Henry never has liked being in the car and the lady has even bought a new car to help him, to no avail.

For the past four months the six-year-old Golden Retriever has been so scared in the car that the lady can’t get him in.

There are no real clues as to why, on that occasion four months ago, he simply refused.

Being unable to travel restricts their lives

Henry is fearful of other dogs and some people they meet. His life is now lacking exposure to the kind of environments with the distance required in order to help him with his fears.

The lady’s life is severely restricted by not being able to take Henry any further than they can walk from the house.

She has got as far as feeding him in the boot of the car, but as soon as she begins to lift her arm to shut the door, he’s out.

This is a question of baby steps – very baby steps.

Working only on his being scared in the car isn’t enough.

He feels generally unsafe a lot of the time.

He reacts with lunging and barking at dogs and barking at some people when out.

These are two things he is rehearsing at home as he ‘barks them on their way’ down the path along the side of their garden hedge.

Somehow this has to stop – with a mix of removing his opportunity and with behaviour work to desensitise and counter-condition him, making him feel better about passing people.

Baby steps

In a less aroused and scared state in general, Henry will be better prepared for the car work which, in this particular case, will go like this:

  • The lady will ‘lace the environment’ around the car with before they go for a walk. He can discover it as they walk past.
  • As already Henry will now jump in to quickly eat food before jumping out again, she will now open the boot and throw in special food. He will can jump in. Then he can jump out as soon as he wants to and she will leave the door open.
  • Equipment needed: she will connect an anchor lead to a head rest, loose but not long enough for Henry to leap out. Henry will wear a harness to attach it to for the sake of his neck should he try to jump.
  • While he’s eating the lady will hook him up, then unhook him straight away.
  • She can now leave him hooked up for a few seconds after he’s finished eating before unhooking him.
  • He is so scared in the car that he panics when she moves her arm to shut the door. She will work on moving her arm bit by bit and throwing more food until, after several sessions she can reach the door.
  • Next close it a little, then a bit more, then shut it. All the time she will throw him sprats. At no stage can he now jump out.
  • He’s okay once they are on the move, so the next step will be to sit in the driver’s seat, then turn on the engine etc.
  • I suggest when she begins to drive that they should end back at home – either in a very short circular route or to have left the car about 100 yard down the road, pick it up and to drive home.

Slowly slowly catchy monkey.

At no stage should she push him over his comfort threshold.

Meanwhile, no longer getting worked up by barking at people and dogs passing the house, his response to people and dogs when they are out should become easier to work on.

When able to travel by car, the lady can pick better places to take him.

Things should then, with time and patience, begin to come together

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ and is always written with permission of the client. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog it can do more harm than good. Click here for help