By QK Owner Jennifer Broome
Good dogs get to go places! Your dog would love nothing more than to be with you and enjoy adventures with you, but sadly many dogs dislike car rides, get car sick, or become nervous, aggressive or unstable in the car.
Let’s avoid these issues with your NEW pup and revisit this method to possibly rehabilitate those worrisome, naughty or fearful older travelers.
The crate is your friend. From the time pup comes home after 7 weeks old, the crate is the best place to help keep pup safe, secure, to feed, allow to sleep, chew high-value bones, and simply learn to have patience and self-control. The crate is often the very first form of training that we use to help with housebreaking, feeding, manners and forced downtime. When the crate is used with consistency, pups learn to love their crates as they truly become a safe haven.
The transition from crating a puppy in the house to rides in the car while crated helps to offer pup a sense of security. Pups are often lulled to sleep like a baby in a car seat. Following this method and mindset makes sense on so many levels. Ultimately, we want our dogs to relax and enjoy car rides or traveling in general whether it be on a boat, plane, train, etc. When a pup is conditioned to being crated, the crate provides the ultimate source of comfort, safety and security.
On the other hand, I all too often experience unruly, obnoxious, nervous, or aggressive dogs coming down the driveway to QK. These dogs may have their heads hanging out the window, they may be launching from window to window frantically barking, they show up carsick, frothing, upset and on more times than I care to count they have JUMPED out of the windows!
How do you want your adult dog to behave? How can you get to that point if you ride with your little puppy on your lap, or on the front seat next to you? Do you wear a seatbelt? Is the front seat really safe for a dog? Absolutely NOT. And sadly if you were to get into an accident not only can your dog become a projectile to get launched through the window, the next thing that happens is that they flee from an accident and often get lost or hit by a car.
When you leave a puppy loose on a back seat, front seat or anywhere else left alone, they may feel anxious and stressed. They may try to look out the window (which can cause motion sickness), chew the interior, get into trouble or cause distracted driving. Puppies are busy and they easily get into trouble.
If you think that you are being nice to your dog by allowing them freedom in your vehicle you are really only putting them in danger. Dogs can get terrible eye injuries by hanging their heads out of windows. Yes, that tongue may be whipping in the wind, slobber flying and ears straight out BUT this is just not safe.
The dogs that race from window to window are owning the car. They are looking for targets to bark at, they may be anxiously eager to jump out, and they have no idea how to relax. The car is not only a stressor to them, it is game to defend their vehicle, it is an unhealthy job and ultimately these actions cause a great distraction to the driver.
While it may be extremely difficult to retrain an older dog to relax in the car….it CAN be done! Going back to cratework in the home and transitioning the crate to a car can help to recondition a bad traveler to feel safer and more relaxed. This might even start with simply sitting in the crate in the driveway going nowhere, just eating a meal in the crate and maybe enjoying a valuable toy or bone. Start with short drives around the neighborhood, take the dog to a park for a walk, and make it enjoyable (Not just a trip to the vet or a 4-hour trip).
Want to avoid all the above issues in the first place!? Start your pup off right by purchasing a small plastic Vari style crate (not metal) to provide pup right away with security and comfort. Small puppy crates only cost about $35 to $50 and this is money very well spent. You will be amazed how much pup will LOVE being with you, getting to go to new fun places, and how well socialized they will become by traveling. Increase the crate size as pup grows. Once pup hits about 1 to 1.5 years they may be able to simply stay in the car back seat or back of the SUV on their own; however, crates are still the best, safest way for our beloved dogs to ride in our vehicles.