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Canine Behavior/Fear of Car


Hello, I know that you have answered similar questions but mine is more complex and has been an ongoing issue for 5 months now.  My dog is 2 years old, and I think her problem is that she gets car sick and that she HATES going to the Vet.  She has refused to get into our car since Halloween, she went to Daycare and was really scared of all the costumes.  So, I have been working with a positive reinforcement trainer to get her in the car but it's not working.  We have been trying shaping behavior with a car ramp to get her on the ramp but she stops offering two paws on after a couple of tries and gets frustrated, she will sit down and start barking.  I sit in the car and don't speak to her but I will have tons of yummy food for her that I pretend to eat so she is enticed into coming in , but nothing works.  She will lay on the grass and not get in the car.  I can not pick this 70 pound rescue because she will growl, so that is out of the question.  What can I do?

First: going to daycare and being frightened of the costumes does not explain her fear of the car, per se.  A dog cannot make this elaborate connection: I got into the car, ended up in daycare, and look at what happened to me.  Positive reinforcement training must be done extremely carefully: desensitization is almost impossible.  What must be done is counter conditioning.  When you food reward a dog, you must KNOW what the dog is *thinking* (reacting to) or you will be rewarding the fear.

Many dogs are fearful of the car.  The fact that this dog seems to be worsening seems a direct result to improper "advice" given by a dog trainer.  It is also disturbing to me that your attempt to "pick her up" results in her growling at you.

You need to bump up your professional assistance.  This dog is exhibiting aggression by growling at being picked up (picking a dog up, even by its front paws, is a very "dominant" thing to do).  She seems anxious and not trusting.  She needs evaluation by a real expert, a certified applied animal behaviorist.  I suggest you find one from the following sites:

You don't mention the breed or breed type of this dog.  The fact that she sits and begins to bark is an indication, to me, of cognitive dissonance.  This means: the dog's training has totally confused her.  She can't go forward but she wants to because she's been rewarded in her fear state.  Find a CAAB.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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