Some dogs truly adore riding in the car, to the point that the excitement associated with opening the doors can make them tremble or jump up and down. On mornings when I can take my dog, Skye, to work, she is overjoyed. She races back and forth to the door out to the garage if I do not come along as quickly as she would like. It makes me smile and I love to take her because she seems so thrilled.
However, as people read this headline on this article, I can envision the comments now…things like “duh, because he knows something good is going to happen” and that is true, on one level, but why are some dogs overjoyed at the prospect and some dogs are not thrilled at all?
I think “good things” for a dog are things that meet her needs, emotional and physical. Her needs include: food, water, shelter, entertainment, security, and social interaction. If your dog knows that he will get dog treats at the bank for example, it might add to his excitement to ride. Anything that may cause your dog’s brain to release “happy hormones” could make the ride seem like a positive experience and one that your dog wants to be repeated. Happy hormones are things like serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and endorphin and they help to create a sense of pleasure to help motivate living things to repeat behaviors that are positive for their survival.
But the most important reason that I think that dogs love to ride in the car is that we are always there too. Studies show that dogs’ brains release happy hormones associated with family bonds whenever we interact with them. Our dogs love us and look to us for security too. They want to be with us when we go and they need to be a part of everything that the family group participates in. So the next time your dog seems excited to get in the car, take it as a compliment that she wants to go with you!
If your dog does not like the car, don’t despair. He can be taught that the car is a good place over time. Try opening the doors and letting him look in. Offer his regular meals inside the car. Gradually work up to being able to close the doors and move without him acting afraid. Ask your veterinarian to help you decide if car sickness is a factor as well. There are medications that can help, both with car sickness and anxiety.
Being able to go where you go is a great thing for you both.