Helping Dogs Get Over Their Fear of the Car

Source: Rhonda Bilodeau | Vermont Dog Pack

We often see client’s that bring in dogs that have developed extreme anxiety and fear on car rides, resulting in shaking, barking, heavy breathing and panting in the car. Most of these dogs are dogs that came from the shelter. Many shelter dogs can have post traumatic like symptoms after being transported to Vermont. The environment is often loud and the drive is long. It can be a very scary experience for the already under socialized dog. This can create a very negative association with the car.

Here are some tips on training your dog to enjoy the car.

  1. Create an Easter egg hunt around the car! Twice a day have you dog find treats all around the car. When they are searching for food, hide more! Once they’re comfortable going up to the car, start hiding treats in the door, inside the car and back out again. This will get your dog out of a fear and panic mind set and into a seeking and searching mind set. The food they eat around and inside the car will also help them to relax because food consumption is relaxing. Anytime your dog stops eating is a signal to you, that the car is too stressful to them. You should take a step back and keep them out of the car for a while before they’re able to eat around the car.
  2. Don’t take them in the car for car rides anywhere. Instead get them in the car with the Easter egg hunt game. Unfortunately, anytime you take your dog for a car ride while they panic, will reinforce their terrifying experience and strengthen their negative association to the car. However, some people can get away with bringing their dogs somewhere really fun each time they get in the car and their dogs will start to enjoy the car. If that doesn’t work then you’ll have to follow these steps.
  3. Instead give your dog a massage in the car. As much as you’re playing the Easter egg hunt game, you should also be massaging and relaxing your dog outside of the car and inside the car. There is a direct link between mind and body. Relax the body and you’ll relax the mind!
  4. After your dog feels good about going to the car (they’re relaxed, happily and eating in the car) you can start to take them for short car rides to the end of the driveway. You should be massaging your dog and feeding your dog food to help relax them. Do this for a week and only drive further if they’re looking like they’re having a good time and are able to eat food.

Your dog will soon enjoy the car because you helped to support them along the way using kind and gentle methods!

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