Help Your Dog Be Happy to Ride in the Car
I was out and about visiting some of the local Veterinary Hospitals in Weston telling them about our services with Dog Guard Out of Sight Fences last week when one of their clients approached me with a question. She heard that besides helping homeowners keep their dogs from running out of the yard, we also provided a complete, behavioral dog training service. She said that she lived in Weston and had a problem with her Vizsla named Jesse. Jesse is a great dog, loves children and other dogs, loves to play, is very obedient, but hates to ride in the car. She said that Jesse pulls back even if you have him on a leash and approach the car. She loves Jesse, but needs to take him to places like the Vet or on trips to her parents in South Carolina. I told her that I love Vizslas and had some suggestions for her.
When a dog doesn’t like to go for car rides, the first thing that we seem to do is to “throw” them in the car and go for a ride. This traumatizes them and they 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 results will help us teach our dog that the car and that car rides are fun, happy, and safe. We are not allowing them to learn, only continue their fear.
What we must do is to provide a slow and steady method of teaching them through applied socialization that the car and everything about the car is really great. Remember how our Moms would take us places like the market or the drug store? This was a way of getting us “used to being out in the world and getting around”. We need to make sure that our dogs are taught this same lesson. For some reason, Jesse has not been socialized with the car or might have had a very bad experience in the car. We must let him know that the car is fine and he will be fine. Here is what we should do:
- Put Jesse on a leash and walk slowly around the car. Don’t get too close or directly approach the car. Repeat this several times for two days.
- Open the driver’s door and the back door (where you want Jesse to enter) of the car. Walk Jesse around the car again for one day.
- On the third day, start to throw some of Jesse’s kibble or other goodies that he may like at the foot of the back door. Show Jesse the goodies and slightly direct him to them. Do not force him.
- Once Jesse 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 is also goodies in the car. If Jesse 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 Jesse 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 about three or four minutes. Stop the engine and get out. Repeat this several times that day.
- Next, after you and Jesse 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 two or three times.
- Next, pull out and go for a short drive around the block. Do not stop anywhere, but return home. Once you see that he shows no agitation with the trip, pick a quiet place to go.
- Take Jesse to your quiet place and get out with him. Make sure that he is on a leash and that you have some of his toys or goodies 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 Jesse, slow it down.
You have now socialized Jesse to traveling in the car with you. All you did was to break the process down into small steps and act them out slowly. When you work on small, slow steps, you can easily maintain your consistency and focus on your goals. Jesse is now ready for that trip to the parents in South Carolina.
If you have a dog like Jesse who doesn’t like to ride in the car and you have more training questions; or you have questions about the Dog Guard Out of Sight Fences, please contact The Best Out of Sight Fence Trainers in Weston and South Florida. Also, please check out our South Florida Dog Training Blog on our Home Dog Training of South Florida Web Location.