Every pilot needs a co-pilot, and let me tell you, it is awful nice to have someone sitting there beside you, especially when you hit some bumpy air – Eric Wald
When we first got Porter, car rides were not so much fun with him. There was constant whimpering, some occasional barking and just general hyper activity happening in the back seat. However, now, he’s not annoying to have in the car. Of course, he likes to look out the windows, but there’s less noise, less barking and less anxiety.
Here are some steps that I took, along with Tall Guy, to help him get to this point:
We Kept Taking Car Rides
Sure, he was annoying, but it didn’t make us stop taking him places. If we had just chosen to never drive him anywhere, we would have missed out on a lot of great adventures. Not to mention the fact that the more he’s in the car, the less scary and new it is. Good things happen when he gets in the car. Yes, there’s the occasional dreaded vet trip, but the park, family, friends trips outweigh the vet trips by far.
Positive Reinforcement for Positive Behavior
The moments that Porter was quiet and relaxed in the backseat he received positive reinforcement. Now, for Porter, treats only add way too much energy to the situation. So he received praise and a pet when he was calm in the backseat. Think, Touch, Talk, Treat. A pat, “good boy” and then if your dog is less of a jerk than mine you can pop a treat in his mouth. What we’re letting him know is that good things happen when he’s calm in the car.
Negative Reinforcement for Negative Behavior
When Porter would bark, he would get a negative. For him, that’s a snap from me since we’ve worked on a lot of Piloting in the house already. If you need to, have someone else drive and sit in the back with your dog. You can Pilot your dog the same way you do in the house, just use your upper body as opposed to your whole body. Use whatever negative sound you have correlated with your negative body language. If you feel like you’re giving a negative way too much and nothing is coming of it, then ignore the situation for a while. No positives, but no negatives either. Make sure you are not going to become angry or vocal with your dog. That won’t help the situation. Find your zen place in the backseat.
If you’re planning on working with your dog, try not to work on the car behavior while you’re on a long road trip. Go in short spurts to work on it. This will keep your temper in check and make sure you don’t get too frustrated. We’re looking for improvement, not perfection after the first time.
Make sure your dog is getting Activity before you work on the car behavior. This will release excess energy and the endorphins he will be feeling will help you in the long run. Do things to set yourself up for success. Make sure your pup has gotten a lot of PAW that day before working on the car situation.
Improvement can take time, lots of time. But if you work on it, little by little you’ll realize that your dog’s car behavior has improved tremendously. Stick with it, and soon you’ll have the best four legged co-pilot ever.
Darwin Dogs, LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OH