I was at a Home Dog Training session with a client and her French Bulldog in Woodstock last week. We had solved all the issues in their high rise condominium and were ready to move on to the final issue. It seemed that Jenny (the French Bulldog) would go crazy and bark like mad when she went for a ride in the car.
One of the points that I make with every client I train is to understand how their dog sees the world. The entire process is based on safety and hierarchy. When Jenny is in the condo, that is the safest and most secure that she can be. Everything is calm and there are no frightening or scary distractions. When Jenny is outside in public, things can quickly happen to her that can scare or frighten her. In order for Jenny to feel safe in this situation, she will need to create a more dominant posture to show her power over whatever might happen.
Now, let’s go for that car ride…
We went down to the garage and the first thing that I noticed was that they drove a big, Lincoln Navigator. The car was very tall and the seats were very high off the ground. As she opened the door to place Jenny in the car, she opened the front door to show a doggie seat that had Jenny sitting at the window level of the car. This placed Jenny over five feet from the ground when they would be driving. Being in the front seat gave her a complete 180 degree view of everything in front and on the side of her. I said nothing and jumped in the back seat.
We drove out of the garage and onto the main highway (a very busy street for cars and pedestrians). Jenny immediately began to focus on the people walking on the street. As we slowed down, due to traffic, she would start to bark at them. They were only two or three feet away from her window, so she was only trying to tell them to stay back. As we stopped for people to cross the street, she would see a throng of people right in front of her. She would go nuts again and bark and jump. This was only natural because she was simply trying to enforce her dominance and own level of safety over them. We continued the ride for about ten minutes with the same reaction from Jenny the entire time. We finally pulled into a McDonalds’ parking lot.
I explained to my client that because of the height of the car seat, she had promoted Jenny to the “protector” (height = protector). Being in the front seat, she had a large view of a whole bunch of things she needed to be protected from. Jenny’s barking and adrenaline was simply a result of the situation in which she was placed.
I suggested that we need to remove the need for Jenny to be the protector and minimize the view and proximity of the immediate distractions around her. I suggested that we place her on the seat in the back seat. We could take the rear seat belt, run it through her harness, and snap the end into the seat belt snap. This would comfortably and safely keep her on the back seat and would drastically lower her height and feeling of dominance. This would also limit her ability to see things directly outside the car. She could look out the rear, side window that was above her head and see the tops of buildings, the sky, and birds. None of these are “right in her face” and “adrenaline builders”. Because of the high seat backs of the front seats, she only had a minimal view out the front window. Because of her height, she couldn’t see anyone when they walked directly in front of the car. Again, this limited the immediate view of adrenaline creating distractions.
We put her in the back seat and I sat with her to make sure that she had “a buddy”. We took off on the main highway again back towards the condo. After a minute or two, jenny lay down and fell asleep. All the things that she thought she needed to worry about were gone. I suggested that they also make sure that she has a few toys with her in the back to make sure she can remain directed inward.
What we did to make such a drastic change was to take charge of Jenny’s environment in a way that we could control. We lowered her height to remove her natural feeling of dominance and need to protect. We limited her view to remove the distractions that would scare or frighten her. What we provided her was an environment where she always saw her mommy calmly driving the car. She felt safe and secure and there was no need to bark and go crazy.
Please call us at (770) 718-7704 it you are in need of any dog training help. We have a lot of good dog training advice at Best Dog Trainers Woodstock Georgia. Find all our phone numbers, text addresses and email contacts at Dog Training Help Center Woodstock Georgia.