If you’re googling “why does my dog whine in the car?” you may also be googling something like “my dog is a nightmare in the car.” As much as dogs love car rides, some dogs can make it an ordeal by howling, whining, and crying.
Sometimes, it’s kind of adorable. Just see this Beagle howling in excitement about his car ride:
Of course, even small breeds like Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, Yorkshire Terriers, or Miniature Schnauzers can be unbelievably loud while driving. So why does this happen, and what can we do about it?
Why Does My Dog Whine In The Car?
Dogs usually either whine in the car because of excitement or anxiety. So, dogs who associate car rides with going somewhere exciting, like the dog park, will usually vocalize their happiness. On the other hand, dogs who associate a car ride with an unpleasant trip to the vet or are unfamiliar with riding in the car may cry from anxiety.
But there are several reasons it happens, so let’s take a closer look.
Anxiety & Lack of Socialization
One of the most common reasons a dog will cry or whimper in a car is it’s not something they often do. Dogs raised without regular traveling in a vehicle may find the experience overwhelming.
Similarly, dogs who are unsure about the experience because of previous negative experiences, such as being taken to a boarding kennel or a vet, may whine and cry. But how do you know if anxiety is causing your dog to fuss in the car?
Dog anxiety in car symptoms
If your dog is afraid in the car, you’ll probably see some of the following behaviors:
- Restlessness & moving around (ensure your dog is crated or locked in with a doggy seatbelt to prevent them from becoming a road hazard.)
- Heavy panting, possibly with drooling, even if the AC is on.
- Softer whimpering noises that may become gradually louder.
- Crouching in one area and refusing to move.
- Lip licking.
- Tail tucking.
Any Siberian Husky or similar breed owner will tell you about their dog’s long car time conversations. Just see this video of a Malamute taking a road trip:
So, your dog’s breed has a lot to do with whether or not you have a “talker.” Northern sled dogs like Huskies and Malamutes will probably try to join the conversation with many odd noises when traveling. Hound dogs may take to howling. Excited herding dogs like Border Collies and Heelers may take to frantic barking.
Plenty of supposedly “tough” breeds, such as the Cane Corso, can take to whining constantly, not just in the car, but if they find it an effective way to communicate with you.
It’s very hard to argue with genetics; some breeds are programmed to vocalize more than others. This means they will vocalize more in exciting situations like car rides.
The most common reason dogs cry and whine in the car is pure excitement. Dogs love car rides. It’s a new environment with new scents; usually, it means adventure! This means many dogs will howl, cry, or whine from pure excitement.
Attention & because we bark with them
Most dogs don’t get as much attention from us as they would like. We are often at work, and when we are home, we are usually busy with our chores or gadgets. A car ride often means precious one-on-one time with our dogs.
We usually respond to our dogs whining in the car by talking to them. This reinforces any vocalizing by providing attention. But more importantly, if we shout when our dog is barking or howling, our dog doesn’t always see that as a negative.
They can interpret our shouting as us joining in with them to do our version of barking and howling. Now the whole pack is howling together! Even more fun! So shouting at your dog for whining or barking in the car can reinforce the behavior.
Sadly, anxious behavior in car rides often stems from one of two things. One is that the dog is unfamiliar with being in the car, which we discussed above. However, it does seem to happen more in dogs who were abandoned. Dogs with a record of being abandoned or taken to live with new people sometimes show more distress in a moving vehicle, such as whining.
Of course, dogs get motion sickness in cars just like we do. They may whimper or cry when they don’t feel well. Another symptom is excessive drooling and eventually vomiting. If your dog is sick in the car, see our article on how to get dog smells out of the car.
Dehydration & Heat
Always be aware of temperatures in the car, and never leave your dog unattended in a vehicle. Dogs are far more vulnerable to heat stroke than we are because they are not as good at cooling down. That is, they cannot sweat or take a sweater off.
If your dog is dehydrating in the car or getting too hot, it may start to whine or cry. See our article on how hot is too hot for dogs.
Why Does My Dog Whine When The Car Stops?
A dog whining when the car stops is just a variation of a dog that whines while you are driving. It just means they know they have arrived at their destination and must vocalize their feelings about where they are. They may whine because you’re at the vet or bark happily if you’re at the dog park.
How To Stop My Dog From Crying In The Car
Preventing your dog from whining in the car when it’s an established habit is tricky and difficult. It depends on a multi-faceted approach. The basics are:
- desensitize your dog to the car
- teach the “be quiet” command
- Use distractions
- Use calming aids
1. Desensitize your dog to the car
- Start to make the car a boring part of your dog’s day. Get in with your dog at random intervals and out again without going anywhere. Please do not make it exciting or interesting; you want the car to be as boring as possible.
- If your dog is anxious, you can make it more enjoyable by feeding your dog in there. If they find the car exciting, teach them that it’s a place to calm down by asking them to lie in the car for several minutes after a fun game of fetch.
- Exercise your dog before they get in the car so that they are tired and begin to see it as a place to settle down rather than get worked.
- Take your dog for short car rides and return to break the association with a specific destination.
- Use obedience to teach impulse control. Ask your dog to lie down and stay in the car so that it becomes a place to focus and work.
2. Teach “Be quiet.”
- You need a second person to drive to teach this command in the car
- Take your dog for a short drive, and secure them in place with an appropriate harness and seatbelt.
- Ignore any noises by looking away and waiting for a moment until your dog is quiet. Quickly praise them, give them a treat, and say, “quiet.”
- If they stay quiet, repeat the command, and keep giving the treats with plenty of praise.
- If they start to whine, take the treats away, ignore them until there is another quiet moment, and repeat the process of giving the command and reward.
- As your dog learns that being quiet is associated with attention and reward, you can start giving the command first and following with the reward if they respond by staying quiet.
- Over time, the word “quiet” should be a recognized command you can give while driving.
3. Use distractions
Distractions are always an owner’s best friend. Fill a frozen Kong with a favorite treat and give it to your dog to keep them busy. Use puzzle toys or anything else in the car to keep them distracted. This will not work on all dogs, but it is worth a shot.
4. Use calming tools
You can try several calming products if your dog is scared and anxious in the car. You can play music (they find reggae very calming) or pheromone collars. Your vet may recommend L-theanine (sold as Anxitane) or food with added tryptophan.
Ashwagandha and CBD oil have also been known to help keep a dog calm.
Why does my dog whine all the time?
If your dog is whining all the time, always rule out any medical problem, such as osteoarthritis. After that, consult a professional. Constant whining often happens when a dog learns this is the best way to get your attention and communicate with you. To help them stop, they need to be taught an alternativ-e-archive way of getting your attention.
Why does my dog whine at night?
Dogs who whine at night are usually seniors, which is often a sign of doggy dementia or canine cognitive decline. Puppies in a new environment or crate often cry at night while they adapt. Other reasons include dogs becoming anxious about being left alone when everybody goes to sleep.
Dogs who whine while driving if fairly common. Sometimes it can be cute, but other times it can make driving a bit of a nuisance. Always ensure your dog is safely buckled or crated when traveling so that its excitement doesn’t become a road hazard.