Your dog is toilet trained at home… so why are you still having so much trouble with dog poops in the car?
Let’s take a look at exactly why your dog may be pooping in the car – and how you can avoid it!
Why Does My Dog Poop in the Car?
There are many reasons your dog may have trouble controlling its bowels when they’re out and about, mostly related to anxiety or fear related to car trips. These feelings can, of course, cause a lot of discomfort for both you and your pet.
If your dog poops in the car every time you go on a trip, it may be caused by anxiety. Anxiety in dogs can manifest in many ways, and changes in bathroom patterns can be indicative of this!
While puppies are more prone to anxiety in the car, older dogs can also develop it. Has your dog had a bad experience in a car? Or have you recently changed vehicles or seating arrangements?
These are all possible triggers for sudden anxiety in older dogs.
Thankfully, there are many ways to overcome this issue. We’ve gathered some of our top tips and tricks below, so you can jump ahead if needed.
The flip side to anxiety, excitement can also play a part in your dog having accidents in the car.
Anticipation and heightened emotions can lead to your pet having reduced levels of control over its bowels.
If you expect excitement might be the cause, the best thing you can do is remain calm.
While it’s a lot of fun to see your dog jumping around in excitement before a trip, it may be best to avoid clueing them in on their upcoming car ride too early.
Car sickness can be tricky to diagnose in dogs. While most people look for vomiting as a sign of car sickness, many other symptoms can indicate an issue.
- Pooping (likely diarrhea, although it can be solid)
- Excessive drooling
- Licking or smacking lips
Many natural remedies such as ginger and specially formulated medications can help to ease car sickness in dogs.
How to Prevent Dog Poops in the Car
You’re confident that your dog’s issue falls outside the scope of needing medical care. So, what can you do to stop dog poop issues in the car?
Tackle Anxiety Issues
Anxiety around car trips is very common in dogs, so don’t worry! There are plenty of easy remedies that will help calm your pooch and get you back on the road, while also putting a stop to any dog poops in the backseat of the car.
Introduce the Car Slowly
Even just the sight or sound of the car might send your dog into an anxious spin.
To combat this, spend some time walking around the car with them. Let your pup approach the car at their own pace, sniff the tires, and peek underneath if they’re curious.
Start with the car off, then try again another time while the car idles.
If you have multiple dogs, then you have a slight advantage here. Have the more confident pups approach the vehicle first. Seeing the rest of their pack remain calm in the car’s presence will help to soothe your more anxious dog.
When your dog willingly approaches the vehicle, you can offer them a treat. The goal is to make the car a happy place. What better way to do that than to turn it into a treat dispenser on wheels?
Eventually, your pup will associate the car with treats and will be much happier approaching it. At this point, you can begin exploring the inside of the car.
Practice Entering and Exiting the Car
Once your dog is familiar with approaching the car, you must work on entering and exiting the vehicle. Again – treats will be your best friend here!
Show your dog how to enter and exit safely, rewarding them each time. Place them in the section of the car they’ll usually be situated in. This will help familiarize them with what the actual trip will be like.
Exercise Before Your Trip
Just like with people, anxiety in dogs can be managed through exercise. Taking your pup for a long walk, run, or swim before a car trip will help to tire them out and ease a nervous stomach.
Tackling a physical challenge beforehand means that they’ll be more settled, and likely won’t have the energy left to worry about a car ride.
You might actually find that they’ll be excited for a cozy place to rest!
Crate Train Your Dog
Crating your pup can help to ease their anxiety levels by giving them a private, enclosed space in the car to call their own.
Many dogs will see their crate as a part of their home, especially if you allow them to eat inside.
Since dogs will instinctively avoid going to the bathroom in places where they eat and sleep, using a crate when traveling is a simple way to prevent accidents.
As a bonus, crate training your dog is also a fantastic way to keep them safely secured while traveling.
Use Pheromone Sprays
This is a little trick with a big impact. Pheromone sprays recreate the natural scents that puppies are exposed to through their mother at birth. These scents are designed to relax, soothe, and calm puppies. They work on older dogs, too!
Sprays have been made that replicate these natural scents and aim to recreate the same feelings of relaxation in puppies and dogs.
These sprays are scentless to humans and don’t leave any visual trace. Simply spray them throughout the car, focusing on where your dog will be sitting, about an hour before you’re due to leave for your trip.
Pheromone sprays are best used in conjunction with other anxiety prevention methods. You can buy them from most pet stores.
Preventing Car Sickness in Dogs
Your dog might love the car, but their tummy? Not so much.
Keep the Car Cool
Keeping car temperatures low will help to ease your dog’s discomfort.
While fresh air is the most effective way to balance the air pressure in the car and ease an upset stomach, blasting the air-conditioner can also help in a pinch.
A hot, stuffy car will cause your dog’s stress levels to rise. This can cause further stomach cramping and definitely won’t help with any pooping problems that might arise.
Avoid Feeding Your Dog Immediately Before a Trip
When possible, avoid traveling within two hours after your dog has eaten. This is when they’re most likely to experience an unsettled stomach.
If you absolutely must travel immediately after a meal, then our next tip may be more helpful for you! You can also try minimizing their portions or providing an on-the-go snack like a bone instead.
Increase Toilet Breaks
If you know you have a trip coming up, take your dog to the bathroom immediately before you jump in the car.
Your dog is much less likely to have an accident in the car if they have already emptied its bowels, although it may still feel generally unwell.
You might even want to work on teaching your dog to poop on command. This concept is fairly simple to learn and extremely useful if you’re a frequent traveler.
Your dog likely already has a ‘casual’ bathroom command or phrase that you use. Many owners can simply say, “Do you need to go to the bathroom?” or “Outside!” and their pups will respond.
Narrow this down a bit and find a word that works no matter your location. You could try “Toilet, now!” or “Bathroom break!” as an example.
Each time you’re ready to hop in the car, make a quick stop in your yard near the vehicle. If your dog poops or pees, use the phrase you’ve chosen and give them a treat once they’ve finished. Then, jump immediately in the car.
Over time they will associate the phrase with the act of going to the bathroom. You’ll then be able to issue the command, and if trained correctly, your dog will oblige.
Break the Association
If your dog has pooped during every recent car trip, you might need to break the association they’ve made between the car and needing to go to the toilet.
To do this, avoid traveling with them for a week or so. Give them time to settle their nerves and their stomach before attempting to correct the behavior any further.
For some dogs, simply having this short break from the car may be enough to settle any bouts of car sickness or minor anxiety.
My Dog Pees in the Car, is this Related to Car Sickness?
Your dog peeing in the car is less likely to be a symptom of car sickness and more likely related to excitement or anxiety.
The most successful method of stopping this behavior is to remain calm and follow the steps relating to anxiety outlined above.
Pheromones, in particular, can be good at easing excitement.
Occasionally, a pup may be peeing in the car to mark its territory. If you have multiple dogs, the offending one might feel like they do not have their own safe space within the car, so they attempt to mark one out.
The best way to deal with this is crate training. Assigning a crate specifically for them should stamp out this behavior quickly.
When to See a Professional
It’s always best to seek professional advice specific to your pet, especially if it’s a brand-new behavior you haven’t seen in them before.
Pooping in the car is likely to be anxiety in younger dogs. It’s a very startling experience for a puppy.
However, if your senior dog has suddenly started having accidents with no visible trigger, start by seeing a veterinarian to rule out any possible health issues.
Unwilling accidents can be a sign of something more serious. Taking the time to pop by your veterinary clinic is well worth it.
You can then move on to home remedies or a dog trainer if the issue calls for it.
Although it can be frustrating when your dog has an accident, remember that it’s even more distressing for them than it is for you.
Stay calm, show them much love, and overcome any issues as a team.
Put some of these remedies to the test and stop those dog poops in the car for good – your pup will likely thank you for it!