Most dogs love going for a ride. They see your vehicle and can’t wait to hop right in. There are some, however, who are fearful of vehicle travel and will do everything from heavy salivation while inside to putting on the brakes prior to loading. Here are five ways of helping these dogs overcome their fears and learn to love going for rides.
1. If he is not willing to at least load up, then begin by feeding the meals nearby; as close as he feels comfortable. Gradually shorten the distance between where your dog eats and the door where your dog will learn to enter the vehicle. Don’t rush the issue, do this only as your dog is readily going to that point and eating his meal without apprehension. When your dog is comfortable about 6 feet from the car, open the car door as he is eating. Continually praise him and remain calm.
2. When your dog is eating his meals right next to the car, place some treats on the floor of the vehicle just inside the door. Should your vehicle have running boards then begin by placing the treats there. Don’t force your dog to take them. Just remain nearby and encourage him by pointing to the treats and praising him. Be patient with this step and allow your dog to take his time. Using a high value treat such as cheese, hotdog or freeze dried liver will generate a better response than using kibble or a biscuit. Dogs prefer food with a stronger smell.
3. Once your dog is eating treats from the floor of the car, gradually increase the criteria by placing the treats further inside the car so that your dog must actually step inside to retrieve his rewards. By this time your dog has begun to identify the vehicle as a treat dispenser. He should eagerly be entering the vehicle and looking for his rewards. You can then begin putting the treats on the seat or further within the cargo area of your vehicle. If you are using a crate to keep your dog safe during vehicle travel you will want to first acclimate him to it outside of the vehicle. That way he will have positive associations with the crate and enter it willingly when you place treats inside.
4. Once your dog is eagerly entering your vehicle it’s time to go for a short ride. It would be helpful to have a helper. While you drive your helper gives your dog treats and praises. Make certain that this first ride is very short, a mere 5 minutes. Prior to allowing your dog to exit the vehicle, give him his regular meal. Repeat this for at least a week with daily rides.
5. When your dog can handle the 5 minute ride, gradually build on it to 10 minutes and so on. If he can remain calm in the car as it is moving take him to some fun places such as a park. Something that is sure to please is a trip to the burger drive through. When he learns that this is a great means of earning burgers he will eagerly jump into your car with high hopes of repeating this experience.