Car Travel query

Posted by Vera-Atkinson
Jan 17, 2008
Hi, Thanks for all the great info.!
We have a wonderful 2 year old Japanese Spitz who has had a rather bizarre two ownership story within that space of time. We got the dog in Nov.07 as the owner was in an apartment and her landlord said that she could not keep the dog there. We know nothing of the first owner. Well used to dogs for many years -- we bred Maltese until the last of the line died of old age - sadly! We were a year without a dog until we heard of Heidi and decided to give her a good home. She has many great points but she is so fearful of the car. She hates getting into the car and once she is in, she takes cover at the passenger's feet and really shakes and hides as far to the front of the car as possible. All our other dogs loved to hear the dangle of the car keys to go for a ride so this is a totally new situation for us with Heidi. We have a holiday home which she loves, once she gets there but we'd love to see her enjoy the journey! I ignore her while travelling.
We use the 5 minute am routine and Heidi is great at SIT, STAY, DOWN etc.. She barks at new visitors to the house but since I've tried putting her into another room that appears to work. Before that There were some folk though and she just barked and barked!!
Problem No 3 is that I can not really trust her not to go off into the nearby field through the hedge-- we live on 2 acres in the country. At first she only ran off further when I called her but I used treats to COME and most of the time she responds to that but the odd time she takes off like the wind and won't come back easily.
Overall, she a gem and while firm, we love her to bits. Maybe, you can help us to help our lovely Heidi!!!! Thanks a million. I look forward to hearing from you. Vera.
Posted by Todd
Jan 18, 2008
Hi there and thank you for your question.

The problem with the back of your car is a difficult one. Some dogs area scared of things for an unknown reason. What i would recommend is to try desensitise her to the situation.

You need patience with the problem, try and encourage her into the the car when you are not going somewhere. You have to make sure she has full attention on what is going on, you may want to try putting the car into a garage when you try train her so she doesn't become distracted. Here she seems both fearful of getting into the car and the rise so you can try and get her into the car when you aren't going anywhere.

If she is not getting into the car ignore her don't talk to her or pet her, give her the get up command and if she doesn't ignore her. When she begins to show interest in the car reinforce this behaviour by talking to her and encouraging her.
Don't repriamnd her as this will only make her more scared of the situation.

If this still doesn't work you can try and use different vehicles to try and desensitise her. Be patient and consistent.

If she will still not get into the car try and back the car up to a level that is the same as the back part of the tray. If there is no difference in height she may be more likely to get in the back, and it will be easier to encourage her in. Once she gets used to that you can try to start increasing the slope into the back of the car.

Your vet can offer various calming remedies like DAP and Rescue remedy that are great to help in situations like this.

Once she is in the car you have to encourage her to relax. Just sit there. Ignore her if she is fearful and praise her when she is confident. You may want to try feeding her in the car or playing with her. The aim is to make her feel more comfortable in the car.

Now for the second problem which it seems you have under control. Below is the method i recommend for these situations.

*Get an adult friend to come and visit (make sure that you tell them what is happening!).

*As your friend knocks on the door or rings the doorbell, make your dog sit and give it a treat. Then put your dogs collar on and take it to either a crate or a secure room. If your dog is too much of a handful at even this stage then you will have to put your dog away before your visitor gets to the door.

*Sit your friend down in a room that is not often use by your dog. Give you friend some treats so that they can give them to your dog.

*Go to your dog and make it sit. Put a halti or muzzle as well as the choke collar on. Get your dog to heel then take it into the room that your friend is in. Make sure that your friend does not give any eye contact. Act as happy as you can while petting your dog.

*If your dog growls or disobeys your commands at ANY TIME then squirt it with water or shake a pebble filled can to startle it. Have the water pistol or can in your dogs view at all times.

*Make your dog sit quite a long way from your guest, perhaps in the doorway of the room. When your dog is calm get it to heel and move it closer, then get your dog to sit again. Praise your dog when it sits and heels properly.

*When your dog is calm and you have moved it and made it sit within 5 feet of the guest then get the guest to give your dog a treat. Make sure that the guest does not look your dog in the eyes.

Preferably you will repeat this twice a day for several weeks. That may not be entirely practical for you but will give you the best chance of success.

Now to the third problem with running away.

Dogs normally roam because they are bored and they need to explore out of interest. If you were to exercise your dog every morning and every evening then this should reduce the amount of escapes that your dog needs to make.

The battle to keep a dog contained that wants to roam is half psychological, half physical. One successful escape rewards the urge to try again. Dogs escape for curiosity, sexual activity, exploration, food, hunting, companionship and to establish dominance over other dogs. Roaming is its own reward, with the dog able to do whatever it pleases.

While the pack mentality and sexual urges are major factors in some dogs' escape, much of this can be suppressed if the dog is entertained within its own space.

Give your dog plenty of things to do. Provide toys, regular exercise, play time, attention, variation and environmental enrichment.

You should reinforce the come command as described in SitStayFetch with a clicker then replaced with a verbal command. I think the best thing for you to do will be to Clicker train your dog. Review the section of the book on clicker training for a full description of Clicker Training. In your case, I think it is a good idea that you use food rewards sometimes, to help keep your dog motivated.
You can start with a food reward and gradually wean them off them by introducing a secondary reinforcement, such as a Clicker. You may think that your dog will only come to you for the food reward, however, in the process, they quickly learn what the Come command is, and what the click from the Clicker means too!
It is very important with the Come command that you keep practicing it. In fact, I recommend this is something you practice through-out the life of your dog.

You can practice the command on a longer and longer lead to get her used to returning and give you some confidence that she will.

General obedience is very important and she should respond quickly to commands such as come and stay, these will be very useful in stopping her running off if you catch her.
I would also talk to your neighbors and tell them that you are training her not to run away and that you are worried she might get hurt if she does. Encourage them to growl at her and tell her to go home. Them playing with her and giving her attention is exactly what she wants and if she learns that she can't get it by running away hopefully she will learn home is the best place to be.

Good luck with her, be patient and let me know how things go.

Kind Regards

Todd Field
Posted by imstomped
Feb 1, 2008
Hi there

With regards to the travelling situation, there is a very good product sold over the counter at most vets called DAP, dog appeasing comes as either a plug in or a handy spray. If your dog is anxious in the car, simply give inside the car a quick spray (only apparent to dogs) and place your dog in. It has had fantastic results...i am a qualified vet nurse and this product has worked wonders in many situations. It's designed to work in almost all situations of house training/separation anxiety/destruction etc. i have yet to hear a negative response to the product. As for the other issues, a plug in near to your dogs bed may be useful.

DAP - Is essence is a dogs happy's the same smell that a mother has with a new pup. It may take a bottle or two but once your dog begins to feel settled you should find that his perceptions of travelling will change at which point you can taper it off and hopefully you shouldn't have any more problems

I'm afraid that as for obedience i cannot help you as i have many issues of my own where thats concerned...good luck!