I was in Gainesville last Thursday with a new Home Dog Training client and their Toy Poodle named Toby. Toby was five months old and full of energy. Their biggest problem was trying to get Toby’s attention when he was doing “bad things” and how to direct him to the “good things”. We discussed the simplicity of canine rules and communication and how they were telling Toby the “wrong thing to do”. They caught on very quickly and were amazed at how good Toby was responding to them at the end of the session. As we were finishing up the session, they mentioned that they wanted to work on Toby’s “car rides” the next time. When in the car, he was just crazy.
Having your dog in the car can often be a tense and frustrating time. Things may start out well and then all heck can break loose. The problem is that it is very difficult to try and deal with a crazy dog while you are driving. Their actions of jumping on your lap, sticking their body out the window, or pushing ahead of you when you have stopped and are opening the door are just bad things.
So that I could prepare myself for the next session, I asked my clients to give me a little background into Toby’s inappropriate car behavior. They told me that Toby had a great car seat that places him high above the passenger seat. He had a full view of the window and everything outside. That worked fine until they got into crowded or loud situations. He would then go nuts and nothing they could do could calm him down. That is all I needed to know.
I now had the information I needed to plan my next visit. The biggest problem with Toby’s bad behavior in the car was his position. My clients had placed him in a seat that was higher than them and placed him directly adjacent to outside strangers and lots of noise.
Dogs focus on body language to determine their position in the pack. You will often see a dog jumping, raising his tail, or getting on the furniture. All these actions raise the height of the dog. To a dog, height is dominance and dominance determines the leader and protector of the group. When they placed Toby in a seat above them, they were, through physical placement, telling Toby that he was the boss. This is something that Toby naturally understands and, obviously, accepted the job.
Now, here come the strange people and noises. Toby was in the passenger seat, next to the drivers in the cars on the right or the people on the sidewalk or crosswalk. They were approaching him through their natural movements of driving and walking. Their approaching movement was a natural, aggressive act. Since my clients told Toby that he was the boss and the protector, the seemingly aggressive acts by people around the car made Toby respond. This was why all the barking, jumping, and otherwise adrenalized actions were taking place.
At the next session, I will create an environment in the car where Toby does not believe he is the boss and where he is not in a position where he will see provocative, aggressive actions by strangers.
Here is what I will tell my clients next time.
I want them to place Toby in the back seat. They are to get a harness that can hook directly to the seat belt or have an attachment that clicks to the seat belt. This will keep him at the same level as the rest of the people in the car. Once he is at the same level as everyone else, he will not appear to be the leader and will not be encouraged to act out towards all the people outside.
The lower position will also block his direct vision of people and cars directly next to them. He can still have a very nice view of the sky and the tops of buildings and trees, just not the people on the streets. The removal of these inappropriate distractions will remove the possibility of adrenaline creation caused by his ability to see people right next to the car.
So, the answer was quite simple. When my clients lower the height and remove the inappropriate visual distractions, it allows Toby to remain calm and allows his focus to stay on the people in the car. It is all about understanding how to tell him to do the right thing. In this instance, it was about correct body language and removal of inappropriate distractions.
Once you understand your dog’s communication of body language and stimulus, having a calm and happy car ride with your dog can become very simple.
Robin and I ask that you call us at (770) 718-7704 if you have dog obedience questions or need dog training help. You can find a whole bunch of great dog training advice at Best Dog Trainers Gainesville Georgia. Find all our phone numbers, text addresses and email contacts at Dog Training Help Center Gainesville Georgia.