Friday, February 22, 2013

Puppies and Car Rides: What to expect and How it Changes

Puppies are often scared of new things or new places and it takes several experiences, usually many more, before they start acclimating.  Driving in the car is one of those things!  Indie is now 4 months old and is finally getting into the car on his own; it has taken Indie 1.5 to 2 months of going for car rides each week to get to this point.

Now Indie loves to get in the car and is very comfortable!
Our very first ride together was when I went to the breeder's to pick him up and it was HORRIBLE.  I made a mistake I would never make again: stuffing him in a crate!  My breeder only lives 30 minutes away, but it was the longest 30 minute ride of my life because Indie was freaking out in his crate.  Every dog book I read said to always have them in a crate because "it's the safest thing to do" and "they will settle down in 20 minutes."  That may be true, but for a short ride I say just risk it for their comfort and let them sit in your lap. He was screaming bloody murder the whole time!  Best thing is to bring someone with you, but that was not an option for me at the time.

Indie waiting for me in the car while I got his name tag at Petco.
After that day, I decided to break the rules and let Indie ride with me in the front.  Unless I had someone else in the passenger seat, Indie would always crawl over onto my lap and stay there.  It made driving harder, but I did it anyways.  I would always give him treats when we got into the car and also brought toys along for him. He didn't chew or play with the toys, but I think it made the car a more familiar place.  I lay a towel down in the front seat as well.  After about 1 month of doing this, I started forcing him to sit in the passenger seat by holding his harness to prevent him from crawling into my lap.  I gave him lots of praise and petted him when he laid down and relaxed.  He never wanted to be get it or be put in to the car.

During the rides, unless he was sleeping, he never looked fully relaxed. He would pant, yawn, and shift around in his seat (or in my lap) wherever he was sitting.  I was beginning to think he would hate cars for the rest of his life.

Indie sleeping on my lap on the ride home from visiting a friend.
Truthfully, I never thought I would see the day where would happily jump up into the car, go to the passenger seat and lay down, and then stay there calmly during the whole ride.  But one day recently, he just did it on his own!  I did not do any specific training, I simply always tried to make the experience as good as possible and also have him treats frequently.  Also, we must ensure that the car rides are always to someplace fun....like a puppy play date or puppy class, the beach, a friends house, etc. 





So, I guess like with everything else, just stay persistent, calm, and positive and you never know when your little puppy will come around and start getting comfortable!  Of course, you could always do training where you have them get in the car for a few moments, get a treat, then hop out.  And repeat that.  But, my life is busy and it's winter so it gets dark early and I didn't want my only hour outside to be spent getting in and out of a car.  I much prefer to take him on walks to socialize with my neighbors, other dogs, and learn to play fetch and generally sniff around.

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