Q: We have a 5-year-old Labradoodle, Lucy, who is a terror in the car. She barks, jumps all over, chasing every vehicle we pass, lunging at trucks, buses, motorcycles, etc.
We have tried all forms of restraints. She fights getting into a cage. She ate through a dog seat belt and almost hung herself on another. We have tried a thunder vest and have given her medication prescribed by a veterinarian and the highest dose of Benadryl. Nothing has worked.
One of us sits in the back to “try” to maintain some control when she is in a car.
Hopefully there will be a solution for our dilemma.
— C.C., Cuyahoga Falls
A: Pet safety in the car is important. So important, some states have passed laws requiring pets to be confined in a crate or in a pet safety harness in the back seat. Thankfully, the majority of pet owners now see the importance of restraining their animals, not only for the animal’s safety but also to keep the animal from distracting the driver.
There are a lot of behaviors that can cause serious problems when traveling in a car, such as jumping around and barking.
But what if the dog does not comply with being in a crate or harness?
Crating an animal will often take care of the barking. A crate with solid sides prevents the dog from being stimulated by movement it usually sees outside the car. Dogs are prey animals and movement often stimulates them. I believe crating dogs is the safest way to transport them.
If the barking is still uncontrollable, a citronella bark collar may be used, but generally, if the dog is confined in some manner, the barking will subside.
Yet, you say your dog will go into the crate when leaving home but not on the return trip. If she goes in when leaving home then there should be no reason she will not go back into the crate on the return trip.
Frankly, it appears that your dog has trained you to accept her unacceptable behavior. Dogs do not understand the behavior can lead to an accident if it is allowed to continue. Consequently, you should never accept anything but compliance.
For your own safety, you have to get this situation under control. Start by trying these easy tips.
Throw a treat Lucy likes into the crate to encourage her to get in to get it. When she begins to comply, begin to randomize the times you reward her. Change the treat from being a lure to getting her into the crate to a reward she gets after she is inside.
When my own dog, Micah, behaved that way, I would physically pick him up and put him in the crate. I knew if I allowed the behavior to continue, I would have issues for the rest of his life.
For a while, I gave Micah a treat when I placed him in the crate. After he realized I was not going to give up, he began to jump in on his own, which I rewarded. Five years later, I rarely have a problem getting him into his crate in the car.
For chewers, place bitter apple, Tabasco sauce or other safe but unpleasant-tasting liquids on safety harnesses to keep Lucy from trying to chew them off. Experiment to see what works best with your dog. Other ideas include balsamic vinaigrette, lemon juice and original Listerine.
Car safety is so important, I do not allow dogs to control it. Drivers are easily distracted while eating, fiddling with radios, mobile phones and the like. We do not need to add to the danger by having our best friend distract us, as well.
The guilt would be horrific if an accident kills or injures a pet.
Always remember it takes at least six weeks to begin to recondition a behavior, and longer to perfect. Decide the method you want to use and stick with it.
— Susan Jenkins, Papp’s Dog Services owner and a National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors and International
Association of Canine
Please send questions about your pet to Kathy Antoniotti at the Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640; or send me an email to email@example.com. Please include your full name and address and a daytime phone number where you can be reached. I will forward your questions to the expert I think is best suited to answer your particular problem. Phoned-in messages will not be taken.