How do you stop car stress?(10 Posts)
We have an 18 week old cocker who is just great. We've had him for a month and he has been very sociable with both humans and dogs and loved playing in the park with the local gang of lovely dogs.
He's never been keen on the car but in the last week has really started to be stressed by it. I can't think of anything that could have triggered it - he has only ever gone a mile to school, dropped off DS2 (no hanging about) and gone straight to the park to play.
I'm using adaptil but its made no difference. He drools constantly and is a mess by the time our short journey is over. If he's is on a lap its not nearly so bad so I don't think he's nauseous just stressed (though last 2 trips he did manage to be sick).
After the initial stress today, the slavering started whilst in the park as soon as we started to change direction towards the car. He stopped playing and just drooled.
We can avoid the car and go to the park / woods at the end of our road but there's hardly any dogs there and more boring for both him and me and I worry it will ultimately make things worse. (We're stuck in the country in a small group of houses on a very busy roads with no paths). He loves being at home more than anything and even walking to the local park takes persuasion initially.
I've never come across anything like it , any thoughts ??
ooh <sits and waits for tips>
Mine is the same, in fact on longer journeys he'll be sick too (it was to a specialist not just for the sake of taking him) having the window wide open seems to help for 10 minute journeys but even doing those tiny trips doesn't help neither does just sitting in the car, I've tried treats and toys but he just ignores them - because he's in the CAR!! lol
If the drooling and other stress signs are starting before you even get to the car you need to do a very gradual desensitisation/counter-conditioning programme to get him more relaxed and accepting of car travel. In the meantime though you will need to avoid putting him in the car, which is a pain, but worth the inconvenience once the counter-conditioning works and you have a dog that actually looks forward to going in the car.
To start with you could do everything you usually do before putting him the car - eg put on your coat, pick up your car keys etc and then sit down without leaving. Do this several times a day until he starts to look like he's not picking up on those cues as 'we're going in the car signals' and is relaxed with you doing them.
Next job would be to replace his negative associations with the car with some positive ones (counter conditioning). So take him outside to the where you keep the car (avoiding the usual cues and triggers that suggest you are actually going to travel) and to begin with just feed him some really nice high-reward treats in proximity to the car. It will depend how worried he is as to how far away from the car you start this process - you may even have to start off inside the house and go from there.
Keep doing this for short sessions, keeping them upbeat and rewarding and in the meantime, don't take him out in the car at all, as you are trying to override his bad experience and replace it with newly conditioned positive experiences.
You need to very gradually work up to sitting with him in the car and feeding him treats or even one of his meals, but not actually going anywhere, then perhaps you sit in the front seat while he eats (a stuffed kong toy might help at this point) but don't start the engine and gradually build up to starting the engine, then switching it off immediately - eventually working up to perhaps just pulling forwards a few feet and then getting him out again.
Sessions need to be kept very short and highly upbeat and positive and if at any point he starts to show signs of stress you have moved too quickly and need to go back a step or two until you're at a stage where he can cope and do some extra reinforcement of that stage before moving on again.
You could try using some Rescue Remedy during this process to help him feel more relaxed and if you're clicker training him that will also help to reinforce him reacting positively and may speed up the process as a result. Check out Kikopup's youtube videos, especially this one if you want to know more about how to use a clicker for counter-conditioning. (There is another one where kiko developed a fear of the washing machine that is brilliant as well, but I can't seem to find it right now. Will post a link later if I find it.)
I feel for you. This sort of counter-conditioning is necessary for the dog, but slow and frustrating for their humans. I am just doing something similar with my boy for Separation Anxiety and whilst I am 110% committed and will keep going, sometimes it drives me batty that I can't just have a day off and go out for an hour or so without him.
Here it is. It focusses on teaching her dog not to bark at noises, but the principle is still the same and it gives you a good idea of how the clicker can be used for counter-conditioning.
Thanks Moosemama for the advice and the video clip. The clip looks really good, most of the ones I find have the most perfectly trained dogs taking part and I just find them depressing! This looks more realistic .
I'll forget about the car journeys for now and try your advice
Good luck to you too!
Kikopup is an awesome dog trainer and all her videos are really informative and easy to follow. I've learned such a lot from watching them.
You have a very good chance of this working quickly for your boy as he's still so young.
Thanks for the good wishes. We are getting there slowly - three steps forwards/two steps back sometimes, but that's par for the course with dog training. Iirc, most people start to lose faith 2-3 weeks into a counter-conditioning programme and I'm just coming up to the 2 week mark.
My younger dog was/is a terrible traveller. We did all the desensitising stuff for 2 months (much to my neighbours fascination and who'd thought I'd gone nuts) but to no avail it didn't make a scarp of difference and we did taking to somewhere he loves etc etc. I've also tried enough sedation to kill an ox (he weighs 10 kg) an anti emetic that someone on here guaranteed worked every time (it doesn't) some sort of natural remedy that you spray in the car and had him on the front seat, back seat, floor of either front or back, boot, windows open, windows shut, heating on/off alone or in company and I've vaguely considered the roof box. Nothing helped although the car cleaner loved me he's now holidaying in the Seychelles. I've virtually gave up and resigned my self to only essential journeys.
But he's now a year old and we moved house and I had to drive back to our old house about 8 times in the last two weeks (30 miles each way on narrow bendy lanes) and he had to come with me so I just lobbed him in the car (covered in towels) and waited for the vomiting dribbling crying shaking to happen and guess what it virtually stopped. This is what many people with similar problems told me I just didn't believe it. Don't get me wrong he doesn't leap into the car with enthusiasm but he at least doesn't frantically reverse every time we walk towards it and he only dribbles slightly yesterday about a patch a couple of inches across instead of the whole seat/carpet/head rests/and inside upholstery.
The only thing I never do is feed him for 14 hours prior to a journey my vet told me 12 but its not long enough. If you ever wondered where the phrase sick as a dog comes from.......
Thanks for the replies.
Happygardening that sounds like a nightmare!! I'm glad there's been a turning point for you and hope the improvement continues (and you get the trip the seychelles this year ). I'm hoping and praying we fare better!
I've been thinking about your advice and the video moosemama and I think I've inadvertently contributed to my problems. I've allowed pup to do most things in his on time, no pressure, lots of praise and been very aware of the need of socialising, lead walking etc. However I've rushed him into the travelling thing, never given it another thought basically because my old dogs LOVED the car and would run in. The more hesitant he's become the more I've 'forced' it picking him up in the house and bundling him into the car just so we're not late for school. .
Well you live and learn, he's a pretty easy going guy in most respects so if I back off and use the training tips I hope it won't be too long before he changes his mind about the 'big silver monster' and life can resume with trips to exciting places with a happy dog.
Don't fret Avago, it's easy to do, we all do similar with our dogs at some point, as it's not natural for us to always 'think dog', iyswim and sometimes we have no choice if we need them fit in with our lifestyles.
It's no different to me having to leave lurcherboy to do the school run 3 times a day. He's not allowed on school premises or to be tied up outside (not that I would tie him up anyway) and I have to go down the driveway to drop off my dcs - so he has to stay home alone. It's only for 10 minutes, often less - occasionally slightly longer, but since we lost oldgirl lurcherboy has started howling after just 3 minutes left alone and we ended up with a complaint from our neighbours.
I should have had the foresight to see it coming. Oldgirl was nearly 14 and lurcherboy is half her age. Lurcherboy has never been an only dog - he came from a large litter, was then fostered with other dogs and finally came to us when we already had two dogs. We should have realised he wouldn't cope with being alone. Considering her age it was becoming increasingly likely we were going to lose oldgirl soonish and we should have either taught him to cope with periods of time left completely alone or taken on another dog before we lost oldgirl. Hindsight is always 20:20 though.
As you said, 'you live and learn' and you are doing the right thing for him now. So many owners wouldn't bother to put in the effort, so please don't be hard on yourself about it.
Avago, I had issues with my pup and the car (poos), I started feeding him in the car so that he associated it with nice things, after a while I then put the engine on whilst he ate( I stood nearby so he could see me), then after a while I drove very slowly up,and down our cul de sac.
I also used to take him for really short (end of the road) journeys.
He is fine now.
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