We were finishing a Dog Guard Out of Sight Fencing® installation in Boca Raton for a new client and his Poodle, Daisy. The training went very quickly and Daisy understood exactly where she could wander on our client’s property. As always, I also mentioned that he should take the collar off Daisy if he was taking her for a car ride and they were backing out the driveway. This was because the perimeter wire passed under the driveway and she would get a correction in the car. That reminded my client of a separate, dog training question. It seemed that they were going on a trip to visit relatives in South Carolina and Daisy was coming too. This was her first car trip and Daisy wasn’t too thrilled with car rides in general.
The first aspect that we need to address with Daisy is her general problem with car rides. Once we get that resolved, we can move on to the trip to the relatives. After training so many dogs for so many years, we have come to the conclusion that there is no one reason why dogs might be a little fearful of cars and car rides. Fortunately, there is one great process that always makes dogs completely happy with car rides.
Remember how our Mom would take us new places and do new things with us? She was practicing the natural act of socialization with us. At that point of time in our lives, our “life experience” still lacked familiarization with places, sights, and sounds that we needed to properly function in the world around us. Our mother would slowly introduce us to those things in a way that allowed us to learn and extend our “safety net”. Since the process was methodical and she was always there to assure our safety, we were fine with it and learned that the new experiences were just fine. Many times, we discovered that we loved the new experiences and wanted more.
This is the same technique that we use when introducing a dog to a car when he (or she) doesn’t understand the experience. Here is what I told my client:
- Put your car in the driveway and walk Daisy around the car (on a leash) as you are practicing your perimeter training. If she starts to become apprehensive, back off and don’t walk as close. Continue this process until she thinks nothing of passing and circling the car. Praise her when she does well.
- Repeat the above process. This time, open the car door and walk her up to it. Do not “ask” her to get inside at this time. If she appears nervous, back off and repeat this action, but approach the open door more slowly and stop farther back. Praise her when she succeeds.
- Now, have someone inside the car when you and Daisy approach. Have the person encourage Daisy to get in the car by animated moves, holding one of Daisy’s favorite toys, or offering a treat. Don’t “push” Daisy in the car, but allow her to slowly decide that it might be a great place to explore. Slowly repeat this process until Daisy easily jumps in the car when the door is open and the person inside is encouraging her to join them. Praise her on a great job.
- Once Daisy is happily in the car, secure her with a seat belt restraint. The best method is to have her wear a comfortable harness that will allow a seat/shoulder belt to easily pass thru it and click. Repeat this until she thinks nothing of this.
- It is now time to start the car. Slowly back to the end of the driveway and stay there for two or three minutes with the engine running. After that, pull back up the driveway, turn the car off, praise Daisy, and let her out. Repeat this exercise until she thinks nothing of it.
- Here comes the short drive. Get Daisy properly fastened in the car and slowly back out of the driveway. Take a short ride around the neighborhood for about five minutes. It is perfectly fine for the person with Daisy to give her treats or to engage her attention. Always correct her back if she starts to bark at the window.
- Take a longer trip to a destination such as a friend’s house or market. Make sure that you do not unclick Daisy’s seat belt until you have her leash firmly in your hand and that there are no immediate distractions directly around the car that might adrenalize her. Calmly have her exit the car and walk around for a few minutes. Get back in the car and return home. Praise her on a great job.
The above actions will have my client socialize Daisy with the car so that she can ride calmly in the car and can calmly exit the car in public. Now it is time to prepare for the trip. First, I discussed what he should pack for Daisy:
- DAISY’S CRATE. I always like to travel with my dogs’ crates. They love them and associate them with safety and “home”. I strongly suggest that my client takes Daisy’s crate so that the continuity of safety and “home” will continue as they travel up the coast to his relatives.
- FOOD AND TREATS. Make sure that Daisy has enough food and treats to last for the entire trip. Many dogs get sick when food is quickly changed. Also, the one thing that we all forget is that “treats” are also just food. It is important than Daisy only gets her regular treats on the trip so that she doesn’t get sick.
- MEDICINE AND MEDICAL RECORDS. If Daisy is on any medication, it is important that she continue with the dosages during the trip. My client should also be aware if the medicine has any side effects such as motion sickness. This could cause an issue in the car. The medical records are important if Daisy needs to visit a veterinarian during the trip. This makes it much easier if he needs to visit a 24 hour Veterinarian at his relatives’ and they need her history.
- TOYS AND FAMILIAR THINGS. Make sure to take some of Daisy’s toys and other goodies with her. Having a favorite blanket in the can will help her relax and fall asleep. Having familiar toys at the relatives can help her focus on them and not things like their chair legs or curtains.
There are also some “just in general” things that I discussed with my client. These help keep the quality of life for everyone involved just a little better and make the experience one that both human and dog would probably want to do again.
- HOME AND SAFETY. Daisy’s nose and smell is probably her strongest sense. She knows how my client’s place smells and equates that with “home” and safety. Wouldn’t it be great if she could feel the same way when at his relatives’ home? A quick and easy way to accomplish this is with a scented candle or a Glade plug in. I asked my client to get some scented candles or Glade plug ins and put them in his home. I suggested that he use the lavender scent because of its neutral, calming smell. I also told him to ask his relatives to do the same at their house. Daisy will equate the scent with “home” before they leave on the trip and when she walks into my client’s relatives’ house; she will receive the same, soothing reinforcement of home and safety.
- PLAY TIME. I asked my client to make sure that they schedule play time with Daisy during the entire I told them that “play time” isn’t tossing a ball while they are watching the game on TV. They need to get in the back yard with her and play fetch, go on walks, visit a dog park, etc. This will keep Daisy engaged with the general activities and will also help drain her adrenaline. It will also help build experiences that will equate traveling in the car as a great time.
Getting your dog ready for a car trip before you travel makes a very large part of the trip far more relaxing for the entire family. As with most things, a little bit of preparation creates a great deal of satisfaction. Please contact us for any dog fence, dog training, or dog safety questions by clicking on Dog Fence Training Help. There are even more dog safety and training tips for your dog at Best Out of Sight Fence Trainers Boca Raton South Florida. Did you know that we have been professional dog trainers in South Florida for the last eleven years? Please find more information about our dog training systems at Home Dog Training Boca Raton South Florida.