My dog ​​is afraid of cars: how to solve the problem

Like us, dogs are sometimes prone to phobias. Is yours afraid of traffic and car noise? He panics at the sight of your own vehicle and you don’t know what to do? Fear is a powerful and uncontrollable emotion, but with patience and kindness you can overcome this problem. In this article, we explain to you how to make your dog no longer afraid of cars.

How do you recognize a scared dog?

Being afraid is normal, it is an emotion associated with the survival instinct. It is used to distance the individual from the object that worries him, thereby preserving him from potential danger and thereby saving the species. If your dog is afraid of cars, you will be able to observe these reactions in him when confronted with them:

  • he bends down and flattens himself on the ground;
  • he trembles;
  • his heart rate increases;
  • he breathes;
  • he folds his ears back;
  • it sticks its tail between its legs;
  • he avoids looking at what frightens him;
  • he moves away or tries to move away from what frightens him.

The most sensitive puppies and dogs will pee on them or even defecate in sheer terror.

What to do if your dog is afraid of cars?

The master or mistress of a dog that is fearful must maintain a relaxed demeanor and remain calm and peaceful. If his human is not afraid, the dog will sense it and understand that he should not be afraid either. A master protects his dog, he shows empathy and understands the reasons for his fear, but he does not share this feeling with him. Although it is tempting to take your dog in your arms and cuddle him to comfort him, do not fall into anthropomorphism: the dog is not a child and he will not be soothed in the same way. Yes, if you caress him, he will think you are congratulating him! Excessive snuggling in a distressing situation will reinforce the fearful behavior. The best solution to support your companion is to adopt a confident stance while ensuring his physical safety. If he is afraid of cars, the panic attack will probably occur in the city and he will try to escape to avoid it. A good harness and a sturdy leash will prevent accidents.

What not to do when your dog is scared

Don’t punish your dog if he’s afraid of cars, it doesn’t make sense. He will only associate a new annoyance with the cars that already frighten him. The dog is empathetic and feels all your feelings, so don’t get angry, risking increasing his stress. Forcing him to get into your vehicle or walk around a city center is useless because violence reinforces fear. Only patience and kindness will overcome this.

How do you get your dog used to cars?

Accustoming your puppy to the urban environment

The so-called impregnation period in a puppy lasts from three to twelve weeks. Ideally, he will live different experiences and be put in the presence of beings of other species than his own during these eight weeks, to acclimate him to everything he may encounter in his life. Your loulou must therefore be confronted with traffic and cars from an early age in order to get used to them and not be afraid of them later. Short walks in the city, trips on public transport, stops at a cafe terrace in a busy street: everything is good for introducing your puppy to the urban environment.

Accustoming your adult dog to traffic

Your adult dog may be afraid of cars for several reasons:

  • the impregnation explained above has not been carried out or has been carried out incorrectly;
  • he experienced trauma in connection with a traffic accident;
  • you live in the country or somewhere where there is no traffic;
  • you had your dog during or just before incarceration so he was not confronted by cars;
  • you adopted a dog from a shelter and don’t know its past;
  • your dog suffers from sensory deprivation syndrome;
  • etc

The older your dog is, the more difficult it will be to get him used to traffic, but nothing is impossible! You must proceed in stages. Start with short walks in deserted streets to desensitize him to stationary cars. When you feel your dog is relaxed enough, move to quiet places. The more confident your companion will be, the more you will be able to choose places for walks with more traffic. Work sessions should be short and learning should be progressive; Above all, don’t go too fast. Your dog’s fear can be triggered again at a time when it had not been declared for a long time; in this case, go back to the previous step and end the exercise on a positive note. These three tips will help you:

  • take your dog’s favorite toy and play with it during your immersions in the street, it will make the time pleasant;
  • give him a treat when he doesn’t react to cars;
  • be accompanied by a friend whose dog is completely comfortable around cars, yours will be reassured by mimicry.

Desensitize your dog to car noise

If your companion is afraid of car noise, here is an exercise to do at home. It’s easy to find recordings of city background sounds on the Internet: acceleration, honking, screeching tires, etc. Listen with your dog to these low-frequency sounds for a few minutes a day. When you see him comfortable enough, you can gradually increase the volume. Continue in stages over several days or weeks until he no longer responds to the suggested frequency, and go down a level if he shows signs of discomfort. Of course, it will take time before he is ready to face reality, but the game is worth the effort.

How do you get your dog to appreciate your own vehicle?

Approach the car

The goal of this desensitization exercise is to make your car look ordinary to your dog. Depending on the intensity of his fear, you need to go there little by little, first by simply approaching your car, passing in front without stopping, then, for example, walking around and finally taking a break next to it. If you are lucky enough to have a yard or garden, park your vehicle there, open if possible, and let your dog come and go freely. The very presence of the car should no longer be a concern to advance to the next stage.

Get into the car

Your car must be inviting and attractive to your dog. Install his plaid, toys, a bone to gnaw on it; turn this object of fear into a pleasant place that inspires him. The work sessions are educational games with a reward if your loulou responds well to commands like “up” and “down”. Again, it is possible to get help from another dog who is comfortable in the car, as mimicry is a common way of learning among dogs.

Climbing into your car is no longer an obstacle? Try starting it without moving it and observe it. Repeat the operation as many times as necessary so that the sound of the engine starting no longer frightens your dog. If you skipped this step too quickly, briefly resume the simple up-down commands (always rewarded) with the engine off.

Take a trip by car

Counterconditioning consists in associating the unpleasant object (here the scary car) with a positive feeling. To do this, first use your car for short trips that will take you to a very comfortable place for your dog. It must be equated with pleasure in your dog’s mind. Once this is acquired, you will be able to diversify routes and destinations.

The mistakes not to make, so that your dog does not (again) start to be afraid of the car.

Here are some mistakes you shouldn’t make if you don’t want your dog to lose his taste for cars:

  • only take your dog on long journeys;
  • take his car only to go to the vet;
  • taking his dog to someone he doesn’t like;
  • speeding, sudden braking;
  • feed him too much before departure, with the risk of making him ill.

We hope that this article has been useful to you and that you will know how to accompany your dog. If, despite everything, his fear of cars persists, consult a dog behaviorist for positive direction.

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