Monday, December 19, 2016

Recondition your dog to LOVE the car

When it comes to taking your dog with you in your car, most dog owners just do it - meaning they just put the dog into the backseat or cargo area and go. For most dogs, that is no problem. In fact the “it's not a big deal” attitude of the owner is the best way to approach any training. If your dog trusts you, and you convey with your relaxed manner that there is nothing to be afraid of, the dog will quickly become accustomed to riding in the car. In fact, most dogs soon learn to love it.

There are a few dogs who are anxious and even afraid in the car. More then likely, they were in a frightened state of mind when they first were put in the vehicle and have started to associate the car with this anxious state of being. Since dogs learn by association, it is important that they are given the opportunity to experience the car in a positive and fun way. Then they can become the car-loving canine companion that can't wait to get into the vehicle and go for a ride!

Is your dog anxiously pacing around the vehicle, panting or drooling? Is he whining or even getting carsick? If any of these are the case, take some time to reintroduce the car to your dog in a positive and fun way.

1. Start by getting your dog used to the inside of the car, without the engine running or the car moving.

This is important, and you should spend some time and several repeat sessions to do this. Cover the backseat or cargo area with a blanket that smells like home and put the dog bed you use in the house in the car. Be sure your car is parked in a secure area.

Get the dog into the car. If he is really afraid, you may need to lift him into the car. If this is the case, be sure to lift him forward, not with his rear into the car first. It is best that he uses his own feet to get in, so even when you lift him up, just bring him up to where he can get in and allow him to do the last few steps. For smaller dogs, or puppies, lift the dog and then let him step out of your arms onto the car seat.

Let him explore the area. He may just lay down or he may walk around panting excitedly. Either way, don't praise him too much. You don't want to reward and reinforce the anxious behavior. Just let him be in there for a moment, let him experience that nothing bad is happening. At first he should spend only a few moments in the car, gradually increase to several minutes. Repeat until he relaxes while in the vehicle. Once he relaxes, you can pet or praise him.

Get into the vehicle with him. You may sit in the front seat and just be there. Your quiet and calm presence will reassure him everything is fine. Do not leave him in the car on his own.

2. Find a fun game to repeatedly get in and out of the car.

Once the dog is becoming relaxed inside the parked car, you want to make the association of car and fun. Offer some treats or a chew bone and let her associate the car with it. Remember, you do not want to reward anxious behavior, so only use the treats or food when the dog is in a relaxed and calm state of mind.

Bring the favorite dog toy and start playing with your dog inside the car. Create a fun game of getting in and out of the car. Most dogs can get in and out of a vehicle on their own. Let the dog figure out what the best way is, by letting her get out on her own several times. Smaller dogs may hop into the foot space area first and then jump out. If the dog cannot get in and out of the car on her own, consider a ramp, especially if the dog is to big for you to lift.

3. Start with short rides that will have a fun destination.

Now that you are going to drive someplace, take a few moments to make a permanent spot for your dog. Is he going to be on the backseat of your car, or behind it in the cargo area? I used to fold down my rear seat to create a nice flat area in my vehicle. If you have a very energetic dog, that bounces around the vehicle, be sure to use a crate, or tie down to prevent the dog from jumping around the car, while you are driving.

In the beginning, it would be good to have someone else drive while you sit and supervise the dog. If this is not possible, it is very important that your dog is in a place where he cannot interfere with your driving.

Make the first few car rides short and go someplace fun. Drive only a few minutes and then stop and go for a nice long walk. The short ride home will be another opportunity to reinforce the car ride.

Your goal to reconditioning your dog is to have a calm and relaxed dog. Keep this in mind and do not move forward unless your dog is in a calm state of mind. Conditioning takes repeated experience of the wanted behavior. So take your time and have fun with the first two steps, before taking your dog on the road.

I hope the information provide is helpful to you. Please share your experience or comments below.

Until next time: Keep your Paws on the Road,



  1. The Ramp is a Great Idea for the Older dogs that just are not the spring chickens they once were.

  2. This is some very helpful information.
    My dog is 3 yrs old and still very uncomfortable while in the car.
    I will try your technique and hope it can eliminate her fears.