My Fearful Dog is Afraid of the Car

Having a fearful dog definitely presents its challenges and sometimes being afraid of the car is high on the priority list for many fearful dog owners because it puts severe limitations on where you can go and what you can do with your dog.


Cool things happen with cars

For non fearful dogs the car says, “Cool things are about to happen!” For example, our dogs know that a car ride can mean any number of great happenings like:

· Going to work with dad (me) and do distraction work

· Going to the beach, Arboretum or Memorial Park for a walk

· Vacations in the Hill Country or other places

· Shopping at the local pet store or a trip to Starbuck’s

· Cooper’s favorite is going to Marble Slab for a sampling of “Sweet Cream Ice Cream!”
  And there are probably a host of other things on your dog’s “high priority” list of “must do’s every day if possible” that involves a car ride – unless your dog is fearful of    the car.

This fearfulness of the car could be for any number of the following reasons:

· The idea of being propelled down the road uncontrollably at a speed faster than you can run creates general terror.

· A ride in the car causes your dog to get sick. Being sick before causes your dog to shut down when you try to load him up in the car.

· Riding in the car has been associated with going to the vet (not fun and often times stressful/painful)

· Riding in the car has been associated with being dropped off at the local boarding facility (separation from pack can be extremely stressful)

Simple steps to help your dog

There are steps YOU HAVE to do if you are to help your dog master their fear of the car. And I think it is important to also point out that while you would think that this should be an easy thing for your dog to learn to overcome, do not push your dog too fast. Take time and be extremely patient with your dog. This is scary for your dog. Baby steps make is much easier. Build on his small successes.

Hang out around the car to get your dog used to being around the car without actually getting in the car. Here are some simple suggestions:

· He hangs with you when you wash your car

· Practice loading up into the car without the crate to begin with, praise/treat and give him a stuffed Kong. Keep the doors open.

· Next, give him a “room with a view!” If possible, crate him in the car where he can see out. Praise/treat with the crate door open.

· Increase time in the crate and deploy a Kong toy stuffed with good treats.

· Turn the engine on – then turn it off. Praise/treat for tolerating the engine

· Short trips around the block would be next or, depending on your dog, just backing out the driveway then pulling back into the driveway may be your first step.

Safety first

Keep in mind that even if, for the moment, your dog is fearful of the car, you’ll want to keep a few safety tips in mind for that great “break through day” like:

· Using a crate to keep your dog safe in the car or at the very least use a seatbelt harness and keep your dog safe in the back seat.

· Front seat with you could prove dangerous if an airbag deploys and injures your dog. Also keep your windows up.

· Do not travel with your dog in the bed of a pick up truck.

Another important step to your dog’s “success strategy” is of course, working on confidence building exercises (obedience training)with your dog. Getting him performing sits and downs daily for you so that you can eventually require him to do the same thing in the back of your car/suv will not only build his self-confidence but confidence in you as his benevolent pack leader.

It basically helps to shape your dog’s thinking that says to him, “If you say it’s okay (car rides) then it must be okay.” Building that trust is an important stepping stone in his pathway to success.

The most important thing to remember is to take your dog training slowly – baby steps first. Don’t increase the difficulty of being in the car by going to the next step before your dog is ready.

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“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad.  Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog. His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is 25+ years of teaching owners how to have great dogs.  Easy, simple, step by step formula to having a happy and obedient dog.