dog training, dog behavior, dog health

Dog Behavior:  Take Your Dog for a Ride

Do you have a dog that goes nuts when you take him to the veterinarian?  Does he try to get out of the waiting room or growl, bark or whine the minute he realizes where he is?  If so, he associates that visit with pain or fear and while sometimes that can't be avoided but it can be managed.

The problem may escalate into fear of riding in your car if the only time your pooch gets in the car is when he is going to the vet's office.  It's fear by association and many pet owners have experienced it.  It can be a minor annoyance with a small breed as you can easily pick them up and plop them in the car - but it won't likely be a peaceful journey.  With large breeds this can be a major problem.  Ever try to convince a full grown Rottweiler that getting into the car is a good idea?  Good luck on that one.

Becoming accustomed to riding in your car is an important lesson for your dog.  In an emergency or an evacuation the last thing you need is to deal with an animal not willing to go with you.  The solution is a simple one.  Short rides to run an errand will help break the animal of the association of "car" with "vet".  Even better is to occasionally take your pet to a dog park or just to another area for a walk as that makes the ride part of a pleasant experience.

It's also important to have an animal that behaves well when traveling and does not wildly rush around the car or interfere with the driver.  There are excellent restraint systems available at reasonable cost that provides a seat belt arrangement.  More elaborate car seats both restrain the animal and provide a higher platform for smaller dogs so they can be entertained by looking out the windows.  Some are even elaborate raised dog beds.

Though it's not a good idea to allow your pet to put his head outside the window, it's hard to keep some of them from doing just that.  The same canine that hates for you to look into his ears will happily let those ears blow in the wind.  Due to insects and other debris that might be in the air, this should not be allowed in high speed highway travel but for city driving it's not such a problem.  I've found that lowering the window only partway is the safest method to use for smaller dogs as it keeps them from jumping out or, more likely, from falling out of your car.

Another useful accessory for large breeds and older dogs is the ramp, especially if you drive an SUV.  The ramp unfolds or slides out (depending on the brand) and provides a sturdy inclined slip free surface to enable the pet to walk into the car.  Though expensive, the ramps are sturdy and the perfect answer for an animal with joint problems.

If your vehicle is a truck, please take care.  The popular belief seems to be that it's fine for your dog to ride in the back of your truck and owners seem to think the dog knows what is going on from the beginning.  I've seen dogs both jump from a moving truck or lose balance and fall and injuries were always the result.  If your only option is to use the truck bed for transporting your animal, use a safe, secure restraint system.  Most dogs will adapt well to such transport once they understand what is happening but even an experienced truck riding dog can be hurt in a sudden stop or turn and killed in even a minor accident.