Cars aren’t scary

Today’s lesson was short, mainly because its 98 degrees outside and probably 110 in my garage. I took Fayde out with some training treats and a clicker. First I walked out of the garage and around the yard. I waited until I had her attention and asked her to sit, jump and hand target – all good. Then we walked closer to my car. Every step we took closer, I clicked and treated. I opened the front door, click treat. Every time she deliberately looked at or sniffed the car, click treat. She only stopped taking treats once, when I sat in the front seat, so I backed off and we tried again. I was able to open the front and back doors and she checked them out without severe anxiety. I need to do the back door next, because thats where she rides, but I’ll probably do a few more sessions of the side doors until there’s zero anxiety before I move on to that.

Car Desensitization

Fayde’s normal ride

My 16 month old whippet, Fayde, has a severe phobia of riding in the car. When she was 16-18 weeks old she developed car sickness, which I’ve had several whippet pups do. I was hoping it was developmental and she’d grow out of it. She didn’t. She can ride in he car without vomiting if given trazadone, but sometimes she still throws up. Even if she doesn’t, she’s miserable. Head down, drooling, completely shut down. When we get to wherever we’re going even if it’s something she loves (like racing) it takes a long time before she’s back to normal. When we leave the house and she sees we are going in the car her reaction is immediate, head down, drooling, panicky.

I’ve reached out to a couple of trainers about Faydes car and anxiety issues. This process is going to take so long and have to move in tiny increments, but we’re giving it a try. I’ve started with trying an Adaptil collar and diffusers in the house. I’m going to try and systematically counter condition everything to do with the car. We are stopping all car rides while I work on this, so she’s pulled out of nosework. Last week she was so shut down after the car ride she wouldn’t work for me anyways.

I’ve decide to chronicle our work here, in case I find things that work that might help others. It also helps me to keep a record of any progress. Wish us luck!

Here is a baseline video of her behavior around my car.