My 1.5 year old Rat Terrier has some disturbing issues with fear and anxiety. We have been taking him on weekly car trips to visit family every week. He has never enjoyed our weekly car trips to visit family and recently his anxiety is getting worse. I do not want him to live in a constant state of fear nor do I want him sedated on medications. What should I do?
When your dog is afraid of riding in the car it may result in you leaving your dog at home more often. This decreases his quality of life and your enjoyment of having him along. And if you continue to take him, his fear can worsen making it more unpleasant for everyone. Here are three ways to help your dog be less fearful.
The first is prevention. Car sickness can cause dogs to become afraid of riding in the car. Rather than hoping your dog will get over this, talk to your veterinarian at the first sign of car sickness for either over-the-counter or prescription medication. If you treat the car sickness early, the conditioned fear may not have time to develop.
Second, some dogs are fearful because all the sights they see rushing by them through the window are overwhelming. A great product that was actually developed for just this problem is the Calming Cap®. This is a soft, comfortable, spandex hood that fits over the dog’s eyes and filters her vision. It is well tolerated by most dogs and allows them to rest quietly during car rides. It is available HERE at HelpingFido.com.
The third possible solution is a bit more involved and requires the help of a second family member or friend. Drive your car several houses away and have your friend walk your dog to meet you. Put them both in the car (or your friend can walk back home!) and drive home. The car ride has lasted less than a minute and began in a totally unexpected way for your dog, which eliminates many of the cues that trigger his fearful behavior. Depending on your dog’s response, you can repeat this exercise a few times in succession during one training session. Don’t lengthen the trip until your dog is showing no signs of fear.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of possibilities for behavior management and modification. If the fear persists, you may need to seek professional behavior help. But in the meantime, if you want to find out the nitty gritty details about how professionals modify fearful behaviors, check out our Helping Fearful Animals Course at PetProWebinars.com.