Izzy’s Fear of the Car

Izzy’s terrified of cars.  As soon as he figures out we’re going somewhere (all I have to do is rattle the keys when I’m grabbing my pocketbook), he starts shivering.  If I take him out for a walk before I go somewhere, the tail goes between his legs and he shivers throughout the whole walk.  Whenever we go anywhere near the car (and we have to every time we go out the back door), he makes as wide a turn around it as possible.  It’s been like this since he came to live with me, but it’s getting worse.

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I’ve tried everything I can think of.  When I first started taking him in the car, he wanted to sit on the glove box with his head on my shoulder (while shivering), but I didn’t think that was very safe, so I hunted for a seat for him.  Found one that was supposed to be large enough for him, but it hung off the back of the passenger seat and he barely fit into it, so that didn’t work.  Shopped some more and finally found one that’s sheepskin lined and sits up high so he can look out the windows.  I left it in my house for a while to see whether he’d explore it, but the only thing he did was to grab the pillow from inside and play with it.  Not once did he want to lie in it.

That seat is safe.  The seatbelt buckles it in, and his leash is attached to a short restraint.  He fits in it nicely and sees everything, can even put his head out the window (though that terrifies him, too, thus I drive with the windows up).  But it doesn’t help his fear.  He still sits and shivers and pants.

I have made it a point to take Izzy on “fun rides.”  We go to my friends’ houses and Izzy gets to play like crazy in their fenced-in backyards with their dogs.  I’ve taken him for long hikes behind the college where I work.  No go.  He’s still terrified.  When it comes time to go home, I sometimes have to pick him up when I put the leash on him to get him into the car.  

I’ve asked my dog trainer what to do.  She had great suggestions for getting him into the car, but none for ridding his fear.  I did some research online to see if there was anything I could do, and the one thing I learned was that if the dog is shaking, he shouldn’t be forced into the car.  So, no rides for now.

I’m trying to desensitize him and have been walking around the car two or three times every time we go out.  I’ll start giving him treats when we’re near it so he’ll associate it with “good things.”  Over this coming weekend, I’ll wash the car and entice him to come near it, sit inside it with me without the car running.  All the while, getting treats.  I know this will be a long process, but I don’t know what else to do.

Anyone have any ideas?

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3 comments

  1. Poor Izzy. Sounds like you’re doing absolutely everything you can for her. She just needs that fear broken which is what you’re actively doing by desensitizing the situation. Just make sure you don’t get bored before Izzy, else she’ll pick up on that! I’ve noticed if I’m not bothered about going for a walk nor is my JRT, Mouse. She just looks as if to say “if you’re not excited about going out, then nor am I!”.
    Good luck. 🙂

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  2. I don’t think there’s ever a time that Izzy’s not excited to go out, Sophie! LOL! The problem is getting him to go out in the car. He loves, loves, loves walks and would be outside all the time, if I had a fenced-in yard. Just wish I could get him past his fear of the car . . . .

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  3. Poor Izzy. Have you tried any of the natural supplements that help to calm dogs? My vet recommended Composure, and it’s really helped ease my dog’s anxiety during storms.

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