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Coping with fear in cars

Published: 
Sunday, June 17, 2018

In our last article we started to discuss travel phobia in dogs and looked at the reasons why dogs may develop this fear.

Today we will talk abouthumanely introducing your  pet to the car to prevent and overcome this problem behaviour.

Dogs who are not accustomed to car travel will understandably be nervous the first time they are popped into a car in adulthood.

It is important that puppies are introduced to car travel from the time they are acquired by new owners.

The first trip is usually additionally traumatic because they may have just been taken from their mum and siblings and find themselves alone for the first time in something that moves and tosses them around.

Once your new puppy has settled into your home and started to bond with you, show your dog that being in the car is a good thing. Start with the car off and the doors closed and walk him around it. Open the doors and feed him treats in the car, play games in and around the car, leave his toys lying around inside of the car but never force him into the car. Sit in the car and allow him the freedom to make the choice of being in the car with you.

After a few days of doing this, once the dog is able to relax in the car, switch on the car but do not drive anywhere. This stage is to allow him to get comfortable with the running engine, the air condition and the radio.

Repeat the playing of games, feeding of treats and sitting with him—all inside of the turned-on, stationary car.

Once your dog is comfortable, start taking short drives, gradually increasing the distance you go.

Make sure that the drives all end in positive experiences such as to the park for a walk, to a friend’s house for a play session with another puppy, or back home for some treats.

Many dogs dislike the car because they are only taken to the veterinarian for a painful or unpleasant procedure, so they form a negative association with the car.

Arrange sessions with your veterinarian where you take the dog in for the staff to play with him and feed him tasty titbits but for nothing negative to be done to the dog.

Not only will this make car travel easier for you and your dog, it will help your dog to bond with his vet and make any handling more comfortable.

This can save you thousands on your vet bill because if your dog is accustomed to being touched and held by his vet then he will be more compliant during a physical examination and will not need to be anaesthetised for every vet visit because you cannot control your dog.

If your dog suffers from motion sickness, talk to your veterinarian about prescription or overthe- counter medication.

Remember, never give your dog any drugs without first consulting your veterinarian.

As always, safety comes first. Never leave your dog alone in the car, and you should invest in a safety harness and seatbelt for your dog.

Copyright © Kristel-Marie Ramnath 2018

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