When my Beagle Spanky moved in at the time, he was terrified of the car and driving, among other things. On the day of the pick-up, he had to drive by car for almost 10 minutes – he lost an incredible amount of hair, constantly puffed, trembled, drooled and showed a clear face of stress. In short, he was afraid of driving. Since I knew how important driving would be for us, I developed a small-step training plan to calmly get him used to it.
If you want to be inspired by this, you should know that I didn’t drive a car with him until he was able to drive around the block stress-free. Watch your dog closely and start training one step BEFORE the training level that is currently causing stress for your dog.
Step 1 – stay near the car
In the first week we stayed in the immediate vicinity of the car and did nice things for it. This included searching for treats in the grass, chewing chewing items next to the car and feeding from the feeding bowl next to the car. Interim training goal: Spanky is relaxed near the car.
Step 2 – the car opens
As in the first week, we did fun things next to the car. Every now and then I opened all the doors, closed them again, left them open and sat on the seat or in the trunk. Spanky got no pressure to get in. Interim training goal: Dog relaxes more and more even when the car door closes.
3rd step – great things IN the car
I hid great cookies around the car (e.g. on the bumper, in the passenger area, on the seats, etc.) I just waited for him to get in by himself. I didn’t verbally ask him because I wanted him he did it at his own pace. Of course he watched me hide the food. Interim training goal: dog gets into the car without hesitation and expects more delicacies at best.
Step 4 – relaxation in the car
Now that he was happy to get into the car, I extended my stay in the car more and more by offering him food that he had not inhaled within a second. Things like, filled congs, chewing sticks, filled food bowls and massages. Only from that point on I was able to stroke him. He always dodged before. Interim training goal: Dog stays in the car with positive expectations.
Step 5 – the car closes
While he nibbled on his chewing items, I only hinted that I would close the trunk lid. Initially, I only touched the flap with one finger. I did this until he stopped pausing and chewed on. Then I moved the flap down 2 cm and immediately up again. Then 10cm and so on. Interim training goal: Dog is in the car and the flap (or door) can be closed and he remains relaxed.
Step 6 – the engine starts
After Spanky chewed in the trunk, I sat down in the driver’s seat. He could stand the distance to me after two repetitions without any problems. The third time I started the engine and immediately switched it off. He was a little unsettled afterwards, but still likes to get into the car. If there had been any problems at this point, I would have taken the steps back in training to get in and would then have picked up there again until the boarding went well again. Interim training goal: Dog stays relaxed even when the engine runs longer.
7th step – we drive (1m)
The engine was running and Spanky was blissfully busy chewing. Now it was time to shake his world. We drove off. A meter away. I switched off the engine. He looked at me scared. I “told” him how much fun it was. A short time later he continued to eat. Interim training goal: Dog remains relaxed while the car drives up to 10 meters.
Step 8 – A whole round around the block (well, a half)
Getting in, closing the car, starting the engine, braking, stopping worked so far. We wanted to do a full lap around the block, that’s 678 meters long. About half of them I asked my friend to stop. Spanky was on the verge of panic. We get out and walked the rest of the round. A whole round was possible a few days later. Interim training goal: Dog drives short distances relaxed in the car.
Step 9 – dog targets
So that he linked the car driving well, we initially only drove to the dog meadow. A place where he had a lot of fun and almost never shows fears. Or we visited the in-laws (place of a thousand delicacies). At least only to places and people that Spanky liked. Training goal: Dog likes to drive a car!
The car became its shelter. He could go anywhere and didn’t need to be afraid of the “dangerous” outside world. From that day on, he easily waited in the car for a long time while not being alone at home. It still took almost two years and a transport box until he slept for the first time while driving.
Yes, it may seem lengthy. In total, the training lasted 3.5 months. But it was worth the effort to see how comfortable he feels in the car today (and for a long time).
I wish you and your fur nose a successful training.