Question for Dog Owners

Gonzo

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Mar 10, 2009
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We had our previous lab for 13 years, and she was never comfortable riding in a car. Our fault for not making it a regular thing from when she was a puppy. So when we got our other lab a few years ago, I was going to make it a point to take her in the car regularly so she would be comfortable riding. That of course didn't happen. She's now coming up on 3 years old (we had to put the older girl down last year), and over the past month I've been taking her for car rides at least 2-3 times a week. Sometimes short 10-minute rides, other times we've gone up to Ames which is about 90 minutes both ways. Not sure if she's getting better or not, even yesterday up to Ankeny and back she just sits in the front seat a little hunched over and panting, her eyes are a little squinted and she wants nothing to do with me when I try to pet and comfort her. Wants nothing to do with the rolled-down window. Then when we get home she's back to her old self happy and jumping around.

Prior to this, the only time she'd be in the car is when I take her to the vet for a check up or to board her for the weekend, so obviously that's the source of her nervousness. My question is, at 3 years old, is it possible for her to become comfortable during car rides if I continue driving her around and then back home, driving her to the park and getting out to walk her, etc., to try giving her a positive association with car rides? Or have I missed that boat and at this point it's a lost cause?

Anyone else experience anything like this? TIA.
 
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ClonesInDallas

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You're on the right track with that last thought. Need more positive associations with the car ride. Plenty of treats as she gets in and sporadically throughout the ride. Instead of taking her just for the ride take her to places she enjoys (dog park maybe?)
 

cymac2408

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Jul 4, 2013
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I have a 5 year old Doberman and she had awful anxiety associated with riding in a car. You are on to something when going to the park to walk your dog. That’s what we did along with taking her for ice cream (her favorite). Now she has anxiety if we leave her.
 
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NorthCyd

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Do you have a kennel for your dog that she feels comfortable in? I know she's a big dog so depending on the vehicle that may not be a possibility. Otherwise maybe don't have your dog ride in the front seat. Not only is it dangerous for your dog up there but everything going on through the windows might scare her. Maybe putting a bed on the floor in the back seat may go better, or if it's a truck on the floor of your cab in the front.
 

Cyclonepride

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My dogs experience this too, as the only car rides that they get are to the vet and the groomer. Totally my own fault, but we have a fenced in yard and they're all little so the dog park makes me nervous. The key is really making sure that the vast majority of trips are to places they enjoy (and it's way easier to start doing that when they're pups).
 
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HFCS

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Aug 13, 2010
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I adopted a year old Husky mix six months ago. At first she loved getting in the car. After a few months she really started fighting it.

She needs to run a lot (more than an average yard even) so we take her to a dog park and hiking trails very frequently. She lives for these outings but couldn't put it together that the car was the gateway to the parks and trails. We started teaching her the word "play" for these things and that seems to have done the trick. Now she's back to getting in the car happily. It's "play" when we are getting her in the car and "play" when she gets released in the dog park or starts a hike with us.

If we couldn't or didn't take her to the park regularly I'm not sure how we could have trained her to get happy about the car again. Treats weren't enough once she decided she didn't like the car, we do still praise her or sometimes give her a treat when she gets in, but we don't have to anymore.
 
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simply1

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I would guess you can still change this by positive association, but I’ve never had a lab who wasn’t itching to get into the car and go. Car ride means treats and a fun destination is how I would approach it.
 
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dawgpound

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What's worked for my two dogs is we take rides to stuff they enjoy (doggy daycare, dog park) and now they associate car rides with fun stuff instead of the vet/groomer. Helped with the anxiety of going to the Vet
 
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nfrine

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Mar 31, 2006
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The 2 dogs we have now are hunting dogs that spend their down time in the house. They associate riding in a vehicle with good times (hunting/walks) and scramble to get in the vehicle. When the ride is to the vet/boarding they seem a little miffed but are always ready for the next ride. If the ride is longer than 10 minutes, they lay down and relax until the car slows down.
 
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BWRhasnoAC

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Try some positive reinforcement. Have her get into the car and sit with you without driving anywhere. Give her a treat or pet her inside the car. Make it a good thing. Then get out. Repeat. Graduate to driving with her after she gets more comfortable with idea of getting into the car for no reason other than getting in.

My dog was a rescue (Dane/Lab mix). He was left outside on a leash 24/7. He has seperation anxiety and the only time he had been in cars was with police or shelter workers. I had to physically place him in the car when we I first got him. Now when I travel for work, I never leave without him.
 

EnhancedFujita

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Probably 90% of our car rides with our large dogs (Old English Sheepdog and Standard Poodle) are to the dog park. They are always super excited to get in the car, even when we are going on a trip or the groomer. So I bet that had a lot to do with it though we didn't plan it that way.

I think what others have said about positive association would be key. I'd maybe start smaller than full car rides though if they are really nervous about it. Maybe start with just getting in the car and giving them treats and getting the dog to relax. Then build up from there with shorter car rides to locations that then have a good reward for the dog (like a walk or dog park).

We've had the most success with our dog training by going slow and taking small incremental steps. So I'd bet that'd help rather than jumping straight into 90 minute car rides.
 
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Sparkplug

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We adopted an Old English Sheepdog a couple of years ago. She had been moved around so much we think she feared getting in the car meant another new home.

I took her and my other OES everywhere with me. After about two months she became a willing passenger. Before that he would act surprised/releaved that she came back to the same place. Now she's the first one in the truck and thinks she belongs in the front seat as co-pilot.

So keep at it. Annie and Louie can smell a McDonald's two blocks away!
 
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madguy30

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Perhaps a crate in the back seat with tasty/high value treats and favorite toy and yes to on the way to a place they like.

A cozy confined area may help.

There's classes for training/helping older dogs/not puppies so it's likely it can be done.
 

StPaulCyclone

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Oct 9, 2008
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Dealing with the same problem. I’ve always had good car dogs since I was a kid and the last dog went every with us. New dog has always been afraid since 6mos (?) and shakes and pants. It has gotten easier to get her into the car, but she clearly doesn’t like it. She’s better with someone sitting with her and she just lays on them. She is always going somewhere fun: dog park, trails, doggie daycare, etc.. last dog spoiled us, it was so easy.
 

cy4state

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I'll echo others. My hound (we believe grey hound and hound mix) loves car rides and runs to the vehcile because he knows he gets to do something he loves, walks in the park, goes to my parents farm, doggie day care, go to a friends with dogs etc. In the car, he will usually sleep unless the windows are open and then he's only interested for 10 mins or so. Anything positive might help.
 

Cyfan1965

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I used to take or Golden everywhere. His favourite place was the drive up window at the sub shop. They used to package the butt ends of meat and cheese and give them to us. If this dog saw a window and a white package his Pavlovian response was a shower of dog spit that would put a wet mouth Saint Bernard to shame. It was quite amazing so be careful:)
 
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ClonesFTW

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Dogs are a wildcard (while also being the best thing on the planet). Our golden went to "doggy daycare" for 2 months straight when he was very young for socialization, absolutely loved it. A year later all the sudden decided he doesn't like to play with other dogs anymore - no clue.
 

BWRhasnoAC

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Dogs are a wildcard (while also being the best thing on the planet). Our golden went to "doggy daycare" for 2 months straight when he was very young for socialization, absolutely loved it. A year later all the sudden decided he doesn't like to play with other dogs anymore - no clue.
Similar to mine. He loses interest in other dogs quick.
 

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