Does Your Dog Hate Car Rides?
You're not alone.
Does your dog go into automatic panic when you put him in your car? Does he whine, cry, drool, vomit, or try to crawl underneath the seat?
Many dogs are afraid of the car. Motion sickness is a possible culprit, but not a likely one. It's more likely that their anxiety is based in negative association or the unknown. The car becomes scary when it is not a common every day occurrence. What makes the joyride even worse is when t it can only be associated with going to the groomer, kennel, or vet. In a dog's mind those may not happy places.
Starting early is best but even an older dog can learn a new love of mobility. All you have to do is make the car a pleasant and routine thing in your dog's life.
To break your dog's habit of thinking every car ride ends in vaccines or baths is not hard and won't take more than a couple minutes a day. As often as you can, try to take the dog into the car. And start by not going anywhere.
Don't go anywhere.
Find a few moments here and there that you normally spend at your kitchen table or on the couch that you can just as easily spend in your car. The next time you have a shopping list to write or some calls to return on your cell phone, try sitting in the car to do it and bring the dog with you. Writing out a few bills, balancing your check book, and reading the newspaper or a magazine are just a few examples of things you could do sitting in your car for just a couple minutes with the dog.
Start slow. One minute. Then two minutes. In a week maybe you could try five minutes.
Take short drives.
Once your dog is better about being in the car, the next step is to try to ease his fear of the car actually moving.
If you have the time, just drive around the block once or twice. That's it. Then go back home and take your dog back into the house. Try to take your dog on short trips, especially ones where you don't have to get out of the car. A quick drive to pick up your kids at school or scouts is a great start. The positive reinforcement is doubled when they see the rest of the family getting into the car with them.
Anyplace you go where you utilize the drive-thru window like the bank, pharmacy, or fast food joints are all great doggie day trips, too.
Keep building momentum.
This idea is making sense now, isn't it. Slowly build an association for your dog with the car that is positive and simple. Once you can make it through Dunkin Donuts without your dog having any issues you're ready to take him along on some short errands. These starter trips should be short, like the dry cleaner, Blockbuster, or the post office. These should be trips where you aren't leaving him alone in the car, please ask a family member or friend to join you.
If you don't want to leave him alone in the car even for just a few minutes that's fine. Bring a friend or family member. You can run into Pizza Hut for your to-go order, do some quick grocery shopping or run into Annie Sez and leave your dog with the dog sitter in the car. The exercise of the car being shut down and your leaving him briefly is a useful step in nurturing the Dog - Car Relationship.
Don't forget that positive reinforcement is always the best way to teach a dog anything. This is no different. Lots of pats and praise for his good behavior will go a long way. He wants to please you, he will repeat the behavior once he understands what it is you liked. A dog treat he can associate with having had some "good car time" might help if used correctly.
Punishing his less than stellar behavior is only going to reinforce the anxiety.
It may take some months of newspaper reading in the driveway, short jaunts around the block, and then quick errand running around town, but eventually you really will be able to see an improvement in your dog's car anxiety.
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*All text is original content by Veronica. All photos are original content by Veronica, or used with permission. All videos are courtesy of Youtube.com.