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Old 06-06-2013, 05:22 AM
 
Location: Canada
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Help!!! (sorry this is long)

Our 10 month old yorkie-poo did great riding in our vehicles up until we went camping the first time in May. We'd never ridden on a gravel road with her for longer than 5 minutes with her, so this problem just raised it's "scary" head last month. (May long weekend)

The lake we go camping at is about a 2 hour ride on a gravel road that is a two lane, maintained road. She has always sat either on my lap, or on the center console of our truck or my car, on her dog bed. We took her out often to get her used to it, and she accepted riding in the vehicles like a champ right from when she was 9 weeks old.

The first time we went up there, she became immediately alarmed at the sound of stones hitting the underside of our truck. There is no avoiding the gravel hitting the underside of the truck, so this is a real problem I'd like to nip in the bud.

After hearing the ping, ping, thump, she started looking around for an escape, then got up from her sit position on her dog bed, then turned around and sat again. This continued all the way up there for two hours: sit, get up, turn around and then sit again. (I counted 10 times in about the first 5 minutes) I tried holding her on my lap, talking to her and petting her, but she was trying to escape my hold every few seconds. It seemed to make her even more anxious holding her steady on my lap.

She loves treats, but I didn't want to feed them to her and possibly make her car sick to add to this problem.

On the return trip, I put her harness on and clipped the lead to it and held tightly onto the lead while she sat on the console. This eliminated the turning around and she did seem a bit calmer, but if I gave her any slack on the lead, she turned around. This is what I've been doing since the first time and wonder if this is what I should be doing or am I making it worse by restraining her? Do I just let her spin?

I'm wondering if crating her would help, and I havent' tried that yet. I thought I'd ask you all for some great advice before I try it. She might just turn around in her crate also, and that wouldn't solve a thing IMO.

Ok, what is the best option?
1) Let her loose to turn around and hope she overcomes this?
2) Keep her clipped to the leash and hold her steady like I have been?
3) Should I be giving her slack and let her turn a bit or not at all?
4) Crate her and let her turn around and around in her crate?
5) Any other suggestions would be very welcome.

Thanks, Ann
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Old 06-06-2013, 07:05 AM
 
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My thought w/b crating her in a smallish crate, esp. if she's used to it already, it's safer than her on a lap or in a dog bed, just secure it w/ bungee cords so it doesn't move when you turn etc.

You might want to take it slow, ie go up and down your driveway a few times for a few days, then around your block, then a bit further etc. Wouldnt give her treats and prob. wouldnt verbally praise her *that much* as it can make her insecure (like telling a child "you'll be fine" before they go into the dentist's office, which I did yrs ago, not realizing, bottom line it got them more nervous).

Hope some of this helps, good luck.
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Old 06-06-2013, 12:24 PM
 
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The good news is your dog has a history of doing well in the car. Those positive / neutral memories of car rides will really help toward getting her back on track. The bad news is she not only had an unpleasant experience in the car, but that unpleasantness (the sound of the stones) was rather prolonged since you were on the gravel road for such a long time. Oh I just thought of more good news though - it sounds like all she did to display her anxiety was stand and turn around, correct? Well, it sure could be worse!

Before I get into the protocol, I also want to mention that if you want a super simple method to try (since her issue is not severe) you could simply ignore the standing and turning and calmly, sincerely praise her any time she sits still in the car like you want her to.

Now here is the more in-depth plan for overcoming a bad car ride experience:

*Since this issue involves a sound phobia of sorts, I recommend that throughout the training process you simultaneously work on sound desensitization each day at home and in the vehicles if possible. You can find youtube videos of trucks driving down gravel roads, or find other sound effects that sound similar to that noise. Play these recordings at low volume, gradually bringing the volume louder as your dog becomes comfortable, always pairing the sound with a pleasant experience like praise, petting and most importantly, treats!

1) First you'll work with her in the vehicle without even starting the engine. Sit with her in the vehicle (you probably should do this in both your car and the truck) and just hang out, act normal, tell her what a good dog she is, give her a treat or two or three, give her something to chew on, just generally make it a pleasant, relaxing experience and keep your energy really low key. Eventually have someone simulate the stone sounds by tapping on the vehicle with their finger nails from outside. When the noise is made - heavily reinforce the dog, lots of treats. We really want to create a clear association: when something hits the truck and makes a noise, fabulous things happen!

2) Repeat the above type of experience with the vehicle running but stationary. So all we are adding here is the sound and feel of the engine. In all of these steps you can also play the radio in the car.

3) Once she starts to completely associate the car with relaxation, we'll bring movement into the picture. First just pull the car down and up the driveway. After you see she's doing well with that, go for a slow drive around the block. If any anxiety is exhibited I want you to alternate between 2 responses: a) ignore and b) go slower or bring the car to a stop and wait for calm behavior before proceeding. If it were me doing this training I'd do a) more times than b) - however, if you're seeing much anxiety at any stage, that indicates we are progressing too rapidly and need to take a step back in the process.

4) On these rides around the block, I want you to figure out something you can give your dog in the car that she will really enjoy. A special new toy that you know she'll love, or a Kong stuffed with frozen peanut butter, or some kind of little chew bone or a bully stick. Pick something she'll find irresistible that you feel is safe for the car. Let her have it only in the car during the rides. Take it away when each car ride is over. If she's not interested in what you're giving her, it's not good enough so find something better! You might even have to give her something different each ride but the only time she gets these special items is in the car.

5) Pick several nearby destinations that your dog will love and take her those places. These should be short trips! Maybe she likes going to a special friend's house to play, or to the ice cream stand that sells doggie cones, or the pet store, or the dog park, or training class, or a hiking trail, or going to visit a particular person - make a point of going to these places regularly.

6) Take her on a longer drive, on the highway during a time of day when there is not much traffic. So far we have been working in short time intervals, now we want to increase her tolerance for length of time in the car, but we want to do that on the highway because it will be a smoother ride (no stop & go, turns, etc.)

7) Find gravel roads and travel on them for short distances. During the times when the gravel noise is happening, heavily reinforce the dog with lots of praise, treats, anything she finds enjoyable. Return to the paved road and the rewards lessen. You can still praise a bit but no more treats and extra rewards. Return to gravel and the heavy reinforcement resumes. So now all car rides are awesome, but car rides on gravel are extra awesome. Gradually work up to longer trips on the gravel.

Remember, any time I say to give treats I am talking about tiny little pieces. Choose a treat that is soft and stinky that can be broken into tiny pieces. Let me know if you need training treat recommendations.

Keep working on sound desensitization separately from and as part of the training sessions. This just means exposing the dog to the sounds that make her nervous, in small (or low volume) doses at first, and pair that sound with treats and other positive experiences. We are counter-conditioning here. We want the sound that previously scared her to become a welcome sound because it signals that great things are about to happen.

As for crate vs. restraint vs. loose & free in the car my answer from a training perspective is whichever makes her most relaxed and comfortable. If she loves her crate in the house, it might be a good idea to crate her in the car since she already associates the crate with relaxation. However if she is not a crate loving dog already, putting her in one in the car is just adding an additional layer of potential stress. Restraining dogs often masks their anxiety because they are physically unable to express it. The anxiety is still present they just don't have the freedom of movement to act it out. Now on the other hand, many dogs are soothed and comforted by being on their owner's lap / in their owners arms. You have to know her signs of stress vs. relaxation.

Throughout the training process, look for signs of whether she is eager or hesitant to enter the vehicle. As we do more and more of these sessions we want to see her become increasingly motivated to get in the car. If she is resistant we're doing something wrong and need to re-examine our plan.
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Old 06-06-2013, 04:49 PM
 
Location: Canada
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Wow, thank you ALL for the great responses. I'll try working Heidi up to sitting in the vehicles, then short rides, and getting used to sounds. She certainly has a sound phobia. A plastic grocery bag rattling makes her back off in our house.

Now the quest to find a video recording of something that she is sensitive to... but I think the idea of the finger nails tapping on the truck would work also.

Unfortunately, we leave for the lake again tomorrow, so I will only have a couple of hours to start her off on this tonight.

Thanks again!
Ann
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Old 06-10-2013, 02:56 AM
 
Location: Canada
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Well, we went back to the lake this weekend and Heidi did better. She was fine on the paved highway, a little nervous but not looking afraid. When we got onto the gravel road, I was ready for her with a lightweight piece of metal that I started tapping everywhere I could reach to simulate the gravel noises.
I had my left hand resting on her back and tapped with my right. At first she was freaked by my tapping (and the stones hitting the underside), but I talked to her, kept my hand on her, kept tapping and she was FAR better than previous trips.
She was still very nervous, but not trying to get up and turn around at every sound, and it was the same on the return trip, no better, but no worse.

I must say my arm was sore holding it in the position on her back most of the way, and the tapping wasn't a pleasant thing to listen to for us or our other older dog, but I think this will work and she'll eventually get used to it. By the way, I made special stinky treats for her and she wasn't interested in them at ALL.

Thanks SO much K9coach! I'd have never thought of the method you suggested.

Now to de-sensitize her to the beeping of the car horn. Hubby honked at a truck passing by while we were on the road, and it freaked her out for a few minutes. I'll take her out into the yard far away from the truck and have him peep the horn to see how she handles it, gradually getting closer if she's doing ok. Then I'll sit her in my car without the motor running and hope the neighbors don't think I'm in trouble because of my honking horn lol.

I've never owned a dog who is SO noise sensitive. I don't look forward to going through our first thunderstorm when we get those house-shaking booms, or the first of July fireworks up at the lake. Some idiots will be lighting them off like in other years, I'm sure.
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Old 06-10-2013, 07:08 AM
 
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My method would be while desensitizing her to noises and having her associate good things... not to use a "sympathetic" voice. Like "It's ok, it's ok" in a high pitch or "consoling" tone. This sounds like "be afraid" to a dog because you're supposed to be the "strong" one and as the leader, if you sound weak, she feels weak. She'll get used to it. Just act like it's an every day normal occurrence. Building up her confidence in other areas, too - like going for walks alot.

After my mother died, her Lab (who was prone to irritable bowl) got a bad case of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and it was BAD. Every single noise panicked her - even me using a stapler, and she got projectile diarrhea immediately. So it could be worse LOL. (with her it just took time - and I switched her to Hills ID canned food - but that's another story and not like yours).
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Old 06-10-2013, 11:44 AM
 
Location: Canada
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Thanks for your advice, runwithscissors! Yes, it sure sounds like it could be worse. Poor you!
I take Heidi for walks quite often and I know it helps to subject her to various sounds.

That was very good of you to take on your mom's dog with such difficult problems, and having to deal with your own grief at the same time. I'm sorry for your loss and I hope her lab is getting better with the switch of dog food.
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Old 06-10-2013, 12:55 PM
 
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Keep in mind that at 10 months old, she's still in the adolescent phase and during this time dogs do go through a second fear imprinting period where they act afraid of things that really aren't a threat. You can read a little about developmental stages here:

Developmental Stages
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Old 06-10-2013, 06:45 PM
 
Location: Canada
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Thanks K9coach, that was an interesting link. I was surprised at some of the information. Good to know.
Ann
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Old 06-11-2013, 05:22 PM
 
18,352 posts, read 10,499,214 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by runswithscissors View Post
My method would be while desensitizing her to noises and having her associate good things... not to use a "sympathetic" voice. Like "It's ok, it's ok" in a high pitch or "consoling" tone. This sounds like "be afraid" to a dog because you're supposed to be the "strong" one and as the leader, if you sound weak, she feels weak. She'll get used to it. Just act like it's an every day normal occurrence. Building up her confidence in other areas, too - like going for walks alot.

After my mother died, her Lab (who was prone to irritable bowl) got a bad case of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and it was BAD. Every single noise panicked her - even me using a stapler, and she got projectile diarrhea immediately. So it could be worse LOL. (with her it just took time - and I switched her to Hills ID canned food - but that's another story and not like yours).
"projectile diarrhea" -
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