When a dog doesn’t like to go for car rides, the first thing that we do is to “throw” them in the car and go for a ride. This can traumatize your dog causing him either jump all over the car trying to find a way out or cower on the floor of the back seat shivering in fear. Neither of these teaches your dog that the car and car rides are fun, happy, and safe.
What you need to do is to provide a slow and steady method of teaching your dog through socialization that the car and everything about the car is safe. Sometimes, this can be a slow process and take a couple of weeks to make your dog feel safe. Here are some tips for what you should do:
- Put your dog on a leash and walk slowly around the car. Don’t get too close or directly approach the car. Repeat this several times for a couple of days.
- Open the back door of the car, where you want your dog to enter. Walk him around the car again for one day.
- Next, start to throw some of your dog’s kibble or favorite treats at the foot of the back door. Show him the goodies and slightly direct him to them. Do not force him.
- Once he easily goes to the back door for the kibble, start putting some on the back floor and back seat. Show and direct him so that he sees that there are also goodies in the car. If he is having a problem getting in the back seat, have a family member get in from the other side. Hand off the leash to them and have them coax him in. Again, do not force him.
- Once your dog will willingly get in the car, close his door and you get in the driver’s seat. Turn on the engine and play some music. Stay in the driveway for a few minutes. Stop the engine and get out. Repeat this several times that day.
- After you and your dog are in the car with the engine running, slowly back down the driveway and on to the street. Pull back into the driveway, stop the car and get out. Do this a few times.
- Pull out and go for a short drive around the block. Do not stop anywhere, but return home.
- Take your dog to a quiet place and get out with him. Make sure that he is on a leash and that you have some of his favorite toys with you. Also, take a family member with you to help if any unforeseen issues come up.
- Stay in that place for about ten to twenty minutes and then drive home. Repeat this with other places you may regularly go. If you see any agitation from your dog, go back to the previous step.
You have now socialized your dog to traveling in the car with you.
Jeri Wagner is a canine behavioral therapist and master trainer. Jeri uses a natural training system leveraging the same communication methods – body language and voice control – that dogs follow as part of their instinctive pack mentality. Training takes place in the home where the problems generally occur. Jeri trains in western Montgomery county and northern Chester County. For more information, call 1-877-500 BARK (2275) or visit www.barkbusters.com.
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