Tagged: teaching a puppy to ride calmly in the car

Get in the “Car”–Zydeco’s New Favorite Behavior

Zydeco has been on two outings with me to the park so far. On both occasions the car ride over was in itself quite challenging. Although we had gone to check out the car a couple of times and I’d thrown lots of treats around, actually being able to travel calmly was another thing entirely. When I put him in my car crate the first time, as soon as the door closed, Z. began panting, whining, spinning in the crate, and barking. Once we arrived it was really difficult for him to settle down before being let out. After some pretty intense whining and scrabbling at the bars, he finally managed to pretend settle–barely…But as soon as the door opened, the first thing he did was hit the pavement and explode barking at a man walking past us about 50′ away. Luckily, the park was mostly quiet that morning, however, so the rest of the time we were there he did okay.

The second trip out I tried a doggie seat belt in the back seat instead of a crate because that is how he normally travels with his mom. It was slightly easier to quiet him this way because I could talk to him and feed treats over my shoulder, but even so, by the time we arrived, he had tangled himself completely up and was still pretty stressed before I even opened the door. This time when I let him out, the entire park itself was too stimulating, with far too many people to bark at, and I had to basically carry him back to the car and take him home.

So I’ve made an executive decision to back WAY off on the whole going out of the house idea for right now. It is really time for me to walk the talk a little better and do what I tell my clients to do all the time and that is: start from a point of success and build from there. Basically, if the dog can’t ride in the car, the dog probably can’t handle outings yet. My goal now is to turn my car (which luckily is very similar to Zydeco’s mom’s car) into a calming “home base” instead of over-stimulation central.

Zydeco is actually very successful here at the house, and in the front yard. He is focused, responsive, able to relax, a quick study, and generally a pretty happy boy. So, I’ve decided to build his car riding skills here at home where he CAN do it instead of where he can’t…and if that means from the front porch instead of the garage or the street for right now, so be it.

Here he is playing the “get in the car” game up and down the porch stairs. He learned the cue almost immediately and seems to enjoy the running up the stairs part the most. I like this set up with the crate up high because it simulates having to jump into the crate when it is in the car. From the porch Zydeco also has a good view of the traffic and pedestrians below–but all far enough away that he can still remain responsive. Once in the crate we’ve been playing our good old Relax on a Mat with canned dog food to lick–yummmmmy!

Next step will be to move the crate to different spots in the yard, and then to the top of the stairs leading from the front gate–a little closer to the street action, and see if he can also relax and comfortably play the game there too. He also needs more work on relaxing in the crate with the door closed. When he can do all that, then we’ll go back and practice in the actual car again.

O snail
Climb Mount Fuji,
But slowly, slowly!

–Issa