Scaredy Pups: Driving with Dogs Monday 28 May 2018 @ 10:22
You want to be able to go places and do things with your furry friend, and that can be really difficult when your dog experiences a phobia. Over the last few months, we’ve talked about a number of common fears, the most recent of which was the fear of strangers. This is a fear that can develop as a result of a lack of socialisation, or it can be embedded in your dog’s genes. Whatever the reason, it can make going places with your pup very difficult if you don’t find a way to work through it together.
Some of the other common fears that might be standing in your dog’s way include…
We’re nearing the end of our list, but that doesn’t mean we’ve covered every fear your dog might have! If there’s another fear or phobia you’d like us to cover to spread information and awareness, please do get in touch. Until then, we’re going to talk about what you can do if your dog is afraid of cars.
If your dog tends to dive away from or toward passing cars, it can be a very dangerous and scary experience for both of you. If your dog is afraid to go inside or even just close to a parked vehicle, it can become impossible to travel together on outings, moves and vet trips. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help. Although it may be very upsetting or worrying, it’s actually very common to have a dog who is afraid of passing cars.
Try to Stay Cheerful and Relaxed
When dealing with passing traffic, try to use a happy, soothing tone of voice and smile at your dog. If you’re anticipating your dog’s reaction, it’s easy to fall into the trap of tensing up every time a car is nearby. This is something your dog will notice. Try not to reinforce your pup’s anxiety with your own.
Always remember the three key rules for helping a dog’s phobia:
- Do not soothe and cuddle your scared dog. Your dog will read this as a reward, so it’ll only encourage more anxious behaviour.
- Do not force your dog to confront their fear as a “cure”. This will only intensify the phobia, not help it.
- Do not physically punish or shout at your scared dog. This will only cause your dog to associate more negative things with the situation.
My Dog Is Afraid of Car Rides
Being afraid of noisy cars passing by on the road is one thing, but being afraid of riding in a car is a whole other issue. Your dog might be afraid of car rides for any number of different reasons, such as…
- Motion sickness: Humans aren’t the only ones who can vomit or experience nausea when riding in a car. That sick, horrible feeling is a surefire way of getting your dog to associate cars with negative things.
- Negative association: A lot of dogs only find themselves in a car if they’re going somewhere nasty, like the vet’s. If your dog is already scared of the vet, that fear can transfer onto all related experiences.
- Traumatic experiences: If your dog has ever been in a car accident or been hit by a car, they may easily come to associate being in or near cars with extreme danger.
- Trip to the shelter: If you adopted your dog from a rescue or pound, there’s a high chance they’ll associate being put in a car with being taken to a shelter and abandoned. This can be tied in with a fear of abandonment.
- Fear of the unfamiliar feeling: If your dog isn’t used to travelling in a car, the peculiar sensation can be very disturbing. If your dog is already skittish by nature, it can be downright terrifying. Cars also tend to have their own mysterious sounds, sights, vibrations and smells that can be very difficult to understand.
Make a Comfortable, Secure Travel Seat for Your Dog
Try teaching your dog to love the car by giving them somewhere safe and cozy to sit. This can be your dog’s refuge. One of the safest ways for your dog to travel is in a crate, which will give them protection in the event of an accident (N.B.: Not all crates are created equal. Shop around for something heavy-duty if you’re concerned for your dog’s safety!) and helps to stop them from distracting the driver.
If the slope of the car’s seats makes your dog uncomfortable and unstable, you may choose to buy a car leveler, or you can simply make your own using rolled up towels. Try to make your dog’s crate as comfy as you can. It may also be a good idea to drape a breathable towel over the dog’s crate so they can’t be scared by the landscape rushing by, but many dogs prefer to see what’s going on.
Don’t Rush It
Approach your dog’s phobia with a determined, but calm, attitude. As with any other type of training, patience is key here. If you’re taking your dog somewhere in a rush, now is not the time to try and work through these fears. If you want to help your dog, you need to be ready to do it in their time (not yours). This is a process with two prerequisites:
- You have no definite result in mind.
- You are willing to take baby steps.
If you try to begin training having already imagined the outcome, it’ll only lead to disappointment for you and distress for your dog.
At the end of the day, once your dog can be taken on walks without being a danger to itself and others, and taken in cars without being in severe distress or causing major distractions to the driver, you can call that a success. Your dog may never be happy to be around cars, just like some people may never be excited to fly in planes. All that either of you can do is your best.