Home / dog behaviour / anxiety / Dog Vehicle Anxiety
dogs and vehicle anxiety

Dog Vehicle Anxiety

PANTING, WHINING, BARKING, NOT SETTLING DOWN… if the experience of going for a drive in the car with your dog has become stressful for you and your dog it’s time to address the situation. Left as is, neither you nor your dog can relax, normalize and enjoy the time spent together.
To cure the behaviour you must address and correct the root cause – this is a psychological issue – your dog’s and yours. Rescue remedies may help but they are unlikely to cure the behaviour.

FIRST LET’S TALK ABOUT HOW THIS BEHAVIOUR DEVELOPS

Here are a few examples of how we de-normalize the situation for our dogs and create the behaviour problem…
OneIf you make a fuss when you are about to go out to the car, you ‘wind’ your dog-up and teach your dog that leaving and going out in the car is associated with excitement… i.e. ‘hey boy, you want to go for a ride in the car!’ by creating intense excitement you are destabilizing your dog’s state of being. You are overwhelming and flooding their senses. You are telling your dog to be excited, you are enabling an altered state. For an insecure dog this can trigger anxiety and anxiousness.
Two If, in the past you or your dog has experienced a traumatic incident in the car and you still carry some of that stress from your traumatic experience your dog can sense your disquiet, nervousness, upset.
ThreeYou may have been upset or very excited when you first brought your dog home in the car.
FourYour dog has motion sickness. When your dog gets sick in the car you get worried, frustrated, angry or otherwise stressed. For guidance on curing motion sickness in your dog you can read this article.
Now let’s talk about curing this behaviour
STEP ONE – CHANGE YOUR OWN BEHAVIOUR
I usually spend the first 30 minutes to 60 minutes of a four hour session just dealing with the human’s issues – which trigger the dog’s issues. When we humans start to accumulate nervousness pertaining to our dogs in certain situations (i.e. Our dog going up to another dog) we teach them to associate that situation with tension, nervousness, fear, insecurity, excitement…this is why dogs become reactive. Our dogs read our body language as our thoughts translate directly and instantaneously to our bodies. The second you feel tension, your body shows it…compression of your lips, tension around your eyes, your shoulders – your dog knows how you feel before you are aware of how you feel! You must relax and normalize so your dog can too.
To understand more about how you can inadvertently communicate the wrong message to your dog and to understand more about how to communicate the right message you can read these articles…
Because dogs live in the moment it is easier to change a dog’s ‘bad habits’ than it is a human’s. Humans carry grudges, dogs do not. Dogs form associations with places, things, animate and inanimate objects. Dogs are very forgiving and treat each day, each experience as a new beginning. It is only with difficulty that we are able to convince, permit and allow ourselves to do the same.
Make the future different than the past. You must let the past go – must not anticipate that the past will and must repeat itself – let it go from your mind. Envision a new future in which you forget about what has happened before and focus instead on what you would like to happen – a nice peaceful ride in the car with your dog.
When you change your thoughts from negative to positive you relax – this allows your dog to do the same. You are leading by the right example.
STEP TWO – SET THE FRAMEWORK AND GET READY TO GO OUT
You then have to set the framework for the car ride before you get into the car! How you go out of the house with your dog matters! You must have control of your own state of being and your dog at every step of the way. This sets the framework for good behaviour in the car.
 
A – When you want your dog to go to the front door to get ready to go, call your dog over in a calm, confident manner. Don’t wind your dog-up. Don’t say, ‘we’re going out’ or ‘do you want to go for a ride’ – you do not need to say anything at all – your dog already knows. Don’t engage your emotions, just be matter of fact – remember this should be a normal event.
B– Your dog needs to be, calm and quiet before you walk out the door, if you are attaching a leash to go out to the car your dog needs to be calm and quite before you attach the leash to your dog’s collar.
C – When you are ready to approach the door, stand-up straight – your posture should be upright, confident, not tense – be aware of your shoulders, arms and how you hold the leash in your hands. If you are gripping the leash with tension, if your arms and shoulders are stiff with apprehension and tension you are giving your dog a message – you are communicating that you are not in control of yourself and therefore you cannot be in a leadership position with your dog. You are enabling stress, anxiety, insecurity in your dog.
D – Your dog is behind you before you open the door;
E – Your dog is to stay behind you as you walk out the door (and down the steps);
F – Your dog is either behind or beside you to the garage or across the lawn (pathway) and out to the sidewalk and to the car.
If you or your dog is not calm – stop.
I see so many people keep moving forward when their dog is not calm, when they (the person) are not calm. Stop, get your dog calm and then continue moving. If your dog is reacting and you keep walking you are telling your dog it’s ok to behave as you are. Stop regain control and then move forward.
It matters 100% what state you and your dog is in before you get into the car!
Don’t engage in an argument with your dog and don’t whine! Don’t say to your dog ‘ oh, I wish you wouldn’t do that’…to do so is whining and complaining, not directing – provide leadership, coach and mentor your dog. If you expect trouble you will get trouble…your dog can feel if you are anticipating an argument, instead remember to think i direct, my dog listens and that is it! Be 100% committed – your dog knows when you are not. Your dog knows when he has an edge to manipulate and control. Be fair, but be determined.
Tugging and pulling, yelling – it’s all an argument. This is a psychological test of wills – make sure your will is greater and comes from a place of confidence and strength of commitment.
Remember your dog has probably been doing this for awhile (as have you!),so have patience and persistence. Adjust your expectations too. When we are tired or stressed we don’t have the same focus, patience and control as we do when we are relaxed and refreshed. Some days are better than others – never give-up hope. Persist…change can take a little time. It takes time to train yourself to lead, communicate and direct effectively and we all have good days and bad days!
If your dog starts to get excited you must be the polar opposite – calm and directive. Don’t get sucked into the vortex of your dog’s emotion, disengage your emotions engage your working mind.
And remember if you need to disagree with any excited behaviour…
One – Make sure you are calm (without excess emotion) and ready to coach with fair, firm confidence. Don’t be aggressive; don’t raise your voice in anger.
Two – Lead…addressing from a distance is not leadership! Calmly but with assurance go over to your dog. If you need to move a distance – fine, move quickly, deliberately, confidently – not panicked or excited! Don’t match your dog’s state, if you do so, you lead by the wrong example.
Three – get your dog’s attention, you can touch your dog firmly but quickly with your fingers – at its neck or waist, you can snap your fingers and say ‘hey’ or ‘shh’ firmly, but not with anger. Never touch or talk in anger as you then lead by the wrong example!
Four – tell your dog what you want i.e. ‘shh’
Five – tell your dog what you would like it to do instead i.e. ‘Relax or ‘calm’’ etc.
Six – what until they are calm to move forward.
STEP THREE – GETTING INTO THE CAR
One – when you stand beside the car your dog must be calm;
Two  – when you open the car door, your dog must be calm;
Three  – you must wait until your dog is calm before you invite your dog into the car. When your dog is calm invite it to get into the car…or if the dog is small, you can then pick your dog up and put it in the car;
Four  – if your dog runs about in the car you should get it a harness and seat belt tether…or crate your dog. Your dog must learn that it cannot pace or dash about in the car.
Five  – as long as your dog has gotten into the car in a relaxed state and you remain positive and relaxed in the car you should see your dog’s  behaviour start to change, become more relaxed.
Six  – you can also use rescue remedies or flower essences  in combination with the methodology above.
 
Lastly, be patient and persistent,many people give-in and give-up too soon. 
Your ability to affect change in your dog is dependent on your leadership skillsand your awareness of how you and communicate. As your skill grows, your ability to affect change will too! 
 

About Karen

Dogs are my life, my work, my passion… I am a Dog Whisperer, Dog Behaviorist and Holistic Canine Wellness Adviser with a wealth of real-time, real-life experience living and working with dogs. For two and a half decades I have worked with and shared my life with dogs. My own dog pack is comprised of eleven dogs, various breeds and ages. I provide a full range of services including Obedience Training for puppies and dogs; canine Behavior Modification; canine Psychological Rehabilitation, specializing in assisting dogs that are experiencing extreme states of insecurity, anxiety and aggressive-reactive behavior; Diet, Nutrition and Wellness Advice and Plans for canines and felines…natural wisdom for you and your companion animal.

Check Also

Dog Training Tip - Be Consistent, What Does Consistency Really Mean?

Dog Training Tip – Be Consistent, What Does Consistency Really Mean?

‘Be Consistent’, does this dog training tip sound familiar? Do you think you know what …

2 comments

  1. Well I will try one more time having a hard time getting my posts so if you see three I apologize. My two year old chihuahua Abbey has had severe car anxiety from the day we brought her home at 12 weeks. It was been miserable as we like to travel to see our kids and I also enjoy taking my two chihuahua’s where ever I can. I tried everything, the spray, the tape, the jacket, strong tranquilizers and those did not even work! She always wanted to go but once in the car she would cry and whine non stop,,while her sister would just enjoy the ride and love the warm sun. I was miserable, Abbey was miserable and giving her drugs was not my idea of a solution as it is dangerous to give such a small dog these drugs. well I followed Karen’s advice, I did everything she said, it did not happen overnight but all of a sudden I realized my car was quiet and I looked back amd she was snuggled up with her sister enjoying her outing. We were at our wits end as this was going on for two years and to pay a sitter to come to the house is 100.00 a day so it made it very expensive when we could of taken her and we all would of been so much happier. I have referred Karen to many of my dog friends and they are all amazed at her gift of understanding the relationship between the owner and the dog. I knew it was something I was doing but just did not know how to fix it. When ever an issue comes up as dogs are like kids always learning or I am stiill learning this is where I find the answers. thank you Karen from Abbey and Maggie and espically mommy! We think you are the best dog trainer out there :)

  2. thanks to Karen my chihuahua is now a wonderful passenger along with her sister on all car rides long amd short. I tried for two years everything on the market the spray, the tape and even tranquilizers to no avail. We were at the point of not being able to take her anywhere, her sister who is one year younger is great and just cuddles up and enjoys the ride while Abbey for the last two years pants, whines and is miserable and we were too! But she always wanted to go as soon as she saw us get ready to leave she was the first out the door. Well after following Karen’s simple advice Abbey is now a joy to take anywhere. it has changed our life as we often travel to see our kids that live in other states and I hated giving her drugs, since she only weighs 4.5 lbs it would be so easy to overdose her. Thank you Karen!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *