I am blessed. I have a dog that is at ease in the car while we cruise the Vancouver dog parks, and calmly waits for her ‘chauffeur’ to eventually stop and open the door for her. Nice life!
This hasn’t always been the case as my childhood dog, Kono, was the Tasmanian Devil of car passengers. Bouncing off your body to race from window to window for endless hours in the family Ford, with never a moment of peace. A constant ‘oof’ was heard from anyone sitting in the middle seat as he used you as a trampoline, jamming his small jack hammer poodle paws in your stomach. And if you dared leave him in the car to fill the gas tank or grab a burger, he would watch you through the front window, while chewing up the dashboard like a corn cob. Seatbelts? Destroyed, along with anything else left on the seat. Open door? Out like a shot. He was a stinker, but now I understand that the root of his behaviour was anxiety and wasn’t just him being a ‘crazy dog’.
Tikka is the complete opposite to Kono, curling up in her crate to settle in for a 5 min or 5 hour ride – it’s a happy and safe place for her, even if her crate door was left open. Although she is a natural, I still follow some self enforced rules. I don’t tease her with ‘wanna go for a car ride’ until she whines or runs around. If I touch her leash or the keys and her four feet aren’t on the floor, then waiting a beat is worth it for her entering the car in a good mental state. If your dog is shy about getting in the car, try turning it into a game with treats to help convince them that jumping into the belly of the mechanical beast is a fun and exciting thing to do. Make the trips short if you are getting a new dog used to the car, building on positive experiences.
Crate training is a big help, but the big dogs I had before Tikka treated the whole car as their den, and after a few glances out the window, always laid out to have a nap. This was really handy when a move required us to fit two 80lb Shepherds and a 45lb Border Collie mix in the front cab of a U-Haul, with two people. We all found our spot and hit the road for our 2000 mile trip, a bit cramped but relaxed.
A good run around before hitting the road is a plus if your dog is wound up, young or energetic or if you are working on training issues in getting them used to the car. With a well exercised body, the mind is usually in a better place if you have an unsettled traveler.
When we arrive at our favourite park or Auntie’s house, manners are mandatory. As the hatchback opens, I have Tikka wait so that I can put on her leash, get my crap together and then she can jump out after I check the coast is clear for traffic.
Find your keys, and grab your dog, so much to get out and do…especially when you arrive ready to explore and not tired out from a devil whizzing around the car. RIP Kono….