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My Pet World: The right music may soothe dog on car rides

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

I dog-sit my daughters lovable Yorkypoo occasionally. He happily jumps into my car, but makes the most horrendous earsplitting noises, barking, howling, all during the drive. Having him strapped in or in his kennel, having my husband hold him in his lap, makes no difference. Could he be car sick? Any idea on how we can make car travel less stressful for a very cute and smart little Brizzly. -- Brigitte, Hauppauge, NY

Dear Brigette,

Occasionally, a dog might howl or bark if car sick, but mostly they just look like they want to throw up. Clearly, Brizzly is experiencing something, and it's either car sickness or anxiety related to the car ride. Here are a few things to try.

First, put him in an Anxiety Wrap or Thundershirt. Both garments can help reduce canine anxiety. Next, place him in a small airline kennel for transport, and drape a towel over the top of it, making sure that at least one side is open to fresh air. He will feel more secure in a kennel than sitting on your husband's lap. Also, crack open the back window a little, so fresh air circulates in the car.

There are over-the-counter car sickness supplements you can try. If that doesn't work, a veterinarian can provide something stronger for the ride.

If these things don't work, music might be the remedy. Research shows that classical music can reduce canine stress behaviors, like barking and whining. Some classical music may be too stimulating for dogs, so I recommend "Through a Dog's Ears," a canine classical music series created by psychoacoustic expert Joshua Leed, concert pianist Lisa Spector, and veterinary neurologist Dr. Susan Wagner. According to Spector, the music in this series has lower toners, slower tempos and simple rhythmic patterns, which appeals more to dogs.

Let me know what works for Brizzly.

Dear Cathy,

I have a one-year-old rescue dog named Ted. He is a Wheaten Terrier. I don't know his past. He is very social with other dogs but is extremely shy with people. He wants to approach others but darts away if they try to pet him. This includes my family who he sees him on a regular basis.

I have tried to research how to handle this, but all the suggestions recommended giving him treats. Ted will not take treats when he is stressed around people. I have noticed improvement in his behavior when I am walking him on a leash and we pass strangers on the sidewalk (he used to strongly tug on his leash to get away), but it would be nice to get some advice on how I can help my dog relax around those I consider friends in my own house. It is very discouraging to my family that Ted will not let them pet him. I want them to love him as much as I do. -- Karen, Las Vegas, NV

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Dear Karen,

Most trainers recommend tossing treats to dogs, so they make a connection between yummy treats and meeting new people. But stressed dogs often refuse treats making this a difficult training method to use. So, let's not worry about making him happy around people; let's just try to reduce his overall stress around people.

Ideally, the more a dog interacts with people, the more social they become, but he may not have learned social skills as a puppy and so is a nervous and shy dog now. Ted may always be a bit nervous and shy, but you can do things to build his confidence.

First, ask family and friends to not reach out to Ted anymore. He needs to know he can visit with people without people assuming that he wants to be approached or petted. The only time any dog should be petted is if the dog approaches and appears to invite the person to do so. And, the only time Ted will let people pet him is if he feels comfortable and confident in his surroundings.

Next, put Ted in an Anxiety Wrap or Thundershirt, too. In fact, he can wear it all the time if it relaxes him. Combine this with some plug-in dog pheromones around the house, so he connects the relaxed feeling with a soothing scent.

Finally, there are chewable calming aid supplements often produced in treat form. These supplements are mild, but when combined with body wraps and scent, can reduce stress and rebuild his confidence around people.

Search online for "anxiety supplements for dogs," and keep me informed on his progress.


(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)



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