Nika on Wheels

by | Apr 7, 2023

cartoon dog on roller skates

45 minutes in the car, hairpin bends and mountain roads. She sat on my lap, at first curled in. But her posture slowly stiffened and I spent the last 15 minutes of that journey with a sleeve full of whatever she’d eaten for breakfast.

Sick as a Dog

T never travelled well. Wet with his own hypersalivation, car journeys were uncomfortable for him. We’d make sure not to feed him before he travelled, but that only prevented the need for clean-up and not the nausea he experienced. He refused ginger biscuits, a purported remedy. We explored every area of the car: front passenger footwell, back seat, front seat, boot. We sat in the drive with the engine running. He travelled crated and crateless, on laps and off, with various combinations of windows opened a few inches.

The conflicting messages from his muscles and joints, inner ear, and eyes result in the symptoms that are visible to us – increased salivation and emesis. But this doesn’t mean they’re the only symptoms present: in humans, dizziness, headaches, and even post-travel tiredness are frequently reported.

By the time we had found a solution, he was no longer enthusiastic about getting into the car, and although I thought I’d done all I could at the time, there was more to learn
Isn’t there always?

I experienced my share of travel sickness as a child. I never left my breakfast in anyone’s sleeve, but my mother does remember a long walk with a full plastic bag after I wordlessly objected to continuing our journey on the number 17…


For Nika, some subsequent journeys were non-eventful, but others caused her to whimper in discomfort. Travelling seemed to be easy and even relaxing for her if her head was elevated, either on T’s flank or on the arm of a passenger for a while, but the power of that position evaporated, perhaps because of the anticipation of feeling unwell. Before travelling became overwhelmingly unpleasant for her, we stopped journeying out.

Afternoons in a parked car in the drive. Both dogs sleeping in the back; me reading a good thriller (the butler was stitched up!). A rare 20 minutes of calm and quiet in the early days of puppy pandemonium, between play and the opportunity afforded by a napping youngster to attend to other duties…like…eat, clean, shower.

The car became a place of rest, not a shaking box that predicted discomfort. From time to time, once she was sleeping, I’d switch the engine on briefly; I’d take off the handbrake and roll a foot or two; drive a few feet and reverse; or just steal an extra few minutes to read just one more chapter.

Bye-Bye Boy Racer

The first time we left the drive, Nika was asleep and I made it my mission to keep it that way. Which, to be honest, is a challenge in a 20-year-old car whose shocks and struts aren’t particularly daisy-fresh! This meant creeping around corners and going at a speed that would prevent the multitude of potholes that had sprung up over winter from rattling the contents of the backseat.

To the guy in the white Audi behind me on a single-track country lane, I’m sorry. I hope the hand gestures you made brought you comfort during that trying time.

She woke up just as we climbed a steep hill (crawled up a steep hill, rather), sat up, gave a single whimper, and lay back down again.

And thus I learned the fine art of puppy-driving.

My Formula 1 ambitions are thwarted, but on the plus side, I now have a medically-mandated reason to lock myself in a parked car to read…

Pup looking out of car door
link to the page on familiarisation

More articles to read to help you survive Year One

Shaping by rewards

When I see a dog showing a behaviour that is heading towards potential conflict, my first question is “what rewards are available?”

Building A Generous Future

Maybe it feels like a doddle because my life with her wasn’t one of competing against who she is, trying to mould her into something else, or even just worrying about the potential fallout of every decision I made.

A Road to Nowhere

When familiarity is stripped away we seek recognisable signposts that will take us back to comfort and security. This is survival instinct. It is worth listening to as it keeps us alive.

A Day of Learning

A no-training day does not mean he gets a lazy day lying idly in the sun. Learning is still happening and this is significant and important for his development.

The Experienced Dog

Knowing your dog has receive sufficient preparation does not mean every eventuality, but a range of different conditions so that when the unexpected happens they will draw on their skills and solve the issue.

A New Puppy. Oh Joy.

Impulse buying the wrong sofa can be rectified if you swallow the expense. Impulse buying a puppy can result in personal grief for you and your family and quite possibly result in a very unhappy future or end the life of that puppy.

Fast does not mean better

We are becoming surrounded by a culture of fast. We are being sold that immediate gratification is the only solution.

Obnoxious Puppy

The delight of your new puppy is probably going to last a few weeks, maybe four if you are lucky. When 12 weeks old hits, and you will feel a slam, the Delight is going to demonstrate ungrateful, obnoxious traits.

The Power of Passive Learning

Active learning: the learner takes active choice of what to do, how to respond, is attentive and making conscious effort
Passive learning: little conscious effort, reward is delivered for minimum effort.

Be-toothed Learning Machines

The thing they don’t tell you is that raising a puppy is DANGED HARD WORK. Biting everything, peeing everywhere, eating anything; not for the faint hearted.


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