A French Bulldog Refuses to Ride in the Car Unless She Sits in the Most Dangerous Seat - Her Owner’s Lap
A french bulldog, named Bella, refuses to ride in the car unless she gets to sit on her owner’s lap. Dog Trainer Extraordinaire Cesar Millan puts a stop to this before a dangerous car accident can occur.
When Catherine arrives at Cesar Millan’s Dog Psychology Center, Cesar doesn’t like what he sees. Catherine drives up with Bella the french bulldog sitting in her lap, which creates dangerous distractions for Catherine while she is behind the wheel of a moving car. If Bella were to cause a car accident, the consequences could potentially be deadly for both Bella and Catherine. In this episode of “Cesar 911,” Cesar teaches Bella and Catherine how car rides should be done safely and properly in the future.
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Dogs want to be close to us in the car for many reasons. For some dogs, this need could stem from separation anxiety, or because they are “velcro dogs” that always need to be touching us. Other dogs are nervous in the car, or suffer from car anxiety. In Bella’s case, she suffers from car anxiety, but is also used to getting away with sitting on her owner’s lap. In order to learn to ride in the car safely, Cesar has to teach Catherine how to be a leader for Bella, and together they have to introduce Bella to a new, safer routine for car rides.
If you are struggling to make car rides fun for your dog, you are not alone. Many dogs suffer from car anxiety, but there are steps you can take that will teach your dog that going for a drive is nothing to worry about. Here are 6 tips to help your dog relax in the car.
Teach your dog a new routine.
In Bella’s case, the main correction she needed was for Cesar and Catherine to teach her a new routine where she learned to sit in the backseat of the car. In order to do this, Bella was taught to sit and stay in the car until she relaxed. Once she was calm, Bella was allowed to come out. It’s very possible your dog simply needs to adjust to a new routine. If you are not sure what to do, it’s always a good idea to consult a local dog trainer or your veterinarian for advice that is specific to your pup. However, always remember that results will come with patience and repetition, and positive reinforcement is usually the best when training away anxiety or fear.
Desensitization may start while the car is in park.
Depending on the level of fear, you may need to start desensitizing your dog to the car from 10 feet away, or get your dog used to being in the car while it sits in your driveway. You should start where your dog is currently comfortable, and then slowly push them out of their comfort zone, whether that starting point is looking at the car from a distance or being rewarded for sitting in the back seat for a few minutes. Only move onto the next step when your dog is relaxed at the current one. If you move too fast, you will likely have to backtrack a level or two until your dog relaxes again. Do your best to go at your dog’s pace. Eventually, you can start taking your pup for short car rides, and will be able to increase the time until you can go anywhere you want with your beloved pet!
Make the car a special place.
Part of desensitizing your dog is called counter-conditioning, where you change your dog’s emotions to teach them to love something he once feared. The best way to do this is to have something your dog loves waiting for him in the car. Maybe the car is the only place he gets to eat his most favorite treats, or gets to play with an extra special toy. You could also play games in the back seat, or do mini training sessions to practice tricks if your dog craves mental stimulation. Anything you can do to associate the car with food, fun, and love will pay off in a big way. Once you start driving around, you could even have a passenger hand or toss treats to your pup to further emphasize the positive reinforcement.
Don’t only drive to scary places.
If you only ever drive your dog to the veterinarian or to the groomer, places that are typically scary for dogs, it’s no wonder your dog has developed a fear of the car! Mix up trips to these stressful locations with trips to places your dogs enjoy, such as to the dog park or on a fun hike. You could even invite your dog along to pick up the kids from school, or let them come to pick up dinner on occasion. Before long, your dog will realize that not all car rides end in needles, or any sort of poking or prodding.
Prevent motion sickness.
If your dog suffers from motion sickness, they may not fear the car so much as they fear getting sick again. If you can alleviate the motion sickness, your dog will learn that the car isn’t an uncomfortable place. Some simple changes you can make to your dog’s car routine is to avoid feeding them right before car trips, keep the car temperature cool, and exercise your dog shortly before getting in the car to alleviate stress.
There are plenty of products on the market you can purchase that may also help alleviate your dog’s motion sickness, and the stress it causes. If your dog is getting sick because they are too short to see out the windows, you may also consider purchasing a raised platform to help your dog see and stay oriented. If your dog is stressed over potentially getting sick, you can also spray calming pheromones in your car that can prevent that stress. Typically, your dog will smell the calming pheromones, but the scent is undetectable to humans. For especially severe car sickness cases, you may want to consult your veterinarian about possible medication for preventing anxiety and motion sickness.
If all else fails, create a barrier.
Sometimes, you have to take your dog to an important appointment, and you can’t wait for the desensitization or training to take full effect. However, it’s important that you still transport your pup safely. In these situations, we recommend using a barrier to prevent your dog from climbing into the front seats, or use a doggy seat belt.
Car anxiety can happen in dogs for many reasons, such as from repeated motion sickness or from living through a traumatic experience, such as a car accident. Sometimes, the anxiety might not even have a rational reason. However, it is always possible to teach your dog to love the car and be a safe passenger. Don’t give up hope, and before long your patience and training will mean your dog can happily accompany you on any of life’s adventures!