How To Teach Your Dog To Like The Car
Does your dog hate riding in the car? Here are some tips to help make car rides a more enjoyable activity for your pooch.
Improve the positive to negative ratio: For many dogs, car rides mean one thing – VET VISIT. This means that they associate getting in the car with going to the vet, whether that is the destination you have in mind or not. You can teach your dog to enjoy the car more by simply changing this association. My rule of thumb? 10 positive experiences for every 1 negative. So if the last time your dog got in the car, he ended up getting poked and prodded at the vet, make a point to take him on 10 fun trips before his next visit to the doc.
Get creative, GET FUN. There are so many fun things that you can do with your dog to reach those 10 positive trips. Put your dog in the car and take him to the pet store to pick out a new treat or toy. Take him to a doggy beach to romp in the ocean. Take him on a hike to explore a smorgasbord of scents. Take him to see a favorite person or dog. Take him to the park to play with his favorite toy. My personal favorite is to take him through a drive through and by him a burger! Obviously, this would be a very occasional treat, but it’s easy to see how powerfully this could change his association to the car!
Desensitize: If your dog is too afraid to even set foot in the car, you need to take it slow and desensitize your pooch to getting into the vehicle. Marker training (with or without a clicker) is very helpful here. Mark and reward your dog first for just looking at the car, then for walking toward the car, then for standing next to the car, staying calm while the door is open, putting one paw in, two paws in, whole body in, etc. Work slowly below your dog’s stress threshold and always let progress be at your dog’s pace. Do not force your dog to get into the car, you will only make it worse. If your dog is choosing to get into the car and then being rewarded for his good choices, his attitude change will be swifter and permanent!
Buckle Up: Some dogs dislike riding in the car because they get tossed around by the car’s movement and do not feel secure. This can cause motion sickness in some dogs. For dogs with this issue, simply buckling them in can and helping them feel safe can change their association to the car and allow them to enjoy the ride. Many different kinds of buckles, tethers, zip lines and even car seats are available for dogs online.
Christine Fasan is the head trainer and canine behaviorist at K9H. She specializes in German Shepherd Dogs and healing reactivity in dogs of all breeds. K9 Holistics offers dog training and behavior modification in St. Petersburg and throughout Pinellas County and Tampa Bay. We also offer pet care services including dog walking and pet sitting. Please contact Christine at firstname.lastname@example.org.