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overcoming fear of the truck - long

Discussion in 'Dog Training' started by Stub, Jan 1, 2015.

  1. Stub

    Stub Completely Boxer Crazy

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    Gus has always been a little scared of riding in the car. The first time we went on a long road trip he was terrified, but gradually he got used to it little by little, until I could comfortably take him 2-3 hours from home and he'd be fine, and on days-long road trips for vacations with a little pre-planning and calming treats to help him through it. Except for rumble strips in the road. Those throw him completely for a loop, a big SCARED loop. So, the other day I traded in my car for a pickup. It's a 6' bed, regular cab truck so it has quite a bit of road noise, not to mention it rides a lot rougher than the car did and thus makes big scary sounds similar to rumble strips just with normal driving.

    Gus loves to hear, "do you want to go for a ride in the car?" even though it's scary, because he knows that at the end of the scary ride is usually lots of leash-free running in the woods somewhere. So yesterday I was able to get him into the truck fine with those words, but then the whole 45-minute drive to the state park he sat bolt upright, and was quivering in every tiny muscle, and panting and drooling with fear. I had put his thundershirt on him, and given him the calming treats 2 hours before we left too. (perhaps I waited too long and the effect of those passed, though) After a couple hours of running in the woods he was much better on the ride home and even laid down on the front seat and almost relaxed a bit. At least he was not shaking and panting. I praised him effusively the whole way home for that!

    So here's my question, training people: Should I make his truck introduction WAY more gradual? Put him in it and let him sit for a few minutes and let him back out, then gradually take him on short rides around home, gradually making them longer day by day? Or should I immerse him in it and let him get used to it quickly? He KNOWS we are going fun places so even on the 3-day drive we did to Colorado last summer he was fine and eager to get in the car each morning and after every rest stop, even though he hated and feared it at the same time. If I have to do the gradual thing I will, but that means weeks of not going anywhere fun for Gus and I hate to do that to him when he so loves to hike with me in the woods. Opinions?

    I was very glad to see that the passenger air bag did not come on when he sat in the passenger seat though! That makes me feel a lot better about his chances should we ever get in an accident, especially as he wears a dog seat belt harness. He was always harnessed in the back seat on trips in the car, but my regular cab truck won't allow that! :)
     

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  2. Roge

    Roge Boxer Insane

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    Well it seems it's the noise that spooks him not the truck , I'd do frequent short rides for a while with a treat at the end , my take on it is that he will then associate the noise with treats/fun ..
    Oh and nice truck !
     
  3. Jan

    Jan Reasonable Moderator Staff Member

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    I think I would do as Helen suggested. Frequent short trips and lots of rewards for calm behavior.

    I am sure that Gus will get used to the truck eventually.
     
  4. luvmyboy

    luvmyboy Boxer Insane

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    Nice ride!!! It's a flashy little truck! On the one hand Gus responds positively to the invitation to go for a ride... on the other, street noise seems to be a problem. I would also do as Helen suggests & take him for short rides as often as possible. reassuring & praising him and of course, treats...

    My Tucker is overjoyed to be invited to ride. However, he gets agitated in usual traffic or roads that have many curves. He does much better on roads that are not stop & go... so highways, freeways, tollways are my friends! I have started to regularly take him with me when running around town to do errands, depending on weather (don't want to leave him in the car when hot out or very cold for any length of time). Before he came to me, he was pretty much allowed to ride unrestrained, climbing from front to back and allowed to hang himself outside open windows in moving traffic... I was told he "loves to ride in the car".... Not so when attempting to do so safely - he whines and cries and takes some time to settle... but i never have ANY trouble getting him into the car - he jumps up eagerly & cannot contain himself at the words "wanna go for a ride in the car?"

    It sounds like your Gus has similar mixed emotions, so I would do what you are doing... praise, reassurance, reward. :)
     
  5. Stub

    Stub Completely Boxer Crazy

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    Thanks for the truck compliments, I love the thing!! Cindy, Gus and Tucker sound a lot alike when it comes to cars!

    Took Gus for another ride up to the park today and he did better on the way up - laying down but not fully relaxing, and sitting up frequently. Not much shivering/muscle quivers but lots of panting. We did a lesser hike today, only 4 miles, and it was not enough to wear him out so the ride home again was a little more stressful for him. Plus I was a little late for a meeting so was not driving quite as slowly and carefully as I had the day before, for him. Also, I left off his thundershirt today, because originally when I got in the truck we were only going to go for a short ride, then I decided to go hiking. Still, I was encouraged that he felt safe enough to lay down a few times on only the second day he rode in it! I'll give him some lesser rides too as you all have suggested. Every time he made motions towards laying back down I praised him but couldn't really give him treats while driving. Pretty soon I hope he is confident enough to jump up into the truck on his own too. I know he can perfectly easily as he's jumped way higher things often. It's just his fear stopping him right now. :)
     
  6. TwoDogs

    TwoDogs Boxer Insane

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    Immersing him in it fully would be using the technique called "flooding". Doing it gradually would be called "desensitization & counter-conditioning". Here's a link to a good explanation of both (and other behavior modification terms) along with an explanation of their pros and cons to help you decide. http://www.merckmanuals.com/vet/beh...duction/treatment_of_behavioral_problems.html
    FWIW, my approach would be DS & CC--the worst thing about going that route is that it might take you a long time. If you choose flooding, you may very well make your dog's fear/anxiety stronger.
     
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