Is driving in the car an issue?

July 10, 2014 at 8:13 am
Driving Mr Rudi around town

I recently went and saw my client Rudi who gets extremely anxious when driving in the car. Rudi is a gorgeous boy, part Kelpie and part mystery box cross (he was rescued as a puppy and is now two years old). He has such a curious nature and is very sensitive to energy. He loves his family, his mum and two sisters (the sisters are human in case you’re wondering) and every chance he gets, he trains them in what he likes and wants them to do. I must say the entire family is very adaptable to his requests!

His family have tried many different ways and techniques to get Rudi to manage his state in the car. It was so bad that he would start to salivate quite heavily once the car engine was turned on. Everyone would wipe his mouth to stop the car being swamped in drool. His breath was so short that within 2 km his eyes would glaze over and would then proceed to vomit.

You could say that driving Mr Rudi was not a fun experience for anyone.

Once Rudi was out of the car, he absolutely loved his new adventures, as different places have different smells. Rudi showed me images of how much he loved the beach (which is 7 km away). This shows me that his family really did try to help him.

They had tried homeopathic medicine from the vet, doggy trainers and also followed all the different methods suggested, however it all resulted in the same outcome – SLOBBER and VOMIT. I was called in as a last resort.

Our mission was to get him to be more relaxed in the car and more at ease with the thought of the car. I spoke to him about the car, the reason for travelling and that he could join his family on outings more often if he remained calm whilst in the car. I might add that as soon as I mentioned and showed him an image of the car (mental picture) his ears went down and his head hung low.

When I asked him if he gets motion sickness, he said no. You see Rudi didn’t like the feeling of moving without his feet doing it for him – it caused him major anxiety. I explained in detail to him that it’s the same for us humans and that no matter where he is, especially when with his family, he is safe. They are in control and looking after him. The only job he has while in the car is to remain relaxed and look at what’s happening outside the window. I asked him if he was willing to try this with me – I got a reluctant yes BUT it was a yes!

I got Rudi into a calm and relaxed state, and then I did the same for his family. I showed them how to manage their energy so that they were grounded, relaxed and in control. As soon as Rudi matched their energies we went to the car. He was relaxed but ears were partially down. I had requested that we take his bed into the car so that it was familiar for him to relax in and smelled of home. It took us three minutes to get him into the car and I sat next him. I was holding the energy so everyone was calm and encouraged his sisters not to give negative re-enforcement to Rudi. We drove for eight minutes, and there was slobber, but nowhere near like before. He hung his head out the window and I reminded him to breathe. We stopped at a familiar park for him as a reward and played and played and played. Then it was time to hop back in the car and within a minute we were in. He sat down on his belly this time and we drove around for 15 minutes.

The main difference in this second trip was that he was yawning a lot. This is a good sign as animals (and humans) release their stress through yawns or slow deep breaths. He was beginning to relax. We even picked up the pace of driving. There was still a bit of slobber but it had decreased quite a bit from our first trip.

Upon returning home, I suggested Rudi get a big hug for being such a good brave boy and perhaps a little treat :) .

And that is the start of Rudi learning to be calm in car rides!

Tips on how to calm your dog in any situation

  1. Make sure that you are grounded (or the person the dog trusts the most).
  2. Then sit with your dog so that they start to follow your energy. Start to take slow deep breaths to calm at a deeper level.
  3. Now place the lead on your dog.
  4. Take your dog into the car and repeat steps 1-4 prior to turning on the engine.
  5. When you’re ready turn the engine on and repeat steps 1-4, then start your trip.

At first it will take extra effort and consistency but the results will be well worth it.

Until next time – Woof!