DEAR DIDI: We have an amazing 6 month old Chocolate Lab named "Sassy". She is so sweet and calm, we just love her to death. My husband and I are retired and we want to travel around the country. We bought a Motor Home and are all set for a fabulous time travelling and exploring with Sassy.We hope you can help us with our problem as all of our hopes and plans have been dashed against the rocks. Sassy can't make it in the car for more than five minutes before vomiting all over the back seat! We love her very much and want her to enjoy travelling as much as we do.Didi, do we have to sell our new Motor Home and stay home? Do we have to relegate poor Sassy to boarding kennels so we can travel? Neither of these options are ideal. Please help!
- Frustrated Retiree in Manteca, CA
DEAR FRUSTRATED : What a fantastic lifestyle you have planned for yourselves! I see no reason to give it up or relegate poor Sassy to a non-inclusive life. The first thing we have to realize when it comes to car sickness is that 95% of cases are stress related. Sassy may relate car rides to negative experiences such as being taken away from her first home, trips to the veterinarian, or a boarding kennel.
Let's reprogram the way Sassy thinks! The process is known as desensitization and the goal is to start with such baby steps that there is never a repeat of the behavior. We need to make the car a super fun place for her. Try just having Sassy get in the car and then jump right back out. Be happy and excited for her, provide a treat or favorite toy as a reward. Make her think this is an awesome game! When she is showing excitement about going out to the car and getting in, try shutting the doors. Just sit with her a bit. Read a book, check your email, make a phone call and go back in the house. Then you are ready to make the car move. Back down the driveway. Park and get out. " Yay! We went for a ride. Good Girl!". Once you have done each stage multiple times and no visible stress from Sassy try going around the block once.
Build up each experience to be slightly longer but always fun. If you live close to a park or pet store take her there so that she sees that going in the car gets her to really fun places! Make sure she has not eaten within a couple of hours of any planned outings to help her tummy. As she gets older stress related carsickness often improves naturally. If you are patient and do these steps slowly spread over many days, if not weeks, I am confident that you will be loading up to explore America in no time!