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Dog Training/My dog is fearful of the car vents and the heater fan


I have a Standard Poodle Pointer who will be one year on April 17th.  Yesterday she freaked out in the car when we turned the AC back vents on in our Durango.  She was shacking, curled up in a ball on the floor...she would look up at the back at the vents.  We tried everything to get her to know she was ok.  I sat with her in the back in my lap, NOPE, we gave her her dream bone, NOPE, we even tried licorice, NOPE, then once we got home she would not get back into the car.  This is very concerning because we take her Everywhere with us. She has been in the car on both short rides and long road trips since she was 5 weeks old.  Prior to this we have had the vents run, with the heater, the air, AC, we even have had the back vents on, but all of a sudden it changed. She even will let me blow dry her after bath, last night she did just fine with that.   Now today, she is fearful and wont even eat her oatmeal because the little portable heater is on under my office desk.  Yesterday morning she was fine!  Seriously!?  
Also in the past, she would only really "gruff" bark at a person, who by all rights seemed shady.  As if letting me know this was a person, stranger that she did not like.  Prior to yesterday  she still thought every stranger was her new friend, NOPE, as of yesterday 3 people she was approached by she barked at and ran behind me.  It was not her usual alerting, she seemed 'scared'.    I told her thank you for letting me know, but that she was ok and I laid my hand on her side.  I sat her then in between my legs and told her thank you and that she was ok again. She was clearly not having this stranger come near us (3x) so I told the people that she was a puppy learning, but to not pet her because she was very fearful.  We are taking her to the dog park today to see if anyone there causes her to react the same way. We go to the dog park 3 x a week and she loves all her furry friends and human friends.  This is really concerning to me because I do not want her to be fearful of the car, my office, nor people!  What do we do?

Thanks for your email, Kendra. All dogs go through fear periods as they mature. It sounds like your girl is experiencing one right now. If this does not improve in a couple of weeks time, you need to have a professional dog behavior expert meet with you. He/she can develop a desensitization plan to work through with your dog based on his/her evaluation. If you need help finding someone in your area, let me know.

You're doing all the right things at this point. Don't force her back into the car right now since this seems to be what has triggered the whole scaredy-dog phase.

Next time you do go out in public, take high value treats with you (meat, cheese, liver treats, etc) and feed her each time a stranger walks by. Go to YouTube and search "Donna Hill Look at That" for a great technique in working with dogs who are fearful of novel stimuli.

Let me know if you have any questions about what I've recommended or have any follow-up comments.

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Barb Gadola, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP


I can answer questions related to problem dog behaviors, teaching polite manners, puppy raising, and any type of training-related issues. My website page, offers a wealth of information on training and behavior issues as well.


I've been training dogs since 1989 and own and operate Distinctive Dog Training LLC in Keller TX. I specialize in providing practical and positive solutions for families through personalized training in their home.

Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner
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Association of Pet Dog Trainers
Association of Animal Behavior Professionals
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BS in Education
Graduate work in Behavioral Psychology
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