From the moment we collected our black German Shepherd puppy and put him in the car, we realised he was very anxious just being in the car and during the journey home he was sick several times.
When a dog really hates the car, it is a slow process as he needs time to understand there is nothing to fear and you need to build his confidence. I t might feel like it will take forever before you can even drive round the corner, but if you go at his pace you might find that you can progress through some stages really quickly.
The first stage was for a couple of days walking him on the lead around the car on the driveway with at least one door open, giving him the chance to sniff and become familiar with the smells of a car.
Second stage: on the third day, with both back doors open I brought Jet to one side of the car and my husband called him from the other open door and showing him a treat and our puppy eventually bravely jumped in and was rewarded with a treat and he was allowed to promptly jump back out of the car. This process needs to be repeated for another 2 or 3 days, then you can have someone sitting on the back seat calling your dog. Once he is in, praise him, give him his treat and push the car door closed quietly, then let him stay in the car for just a couple of minutes. If he shows signs of anxiety such as panting, licking his lips or trying to get out, try and re-assure him and distracting him with a toy or a treat. If he doesn’t calm down, first open the window and if he is still stressed, open the door but try and keep him in the car just a bit longer. Again this stage needs to be repeated over several days.
Third stage: the last stage before the engine is even turned on is your dog jumping or being lifted in the back seat and you sitting at the wheel and speaking quietly to your dog and hopefully by then he should start to feel more comfortable in the car.
Fourth stage: once the dog is coping just sitting in the car, turn on the engine and let it run and watch your pooch’s reaction. Some dogs get very worried and others are fine as there is no motion of the car. After 3 days of just sitting in the car on the driveway, I drove around our block which took no more than 4 minutes and Jet started getting anxious. For the next few days I would start the car up and wait for 2 or 3 minutes before driving around the block and on the third day, he just sat quietly and didn’t appear stressed . He therefore got lots of cuddles and treats when we returned. I then felt brave and took him for a short drive on the fourth day but he was sick after 2 miles. That was still progress as 2 weeks before he was too scared to even get in the car.
After another week of going on short journeys and taking the opportunity to stop and take him for a walk during our short journeys, Jet really relaxed and his confidence grew very quickly.
These days Jet loves the car, so much so that he would happily jump into anyone’s car if given the chance!
If you have had experiences of your canine refusing to get in the car or have any hints and tips, we would love to hear from you.