Bella’s First Roadtrip

We’re heading to Jersey tomorrow for the weekend, taking the dog. My parents are tickled pink about having the dog visit! OK, not really. But they like to see their grandkids, so I didn’t give them much of a choice. Anyway, we’re driving. It’s not a long trip, tops two hours. What do I need to know about driving with a dog? I know this may seem like a silly question, but she’s afraid of everything. Like, the air conditioner in our apartment makes her tremble. She runs and hides in the closet. Is she going to cower the whole drive?

I found out more about Bella this week. She’s from Tennessee. She was born in someone’s backyard and lived there with her mom and her sister until someone started shooting at them. Then they were dropped off a the pound. In June, they were rescued by a woman in Brooklyn and transported up to BARC. So, she’s a bit of a scaredy cat. I hope she learns to relax. It makes us sad.

I also hope that she doesn’t freak out and think we’re giving her away or something. I’m hoping that since she’ll be with Em and me, things will be OK. She’s really taken to Em and I’m her main provider, so she likes me a lot too.

Am I over-thinking this?

Dogs can’t eat chocolate, so feeding her M&Ms like I do with Elliot isn’t the answer. Duh.

Any suggestions welcome. Or just tell me I’m crazy and to shut up. I’m ok with that as well.


  1. But feeding her is! I’m going to assume that, since she was transported, someone would have told you if she got car sick. Bring treats and don’t be stingy about handing them over. Doesn’t have to be anything big but a regular reinforcement of something delicious when she’s being good will help. One of the mini-sized Mother Hubbard biscuits could work, or pea-sized bits of cheese if she needs more motivation. Give her a treat outside the car, when you open the door, toss one into the car, give her one when she gets in, when you start the car. Every little moment of a trip is a milestone for her.

    She probably will be afraid that you’re driving her somewhere to give her away because that’s her experience. All you can do is stick close to her, reward her for good behavior, and continue to comfort her. She will probably be pretty nervous, therefore not endearing herself to your folks, but it’ll be a good learning experience for her and maybe for them too! Maybe also buy her a big rawhide or bully stick for chewing at your parents’ house so she can politely chew away her anxiety.

    You may also want to crate her or seatbelt her in. In an accident pets can become dangerous flying objects and hurt themselves or other passengers. I never belted my German Shepherd in, though it’s highly recommended, but I do with the small dog now. They sell proper, official seat belts. I actually jerry rig something using a fancy European training leash I have and his harness and securing the leash around the head rest. I didn’t think having him attached by his collar was safe so I clip to the back of the harness. It’s not a perfect system but it’s better than having him fly through a windshield.


  2. Thank you!

    I’ll have treats! I got a bunch of her favorites today. And we got her a rawhide as well.

    I was planning on having her up front with me. Not a good idea? It’ll be hard to give her treats otherwise. Boys are strapped in entirely. Toby coming down separately.


  3. I think it is sweet you are thinking about this and taking her feelings into consideration.

    I’ve nothing to add other than she might whine a lot in the car if she isn’t used to car rides.

    Also: she also cannot eat onions, grapes, raisins….There are a few other things. Chocolate is of course the known one but I was surprised to recently learn about a few others that I have been feeding my dog for years! Poor guy.

    Bella is lucky to have you guys and cute as a button!


  4. Edit to above: the “few other things”… I am not leaving them out for suspense – I didn’t mention I just can’t remember right now :)


  5. Didn’t know about grapes! What happens?

    Actually, didn’t know about any of them.


  6. Something in the grape skin, same as in onion skin, I think. I don’t know the details.

    I keep the little dog up front. Again, it’s not the expert recommendation but he disappears back there, he’s too small! Some people hold the small dogs on the lap and mine would love that but it’s one of my firm rules. None of it! So I attach him to the passenger seat. He actually winds up with enough slack on the leash to lie in the passenger foot space, which he likes (I think someone shoved him out of a car window when they abandoned him), so it works out.


  7. Or garlic, avocado, macadamia nuts, peaches, plums, raw potatoes.

    Grapes can cause kidney failure.

    We never had an issue with our dog in the car. I would second (third?) the comment about making it a treat party. She’ll be fine.

    If she does react really badly, you can ask your vet for puppy valium for next time.


  8. My dogs got carsick when they were younger, so I wouldn’t feed Bella right before you leave and don’t give her too many treats until you know if she gets carsick or not. You don’t want to have to pull over to clean up dog vomit.

    Not sure about your car, but I second giving Bella her own little space. My ex has a Land Cruiser, and with our two beagles, the male likes to relax on the dog bed we threw in the back and the female likes to get up on the wheel housing and look out the window. If she has a favorite blanket or bed that you can put in the car I’d recommend it. You might also want to make sure you have plastic bags and wipes so you can clean up just in case it becomes an issue.


  9. Make sure she’s safe, too! I think this goes without saying, but she should be kenneled while in the car. I know people think it’s cute when their dogs are on their laps and driving, but it’s dangerous for everyone!!

    (Oh, and did you know there are about a gazillion houseplants that are dangerous for dogs to ingest, too? Aloe and poinsettia are two that spring to mind. Of course, if you have cats and small children, I bet you don’t have any of these plants anyway!!)


  10. Weird, my sister has a dog from TN (when they lived there) who was found when he was like ~7 months old and someone was shooting at him! And he looks very similar to yours. But he’s going on 10 years old now so doubtful they’re related. [What is it with TN and peeps shooting dogs? Please stop. Thanks.]

    ps. Hi!


  11. My first dog is a rescue, named Pudge, that we adopted five-ish years ago. He seems to have had a bit of a rough life before he got to us, and it took time for him to settle down and get comfortable with new things. Funny – we got a grill shortly after he came to live with us, and he barked at that thing for like 10 minutes. He used to be so scared of it. Now it makes a perfect target for lifting his leg. But I digress. I would agree about not toooo much food right away, just in case.

    Also, and this is totally gross, but car rides still make P-man nervous, which just gets his bowels cranking, so he does better if we either clean him with a walk before we get started, or make a point to stop shortly after we start. Otherwise, he may need to stop somewhere pretty inconvenient.

    For safety, we go with the puppy hammock, because, while I understand the crating suggestion, we have a 60+lb dog and a honda civic. Not physically possible. So this provides some safety, without the crate.

    Some sort of bed and soft toy would probably make her feel more like she has a place where she is supposed to be, which might be comforting, rather than loose in the car. Oy, that’s a long comment about a dog and a car ride.

    Good luck!


  12. Does she have a blanket or bed she sleeps on regularly? You could put that on the passenger floor for her.

    Could you take her for a short drive before? To the park for an hour or so?

    She will get used to it, and you, no worries. She probably considers you her alpha, so as long as you are constantly telling her she is ok, she will believe it.


  13. Hope it went well!

    When it comes to driving, Henry is a puke factory. I can drive for about 30minutes before he pukes. We’ve been told that Benadryl helps, but it hasn’t worked for us. We just bribe him with off-leash time, and don’t feed him for 12hours before a car ride.

    Just a quick note on Grapes – the details about the toxicity to dogs are unknown. They just now that dogs go into kidney failure. Why, dunno. What part of the grape? Dunno. How much, dunno. Amazingly, it wasn’t until about 10 years ago that vets/owners started to piece this together. But keep grapes, juice, alcohol, raisins, etc away. Small dogs have died from a couple while larger dogs have lived from the same amount.

    There are a few holistic/organic anxiety biscuits for dogs that people i know travel with. They’re little cookies and have soothing herbs, etc. Sounds crazy, but they work.

    If she’s scared of sounds , look into a Thundershirt. They’re designed to give dogs a persistent ‘hey, i’m being hugged!’ feeling. apparently works wonders.

    and in terms of treats, henry goes through these:
    – we sneak pills to him in a teaspoon scoop of vanilla ice cream. he finds it unresistable. when lindsey camped with him, they couldn’t use that- but raw hot dogs worked ( our trainer recommended that too )
    – he loves beef jerky and beef jerky flavored things ( trader joes has a great line of beef and chicken jerky-like strips , they’re extended with rice or wheat and spices, and are easier to cut into bits — but still humangrade )
    – peanut butter flavored dog cookies


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