I decided to work on Dexters car anxiety today. When he’s in the car there is a lot of panting, whining, teeth chattering (so cute but sad) and he shrieks when I turn the car off and get out. It’s heartbreaking to see a dog that stressed from a car ride so after a nice snuggly nap in his new Thundershirt I decided to take the mellowed out Dexter to the car and try and help him to enjoy sitting in the car.
We sat in the car for about 15 minutes and did nothing. We just chilled. He was vibrating with stress and by doing nothing I was hoping he would learn to be calm in the car and that it’s a nice place to hang out. So we sat. And sat. And sat and eventually he started to mellow and when he finally lay down and let out a deep breath; that’s when I gave him some praise and snuggles.
Now that he was chilled I decided to start playing with the buttons in the car. Each sound stressed him out in a different way; in particular the turn signals. For some reason that sound really aggravated him so I sat quietly in the car occasionally pushing buttons or flipping the turn signals until he didn’t react to them anymore. It took about another 15 minutes. I was surprised at how quickly he mellowed … maybe it’s the new shirt. 🙂
Once he was calm again I turned the car on and off and on and off and on and off (my carbon footprint is not great today) until Dexter stopped reacting to it. Once calm I placed him in Fergus’ Outward Hound Booster Chair and then drove back and forth in the parking lot.
The chair is ridiculous looking I know … but I’ve found it’s the best way to travel with Fergus. He can look at everything while we’re driving and he’s not tempted to jump around the car to see things because he’s strapped in. Fergus never liked being in the crate in the car and I wanted to see if Dexter was the same.
Dexter seemed to “get it” right away. There was a few times he tried to jump out but I would tell him to SIT and he would sit back down and relax.
We took a drive around the block and he was stressed but he did a lot better then I thought he would.
Then I parked the car and all hell broke loose. Shrieking, yelping, teeth chattering and a very upset Dexter fell apart emotionally. It was sad. 🙁
So I did nothing. I put the car in park. Sat quietly until he calmed down and once he lay still and relaxed … I gave him some praise and then tried to open the door slightly. The same ruckus started again. Oh god. The shrieking is ear shattering but I’m not one to give up so we sat quietly with the door open for about 10 minutes (till he calmed down) then I closed it. Opened it and closed it again. Waiting each time for him to relax before I did it again.
Poor Dexter was so wiped out … that I decided we had spent enough time working on this anxiety issue for today but I couldn’t have him leave the car in a stressed state so I had him SIT in the car while I stood with the car door open and had him wait until he was calm before he was allowed to jump out. That actually took the longest out of all the things we did today … about 20 minutes. Thank goodness for Words With Friends on my iphone to help pass the time. 😉
Once he was out of the car, we found a bush to pee on, went inside and now Dexter is sleeping like he ran a marathon. I think it was a tough exhausting afternoon … but I’m hoping we made some headway.
I guess the true test will be how he acts in the car tomorrow. I’ll let you know. 😉