Garmin has always had issues in the car. He barks, paces, whines and panics. Before I started utilizing a crate for him, he would try to get to me in the front seat. He would scale barriers, scratch at the door--anything he could do to express his discomfort. So, I started crating him in the car for his (and my) safety. And although he loves his crate, his behavior didn't change--he was still vocal. Still panicked. And still clearly not loving car rides. As we continued to work through this, the main issue was that the crate was near the back of my car, so it was impossible for me to safely reinforce him in any way. He wouldn't take high value treats (so no peanut butter Kongs, no oink sticks--nothing.) He simply wasn't having it.
It is difficult to modify behavior when your car is moving and you need all eyes on the road. And because the majority of the activities we do are within close proximity of my home, he didn't need to love the car. I just needed him to be safe in the car. Plus, with his reactivity and other issues, the car was always last on my list.
A few weeks ago Garmin developed a weird twitch in his shoulder, so we had to go to the vet. He loves the vet, but I knew the car ride would be stressful, so this time I decided to move the crate a little closer to me so that I could reinforce his good choices. It became clear, however, that he wasn't going to make any good choices (because it was still the car and he still hated it). But I figured we could do this one trip, get the shoulder under control and we would be okay.
But his twitch didn't get better and my vet and I decided to try six sessions of laser therapy. One trip where he is a bit vocal is one thing--but six is something else altogether. Before I continue, please know that we have been working on his car manners for years. I had tried waiting for a down. Waiting for quiet. Waiting for anything BUT barking. But those moments were few and far between. And when they were few and far between, he wasn't getting any reinforcement. Which means very little (well, no) progress. In fact, here is his car ride on July 20. You can here the barking, you can see in his body language how upset he is. He is clearly not having it. His conditioned emotional response (CER) to the riding in car is clearly negative at this point.
Sometimes in dog training the correct answer is the one you think shouldn't work. But you can't deny the science of behavior--and the power of spray cheese to help change a dog's mind about riding in the car.
Happy Training Makes Happy Dogs!