Whether you’re headed on a long road trip or a quick drive to the park, it’s always a fun idea to invite your dog along for a ride. But that fun trip can quickly turn into a stressful, messy situation if your dog decides to leave you an unwanted present in the backseat.
There are two main reasons your dog is likely pooping in the car. The first is that your dog might be overstimulated and too excited about the trip. The second is that your dog is feeling anxious or stressed about going in the car.
Both of the above scenarios can mess with your dog’s stomach, causing them to poop in your car. If your dog has a habit of pooping in the car, you must be aware of what’s causing it, the precautions you can take to avoid accidents moving forward, and what to do if an accident happens.
How to Determine What’s Causing Your Dog to Poop
As we mentioned above, there are two main reasons that dogs poop in cars: excitement and anxiety. We’ve outlined the signs to look for so you can determine what is causing your dog to poop.
Signs your dog is feeling anxious or motion sick:
Because dogs don’t typically ride in cars every day, it can cause them stress or anxiety because they don’t feel well when on the ride. Look for these signs that might indicate your dog isn’t feeling well:
- Running nose
- Excessive drooling
- Whining or whimpering
- Vomiting or pooping
- Licking lips
Signs your dog is overly excited:
While some dogs might get anxious from the car, others love it! Unfortunately, this love can sometimes translate to over-excitement which often leads to accidents. Keep an eye on your dog for:
- Uncontrolled panting
- Whining or incessant barking
- Full-body shaking
- Excessive drooling
Whether your dog is having accidents because he’s stressed or excited, there’s are some precautions you can take before your car ride to help limit the chance of an accident.
6 Precautions to Take Before Car Rides
No one wants to deal with dog poop every time they take their dog for a ride in the car. It’s frustrating, messy, smelly, and pretty crappy. Luckily, there are a few precautions that you can take to ensure a poop-free ride.
Enjoy a Long Walk Before the Trip
When taking your dog in your car, how long of a walk do you typically take him on beforehand? If you usually let your dog quickly go to the bathroom and hop right in the car, you might be doing yourself a disservice. For trips that are planned, ensure that you are giving yourself adequate time to take your dog on a long walk where he can release his bowels outside. When on the walk, don’t rush your dog and allow them to take as much time as they need. Once they go to the bathroom, reward and praise them to reiterate that going to the bathroom outside is preferred. An added benefit of a long walk before the trip is that you will tire them out so they will sleep in the car!
Avoid Feeding Your Dog Before the Trip
One of the most effective ways to reduce the chances of your dog pooping in the car is to limit their food intake leading up to the trip. If possible, try not to feed them food or water within three hours of the car ride. Not only will this help prevent them from getting an upset stomach and throwing up, but will decide the chance of an unwanted bowel movement. Unless you are going on an extremely long ride, you should also avoid feeding your dog meals and/or snacks during the trip.
Add Protection to Your Car
Sometimes accidents are going to happen and they can’t be avoided. In these scenarios, both you and your car must be prepared. Before embarking on your trip, install a dog hammock or a car seat cover to line your seats. If you don’t have a car seat cover, you can opt for old blankets and towels and line the seats and floor — tucking them into the crevices of the seat so they stay in place as your dog moves around in the backseat. Along with protecting your car’s seats, you will also want to pack some plastic bags, paper towels, disinfecting wipes, and extra towels in case you end up needing to do a quick clean up of a mess.
Map Out Potty Breaks on Long Rides
If your car ride is going to be longer than two hours, you should map out different rest stops along the way. Some rest stops even have fenced-in areas for your dog to run around — this is why planning ahead is beneficial! Make sure you pack a leash so you can safely walk your dog at the rest stop, taking them on a five to ten-minute walk every time you stop. Again, it’s important that you don’t rush your dog and yell at them to go potty, especially when they’re in an unfamiliar area. Taking the time to stop along your trip will reduce the chances that your dog will go to the bathroom in the backseat of your car.
Read Your Dog’s Body Language
As their owner, you know your dog best. If you notice your dog acting odd, they might be trying to indicate that they need to relieve themselves. Listen for whining or barking and look for pacing in the backseat. If you notice any of these signs and they are out of the ordinary for your dog, you must find a place to stop as quickly as possible so you can take them on a quick walk. Reading your dog’s body language will help you notice your dog’s discomfort before the accident occurs.
Pack Your Dog’s Favorite Toys
Sometimes all your dog needs is a good distraction and a way to feel more comfortable in this different environment. Reminding your dog of home, a place where he knows not to go to the bathroom inside, is an easy way to let him know he shouldn’t go to the bathroom in the car. Do this by bringing along some of his favorite toys that will help him make the connection.
How to Make Car Rides More Enjoyable for Your Dog
To help an over-excited dog have a poop-free car ride, your best bet is to take them on a long walk beforehand to tire them out physically — helping them to stay calm. But it’s not as simple when you have a dog that is pooping because he is scared, stressed, or anxious.
The first thing you need to do is make your dog feel more comfortable in your car. The next time you take your dog on a long walk, have them get in your car at the end of the walk. Get into the driver’s seat like you normally would, but you’re not going to go anywhere. Simply sit in the car with your dog praising them when they’re being quiet. After a few minutes, take your dog out of the car without going anywhere. Repeating this every so often will help your dog build a more positive association with your car, making the next trip (when you actually do drive!) a bit easier for them.
Keep in mind that you don’t want to practice this way and then dive right into a long car ride. Engage your dog in similar exercises where you take them on a short three-minute drive to nowhere, praising them along the way. Increase the duration of the drives over time, gradually working your way up to a normal length car ride.
How to Clean Dog Poop from Your Car
Sometimes accidents are unavoidable. If your dog poops on your car’s seat, you must clean it and remove the odor so he doesn’t associate your backseat with relieving himself. Follow these tips when cleaning dog poop from your car:
- Before using any products, pick up as much of the mess as you can with a dog poop bag or paper towel. Once the main portion has been removed, blot the stain to absorb some of the excess moisture from within your seats.
- Apply an enzymatic cleaner that will work to help break down both the stain and the odor from the fabric. Avoid spreading the mess by blotting at the stain — you do not want to scrub the stain or it can get pushed deeper into the fabric!
- If there is still a lingering smell, you can place a cup of baking soda in your car to absorb the microscopic molecules causing the odor. If the odor is strong, you might need to apply a paste of baking soda and water directly to the stain to pull out the smell.
With these tips and trick and a bit of understanding, you and your pooch should have a less stressful car ride next time you head out.