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 ARTICLES > Puppies > Puppies
  Puppies  Article:
Article By: Niki Elliott        Publish Date: 2007-04-28


by Niki Elliott

Most of us would like to be able to take our puppy out for a drive or to visit friends and relatives. Unfortunately this dream is often shattered when the puppy spends the whole trip whining, shivering, salivating and some times being sick or worse!  One such trip can be the end of the puppy’s experience of the car until we have to take them to the Vet. Then it becomes a necessity and we put puppy in the car, and regardless of the fall out, we have to continue the journey.  All this can be avoided or removed by a simple and slow process. Each step should be taken over the course of a few days. This allows your puppy to get used to a non-threatening environment and allows him to learn to associate the car with good times, rather than unpleasant happenings.

Step One: With yummy treats and goodies in your hand or bag, walk your puppy around the car a few times with the doors open. Let him sniff wherever he likes, let him stick his head inside. If he handles this well, give him plenty of treats and praise. If he shows anxiety, just continue to circle the car and treat and praise. You may have to do this for a couple of days before he is relaxed in the presence of the unmoving car. Once you have achieved this move on to the next step.

Step Two: Once again arm yourself with truly drool-worthy treats, and leaving all the doors open and the car engine OFF, coax your puppy into the car.  If he is too small to get in by himself, pick him up, put him in, give a treat, and take him out immediately. Each time take a little longer to take him out, whilst treating him in the car. Make this a really great game. Keep your voice fun and lively, DON”T GET ANNOYED if your puppy will not get into the car. You can throw a favourite toy into the car for him to retrieve, or have a human friend sit in the car and call his name or sit in the car yourself and wait until he’s ready to enter on his own. Always leave the doors of the car open so that your puppy may leave at any time. Let him explore the vehicle at his own pace. Treat for every time he is in the car. Do NOT coddle him, or try to reassure, as this only reinforces the fear.

Step Three: Close the car doors when your pup is inside, but leave the windows open, and the car engine OFF. Pet him through the window and talk to him in a calm voice. When he sits calmly, reward. Don’t leave him in the car for   long, just a few minutes at a time and then get in the car too, but continue to leave the engine OFF.

Step Four: Start the car with your puppy inside (who should now be calm inside, as well as outside). Don’t leave the car, and don’t leave the driveway, simply sit there with him and treat a few times.

Step Five: By this time, your puppy should be calm and relaxed inside the car with the engine running, and yourself in the driver’s seat. After sitting in the car for a few minutes, take him for a short drive either just down your drive, around your complex or around the block. Reward his relaxed posture with really yummy treats, ignore any drooling and shaking. When you get home, lavishly reward him for a job well done. Repeat as necessary.

Step Six: Take him someplace FUN.  Puppy classes, the park, the beach, other friends or relatives with puppies, somewhere really fun for HIM. It is very important to remember that puppies tend to associate the car with the end result. If the end result of a car ride is always stressful vets visit, this association must be changed or your puppy will grow up never learning that the car goes to fun places as well. I strongly recommend repeating this step at least four times a week, for the rest of your pup’s life.

If you have been training or would like to train your puppy using clicker techniques, the whole process above can be achieved in a very short time. Go to www.ttouch.co.za/balance to see when and where you can find clicker classes for you and your puppy

The TTouch body wrap is also a fantastic tool to help with car sickness or if your pup is really battling to get over his fear of the car. The body wrap will help your puppy to feel more secure and give him a sense of his body. This will in turn help him to feel more confident and in control of himself. Once he feels better about himself his fears will lessen and so will the nausea associated with his fear. I would recommend that if you are going to use a body wrap, use the “half wrap” to get your puppy used to wearing it before taking him on an excursions in the car. This way he will not negatively associate the wrap with the car journey. Take a look on the web site where there is a really good explanation of the Body Wrap. http://www.ttouch.co.za/files/what/bodywraps.php.

Niki is a TTouch Practitioner II for Companion Animals and gives regular puppy classes. She can be reached at niki@ttouch.co.za

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