We were at a new Home Dog Training client in Norcross the other day helping her with her Dalmation named Rockey. Rockey, like all Dalmations, was very animated and playful. He loved to steal things, run around the house, jump on people, and in need of a great deal of obedience work. This was a long list of issues to address and we did our best to resolve the major problems as well as get our client on the right path to resolving the longer-term issues of consistency.
She was very happy with the lesson. As we were finishing up, she asked about traveling in the car. It seems that their family, including Rockey, was going on a holiday road trip to visit her parents in Galveston, Texas. She mentioned that Rockey was not the biggest fan of the car and he had never been in the car for longer than about twenty minutes. Since Galveston is a twelve-hour road trip, she told us that she desperately needed some ideas to get Rockey able to handle the trip. We told her that this is a normal issue faced by many families. We shared some proven solutions with her.
The first step that we need to overcome is to assure that the car is a “happy place” for your dog and that being in the car is a “happy time” for him as well. If your dog doesn’t like to be in the car, “hill and dale” can be a very, very long time. Here are some training tips:
- We need to start the socialization process where your dog is happy and train from there. He is probably happy outside the house on the driveway. Start walking your dog to the car in the driveway. Walk him around the car for a few minutes and then have him sit next to the car for between three and five minutes. Have some toys and other distractions there. Walk him back in the house. Do this little, short walk several times a day for several days in a row.
- Once you see that he is completely happy sitting next to the car, open the car door. Have your dog walk to the car and jump in the back seat. You may need to have some toys or other goodies in the back seat to coax him in. As soon as your dog jumps in, praise him. You can either get in the car and sit next to him or be right next to the door with him. Be there for a few minutes playing and talking to him. After that, have him jump out of the car and go back inside. Repeat this several times a day for several days.
- Next, have your dog get in the car, start the engine, and back the car to the edge of the driveway by the street. Stay there for two or three minutes and then drive the car back into the middle of the driveway. Praise his calm and focused manner and then direct him back into the house. Repeat this process several times a day for a few days
- Next, get your dog in the car and drive around the block. Do this several times a day for a few days.
- Finally, go on a little trip of ten to twenty minutes. Do this a few times. Switch routes so that your dog will experience traveling in the car at different speeds, on different road services, and with different views out the window.
Your dog is now ready for “hill and dale”.
Let’s talk about safety…
Remember that I told you to put your dog in the back seat. This will eliminate the passenger side air bag deploying in your dog’s face if you (I hope it never happens) get into a car crash. You should keep your dog in a crate that is stable or a restraining device that would keep him safe in the event of a sudden stop or swerve.
The crate is best if you have an SUV and can keep he crate in the back, cargo area. The back seat is great if your dog is a little more calm and you don’t need to use the seat for human passengers. It is critical that you keep your dog restrained while in the back seat with a collar or harness that attaches to the seat belt latch.
We have heard of so many terrible accidents that have taken place because of unrestrained dogs. If you restrain your dog on a car trip, everything will be great.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over sixteen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.