My first dog HATED car rides and would shiver, shake and cry the entire time inside the vehicle. That’s probably because he got car sick during his first-ever ride, and then later he began to associate the ride with vet visits and being left behind at a boarding kennel. No wonder he turned into a basket case! That was more than 20 years ago and I’ve learned a LOT since then.
We did things different with Magical-Dawg. And as a result, he loved car rides. He would drive the car if I let him.
Even if your dog is a reluctant rider, you can transform his hangdog attitude into a fun-loving car ride fanatic. Basically, you use desensitization to help the dog associate cars with fun, happy experiences instead of scary memories of vet visits. Once your furry friend realizes a car ride means wonderful things he’ll look forward to trips–and he might even want to buy his own car!
Dog Car Rides & Training Tips
He got his Dog Tested. Dog Approved.TM license. Just sayin…*s* I’m afraid that gave Magical-Dawg ideas…I already had to hide the car keys.
Bravo-Dawg, though, is another reluctant car rider. Scroll down for tips we used to change his canine mind.
Make mealtime car time. For very frightened dogs just set the bowl next to the car. If he’ll hop into the back seat, feed him there and make the car his go-to-dinner spot for a week. In between times, throw treats in the open car door for the dog to find, and play fun games near the car. He should learn that only these good things in life happen when you’re near the car.
Take the Wheel. For the next step, when your dog is having fun pigging out int he back seat or gnawing that puzzle toy, get in the front seat behind the steering wheel. Just sit there for a while, no big deal, then get out, so the pet understands nothing scary happens when you’re in the car with him. Do this for one day.
Start Your Engines. The next day, when you’re behind the wheel and your puppy’s munching treats in the back seat, start the car. Then turn off the motor and get out without going anywhere. Do this three or four times during the day until the pet takes it as a matter of course.
Drive the Driveway. Finally, after you start the car, back the car to the end of the driveway and stop—do this two or three times in a row, always letting the pooch out after you return. If he whines or paces or shows stress, you may be moving too fast for him. The process takes forever! but it works.
Reward Bravery. Don’t commiserate with whiny dogs–if you say “poor baby” and whine back, he’ll think he’s right to be concerned! Cheer him along, with jolly phrases, “Isn’t this FUN?! Car ride to the park to play ball!” and use words he likes (play, ball, treat) to change his car attitude.
Increase Duration. Increasing car-time by increments—a trip around the block and home, a trip to the park and home, a trip to a drive-through restaurant, and home. Go somewhere you know your dog will enjoy—get him French fries at the nearest fast food restaurant, or a doggy treat from the tellers at the bank. Make every car trip upbeat and positive so the experience makes the dog look forward to the next trip.
Ride Safe. Be sure your pet stays in the back seat rather than riding on your lap. These fun Subaru videos are just that–lots of tongue-in-furry-cheek fun but safety always comes first. Just as kids can be injured by airbags, your pets can be crushed even inside a carrier. Even though dogs WANT to drive, they can become furry projectiles in accidents, or get in the way of safe drivers when in your lap or under the pedals.
Do your dogs love cars? How have you persuaded reluctant passengers to go the extra mile? Please share–and let me know how you like your doggy license! Betcha we could get a whole FLEET of dog-driven car maniacs, LOL!
This post is sponsored by Subaru. The opinions expressed in this post are my own.
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!