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Why does my dog shake during car rides?

If your dog has been shaking during car rides, this post will show you likely reasons why and what you can do about them.

So, why does my dog shake during car rides? Likely reasons why your dog shakes during car rides are that your dog has had bad previous experiences in the car, your dog does not like the motion of the car or that your dog gets anxious because they do not understand what is happening.

There are a number of possible causes but there are some things you can consider to help figure out the main cause and there are some things you can do about it.

Why does my dog shake during car rides?

Bad previous experiences

Dogs shake during car rides for two main reasons. One reason is an association with past traumatic experiences. Consider: puppies are taken to the vet and given shots at young age. Then they are sold and taken to new homes and away from their mother and litter mates.

All these things occur after riding in a car and all are terrifying to a puppy. Most dogs also experience the terror of going to the vet and getting shots or having other invasive procedures and others dread the car trips to the groomer. Also, some dogs have experienced the horror of having been in a car accident at some point in their lives.

Motion sickness

The second main reason dogs shake during car rides is motion sickness. Just like humans, some dogs experience varying degrees of motion sickness. Unlike other reasons for shaking, quivering caused by motion sickness will not begin before or right when she first gets in the car. Rather, she will become ill and shake only after the car has been moving for a while.

The problem, however, is that she may begin to associate her motion sickness with car rides in general and begin shaking before even getting in the car.


Finally, there are those dogs that are more sensitive souls which can be another reason for shaking during car rides. Dogs have finely tuned senses with which they communicate and learn about the world around them. These hyper-sensitive dogs are more affected by the sights and smells they experience during a car ride, which may therefore cause them to shake with excitement and anxiety.

Why does my dog shake before car rides?

Although they may not exactly remember past events, dogs do develop a sense of associating with things in positive or negative ways. They can associate past unpleasant events with riding in the car, such as some of those mentioned above, including trips to the vet, visits to the groomer, or somehow being hurt during a car ride. Your pup probably perceives these as negative experiences and maybe even a form of punishment every time she must get in the car for a ride.

Why does my dog shake after car rides?

Your dog may continue shaking after her car ride because she is still experiencing a continuation of her anxiety related to her negative associations. She may also still feel the effects of her motion sickness.  Some dogs, especially puppies, have ear problems and infections which can also cause them to continue feeling badly after the car ride is over.

How do I stop my dog from shaking in the car?

The first step is to understand what is causing your dog to shake during car rides. If your dog is experiencing anxiety based on negative associations with car rides, there are some remedies you can try.

The first thing, though, is to purchase a restraint which will keep your dog safe during car rides. Here are three possible options:


This is the safest, and the coziest for your dog. It is mounted in the back seat of the car by a seat belt.

Car Barrier

This device keeps the dog separate from the other people in the car. One caveat here is that is the car stops short, the dog can be hurled against the barrier and become hurt.

Dog Seat Belt

This easy and less expensive option restrains the dog with a harness that is connected to where the seat belt is inserted.

Once you have your preferred method of restraining your dog, Counter Conditioning is one technique you can try to help your dog stop shaking in the car. Here are the steps for this option:

  1. Put your dog in the car and into the restraint you have chosen, feed her, take the restraint right off, and remove her from the car. Do this for every meal until you don’t see her shaking or feeling anxious.
  2. When she is relaxed while eating with the restraint on, sit in the front seat and leave the restraint on her for 5 minutes after she is finished eating.
  3. Start to add additional time to how long you keep her sitting in the restraint after her meals.
  4. When you get to 20 minutes after feeding her, take her on a very short drive, park, and take your dog out of the car and walk her home.
  5. Next, drive someplace fairly close from which you can still walk home, and have it be fun, like the park, beach, or neighbor’s house, and walk home.
  6. Drive to someplace where you can stay in the car but where you can get a treat for your dog – like a chicken nugget.
  7. Continue taking her on longer rides.
  8. Drive to the vet, but without an appointment. Go in and give your dog a treat.
  9. Your dog is on her way to stop shaking in the car.

You may also try some other methods of stopping your dog from shaking during car rides.

Dog Appeasing Pheromones

Available at most pet stores, Dog Appeasing Pheromones (DAP) do just that – appease and calm dogs who are prone to anxiety. DAP is a chemical like that secreted by a mother dog when she is feeding her puppies. This product is available in several different forms.

Ginger Snaps

Believe it or not, this favorite cookie is effective in settling the stomachs of dogs who experience motion sickness. Give your dog 2 or 3 Ginger Snaps about 20 minutes before the car ride.


Dramamine is a drug you’ll need to talk about with your vet. It should not be given to pups less than 6 months old.

How do I get my dog to enjoy car rides?

With time and training, your dog will come to enjoy car rides, especially when she associated the rides with good things – like getting treats, hanging out with you, running in the park and hiking in the woods.