, whining, restless mess of an animal losing it's mind in the back seat - what do you do?
First of all, let's not just look at the symptoms - yes, barking, whining and restlessness are all annoying, but they are not the root cause of the problem with your dog's behaviour. The issue is how the dog is feeling, and cognitive dog training encourages us to look at training from a holistic picture from the dogs perspective - not just the its that irritate us.
Let's face it - cars aren't a natural way for a dog to get around so it shouldn't really surprise us that cars can cause fear or excitement to a dog. Fear stems from general anxiety - but I see it as the dog not feeling in control of it's environment and is becoming overwhelmed. Excitement generally tells us that the dog has a bit too much freedom than it was not really ready for, and hasn't learned in small steps how to deal with all the extra stimulation that comes from riding in a car.
Your solution is to restrain your dog. The level of restraint is going to depend on the extent of the behaviour. A dog should be restrained in a car. All too often, when people tell me that their dog carries on in the car, they are not restrained and so their behaviour escalated as they run around the car. If this is happening to you, I want you to understand that you are giving too much responsibility to your dog, who is not ready for this burden. They are showing you that they are not ready by their behaviour, and you must restrain your dog.
There are a number of seat belt attachments, dog car harnesses and also the option of using a crate to limit your dogs movement so they can't work themselves up in the first place. You can also cover the crate up and remove the cover to reward quiet behaviour and cover it again if the dog starts to carry on.
Here are some more tips for helping your pooch be settled in the car:
Practice hopping in the car and out of the car when you aren't going somewhere.
Teach your dog to lay down on a mat or old towel and use this as a cue for the dog to lay down in the car by putting the mat in the car first.
There is some evidence that classical music can help settle a dog, so this could be good to try with anxious dogs.
Take some tasty treats with you and reward your dog for good behavior like being quiet and laying down.
On a side note, if your dog suffers from Motion sickness may be helped by using a product called a Calming Cap. There is a lot of information to suggest that in people motion sickness is related to the eyes and how they are processing information. A calming cap covers the dogs eyes with a mesh, preventing the overload of information that may be resulting in motion sickness.