Difficulties associated with automobile rides (vomiting, anxiety, barking) are often related to a lack of experience and negative associations with automobile rides. A puppy that has difficulty in keeping his balance will fear a vehicle in movement. Also, the older dog, whose sole experience with car rides is to go to the vet or the daycare center, will not appreciate this activity at all. It is therefore up to you to create a pleasant, positive context which will reverse past perceptions. Plan an activity, with dog and family, which everyone will enjoy.
- First, place the dog in the car without starting the motor. * Get out of the car, and come back right away to praise the dog (SR 'SOUND + GOOD!').
- Then, leave for a longer period of time. Stay in the car with your dog to praise his bravery.
- Once in a while, feed him a little something in the car, or read a book while the dog is in the car. It is important to spend quiet moments with your dog inside the car.
- When the dog shows you that he can remain calm in the car, start the motor, and review the above activities with doors closed, all the while praising your dog.
- If the dog remains calm with the motor running, you are ready to take your first ride. Make sure the dog has not eaten in order to avoid vomiting. At first, back up and go forward in your driveway.
- If he shows no signs of panic, you may now begin your first short trip. Start with an interesting destination for your dog, such as the park. Once there, let the dog get out of the car and play with him, thus creating a positive association. Return home and feed him.
- Once the dog is accustomed to traveling, increase the length of the trip. Give him a play period and/or a walk before going back.
Note: A dog which has experienced fear a few years back may take some time to work through each step enumerated above. A puppy can do it in one single day! For reasons of road security, it is best to place the dog in a cage during the trip. If this is not possible, the dog must travel on the rear floor of the car. Contrary to popular belief, never allow the dog to put his head outside a window. The wind, with time, will dry out his eyes and cause physical problems.