Talking dogs: Take your dog to mundane destinations to teach him to be a calm car traveler

Feb. 6, 2017


Q: My dog loves to ride in the car and jumps right in, but barks like crazy the entire time Im driving. Any suggestions besides just leaving him at home?

Steve

A: Im going to assume, Steve, that your dog is barking due to the anticipation of arriving at a fun destination. There are, of course, many reasons a dog will bark fear, anxiety, excitement, etc. But since you mentioned that he jumps right in, Im going to assume hes just overly excited.

First, Id suggest more frequent car rides with no exciting destination. Until the weather gets too warm to risk leaving your dog in the car, include him in as many trips as you can to the grocery store, the post office, the drive through, etc. Leave him in the car while you run errands, allowing him to exit the vehicle only when youve returned home.

If you have a highly active dog, the goal should be to have him relaxed while riding in the car a calm and relaxed dog is a quiet dog. Start by giving him an opportunity to wear himself out physically before going for a ride. A few rounds of fetch or a jog should do the trick; make sure he is worn out and ready to relax before putting him in the vehicle.

Next, have him ride in a crate. This is not only the safest way to transport your dog, but it will limit his ability to bounce around in the car, as well as what he is able to see. It is possible that viewing the outside activity as you travel kids on bikes, motorcycles whizzing by, dogs being walked, etc. is causing him to become excited or aroused.

Give him something to do that is incompatible with barking, such as a yummy, juicy femur bone to chew on while in the crate. I know of no dog that can devour a good chewy and bark like a maniac at the same time. Make sure the item offered is highly enticing and will provide your dog something to focus on the entire time you are traveling.

Finally, be sure to reinforce quiet and calm behavior by allowing your dog to exit the vehicle only when he is calm. If you arrive back home and he begins to bark while you park, either wait it out in the car, or leave the car with him in it until the barking ceases. Once he is quiet, let him out without any excitement or fanfare.

Repeating the above points for a while should gradually give you the result you are looking for, but dont expect it to happen without some repetition. After all, it took some time for this to become a pattern of behavior; it will also take some time to create the new habit.

Q: Ive heard that it is a bad idea to let my dog chew on his tennis balls. He loves them! Do I really need to take them away?

Linda

A. In a word, Linda, yes. The felt covering of a tennis ball is extremely abrasive, and chewing on it will gradually blunt the teeth, meaning the fibers will wear down the enamel. Feel free to play fetch with your dog using tennis balls, but remove them once the game is over. There are many other balls and toys available, in a variety of materials and textures, on which your dog can safely chew without doing damage to his teeth. Start experimenting with a few different items he will show you which type he prefers.

 

 


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