I was finishing a Dog Guard Out of Sight Fencing® System in Boynton Beach for a new client and his Bichon, Princess. He already had a fence around his property, but Princess was very good in finding all the holes in the fence and “wiggle spots” where the bottom of the fence was a little high off the ground. Although it was a little challenging getting the system in place among all the plants and vegetation along the fence, the job turned out very well. After just a few minutes, Princess discovered that her “escape route” was closed. Since I had placed the system around the entire perimeter of the home, I also mentioned that he had to be careful when taking Princess in the car. If he had her in the car and backed over the perimeter wire I had placed under the driveway, Princess would get the warning. He completely understood, but that reminded him of a different type of question. Knowing that we were also professional dog trainers, he wondered if we could help him with Princess’ crazy attitude in the car. Whenever they would go anyplace in the car, she would bark and lunge at the windows if people would walk by. She would even do this to other cars when they were at a stop sign or in slow traffic.
Dogs being unruly during car rides is not a common occurrence, but happens more than you might think. The first thing I needed was to understand was the general reason for the car rides. Was Princess only in the car for specific reasons? Did they always go to the Veterinarian where she got a shot? Did he only take her to the Boarding Facility when he was going away for a long time? Did they always go to a family member or friend who had dogs Princess didn’t like?
Dogs learn through association. The stronger the association, the stronger the preemptive actions they may display. If being in the car was the consistent first step to a bad experience for Princess, she will respond in an adrenalized way.
I went through a whole list of “Where do you go with Princess?” with my client and there was no discernible pattern of their destination or even evidence of a consistent driving route. This led me to believe that Princess was not showing her crazy behavior because of an action she believed was about to happen. I checked that off my list.
Next, I asked to see the car and where my client placed his Bichon when they went somewhere. We walked to the garage and he showed me that he always took her in his full sized SUV. He then opened the front passenger door to show me a very expensive “doggy/baby” seat strapped to the passenger seat. He thought it was great because it kept her very safe and raised her to his level when he was driving. He could easily talk to her and pet her while he was driving.
I now discovered the problem. I explained to my client that 80% of canine communication is body language. To dogs, height is dominance. When he placed his Bichon in a very high position, he is building a “thrown for her”. He was clearly telling her that she was the queen and she was in charge.
Now, I discussed the problem of the bad behavior. Princess would bark and lunge at the people all around her. Since my client had told Princess that she was the boss because of the height he provided her; she had to take charge.
In a dog’s world, there are three levels of safety. First, there is their cage, bed, or special place. This is where it is always safe and they don’t have to do a thing to maintain that. Second, there is the house and back yard. These are places that are easily enclosed and controlled. It takes a little bit of policing to keep everything fine there. Next, there is the outside world. Different issues can come at them at any moment, so the boss always needs to be on guard all the time. The car is “the outside world”. Princess feels that she has to be on guard all the time. Thus, she challenges anyone or anything that approaches.
If that wasn’t enough, my client was constantly petting Princess and making “lovey-dovey” sounds to her while they were driving. My client’s focus on Princess and her ability to get him to do whatever she wanted just heightened her sense of being the boss.
Although this all seemed really bad, I told my client that he could easily and quickly fix the problem. All he had to do was to get a seat belt harness for Princess. This is a specially designed dog harness that has a special attachment to go into a car’s seat belt restraint system. He simply needs to place Princess in the back seat and click her in.
She is now far lower in the car and my client is much higher. She also can not directly look out the windows to directly see people. When she looks out the windows, she is looking up towards the sky. This is still a nice view, but nowhere as animated and full of distractions as before. Being in the back seat, her view of the front windshield is also vastly reduced. She can still see some things, but far less.
He also should give her a toy or distraction to keep her busy while she is in the car. I told him that he needs to make the toy the distraction, not the outside. In doing all the simple things I mentioned, he will take away Princess’ sense of being the boss, place her in a calm & passive environment, and redirect her attention to an inanimate distraction of his choosing.
I got a call from my client yesterday. He said he followed my instructions and couldn’t believe the results. He now had a quiet dog and a calm car ride.
What we are telling our dog is very critical. We must remember to look at the world through our dog’s eyes to understand what he hears and why he responds. We hope you will contact us if you have any questions about perimeter dog fence systems or home dog training. You can get us by going to Dog Fence Training Help Boynton Beach South Florida or calling (954) 472-4724. There are more dog training and Dog Guard Out of Sight Fencing® tips at Best Out of Sight Dog Fence Trainers Boynton Beach South Florida. Robin and I have trained over 3,500 dogs and families in Boynton Beach and South Florida. If your dog has no problem staying at home, but seems to always misbehave, we are also your best dog trainers. You can visit our Obedience and Behavior Dog Training Programs by clicking Home Dog Training Boynton Beach South Florida.