It may seem obvious to many people, but in some cases the dog just doesn’t want to get into the car, and even more so to go somewhere on this infernal moving contraption.
This happens very often in case the dog doesn’t know the car or hates it, and the reasons can be the most diverse: dogs just out of the kennel (after a lifetime locked in a box), bad puppy experiences in the car, or simply because the owner has never used the car with the dog having everything he needs a few steps away from home.
The reasons can be many and searching for the cause can be useful to address the problem. By the way, putting him in the car can be very important in case of emergency, regardless of whether or not we will use it on a daily basis. Let us see how to proceed so as not to combine damage.
GETTING IT USED TO THE CAR GRADUALLY
The first rock may be to convince him to go up. Since we must never force the dog to get in the car, it would be better if we put ourselves in a private enclosed space and let the dog go where he wants to go. Let’s open all the doors, to give him the idea that he’s not “stuck” for life in that horrible place, and using some delicious morsels invite him to even approach the car.
If the “trauma” with the car is rather ingrained, he may not even want to go near it. In this case let’s start from further away, and start to reward the fact that he has approached, for example, 2 meters. We make a sort of nibble track that leads to the car, with the last morsel resting almost inside the cockpit.
It is of fundamental importance at this stage that you never try to grab him by his collar or harness to prevent him from getting away. If he felt compelled to do anything, we could ruin it all in minutes. It’s going to take a lot of patience. Make your peace with it.
If we could get him up there, we’d have to reward him a lot. It’s a big step for him, and the food helps to fix this positive experience in his mind. It may happen (indeed it will happen) that once the ration is finished the dog gets out of the car and goes away. Let’s not stop him and let him go away when he wants: he will come back.
At this point let’s stop rewarding him at a distance of 2 meters, but only if he gets very close to the car or even better if he jumps inside.
CLOSE THE DOORS
The next step can be quite difficult. It is one thing to enter a place where there are more exits and no risk, another to stay closed in 1-2 square meters without the certainty (from his point of view) that you can get out alive. Let’s continue to reward the dog for staying inside the cockpit and not force him to stay there.
Let’s start to close the doors or the boot very slowly by carefully observing the dog. It is useful at this stage if someone closes the doors and you get into the car with your dog. At the first sign of panic, open everything and let him get out: he is not ready yet.
It takes a lot of patience and consistency to do these steps. What is absolutely obvious to us, for him is an absolute novelty. We are not talking about puppies, but adult dogs that have never been in the car before. It may even take a few days, or for the more fearful a few weeks.
START THE CAR AND (THEN) LEAVE
The next step is to start the car’s engine. Turn the key (or press the modern button), you may see the panic in his eyes again. It’s normal, the noise and vibrations are difficult to digest at first.
Stand there motionless, don’t dare to gear up and start. Give him plenty of time to adjust to the new noises. It may be useful at this time to turn the car off and on again several times, taking care to reward it every time its reaction is not a real panic. Let’s watch it carefully and try to reward only the moments of “tranquility”.
Apart from the fact that a panicked dog will not want to eat anything, but if he is very greedy and we reward him at the wrong time, we risk reinforcing the feeling of fear. Be careful, it takes timing and precision.
If the dog is calm, and shows no signs of suffering, we can try to take a walk around the neighbourhood. It only takes 1-2 minutes, no more. We return home and the experiment (for today) is over. Repeat the session in the following days leaving a few days of “rest”. I know you’d think “but how did he get tired? We haven’t done anything”. Do not underestimate the mental tiredness of the dog. What is natural for us, or what is natural for many other dogs, is a completely new experience for him, and adaptation requires a considerable effort on his part.
To achieve this, as we said before, it could take days or weeks. Don’t despair, he’ll come around sooner or later. The important thing is gradualism. Don’t ask too much of him on the same day. If we see signs of stress or intolerance, we interrupt the session and start again the next day.