Helping an Anious Greyhound Get Over a Fear of the Car

By: David Codr

Published Date: October 4, 2017

In this Omaha dog training session we helped an anxious Greyhound named Finn learn to get over a fear of the car, boost his self esteem to help stop his Separation Anxiety and train the dog to focus.

Finn lives in a cozy home, but fortunately he has a big yard to run and play in. We started this session in the living room where we discussed the dog behavior problems he needed help with.

This was a challenging session for multiple reasons. His guardian has some mobility issues, the house was on the small size while also filled to the brim with various things. Finally, Greyhounds its not comfortable for Greyhounds to sit down due to their body structure.

After chatting about the importance of rules and structure, I showed the guardian how to use positive dog training to reward Finn for engaging in desired actions and behaviors. Each time Finn comes to her on his own, I asked her to pet him and say the command word of “come.” By consistently rewarding Finn with love and affection each time he does something his guardian wants to make into a command, she can boost Finn’s confidence while simultaneously training him to do the things she wants him to do.

After practicing a few exercises inside, Finn started to shut down. Because of the confined quarters, its possible he feels a little anxious. Dogs can often become nervous when they find themselves without an escape route. If his guardian can remove some of the clutter from the home, it will greatly help reduce Finn’s anxiety.

Because Finn was chewing on the door and other parts of the house when left alone, the original plan was to do some kennel training to help him feel calm and confident when inside the kennel. Unfortunately the kennel was the wrong type: it was elevated with a wire floor which many dogs dislike standing on. Additionally it made noise any time it moved which added to Finn’s anxiety.

Because of these issues, I wasn’t able to help Finn with his fear of the kennel. His guardian said she would get a proper kennel like this one. Once she has that kennel, she can use the kennel training technique demonstrated in the video linked here.

It will be important that she also reduces the amount of things in the room with the kennel. Opening up that space and getting the correct kennel will help Finn learn that the kennel is a good and safe place if the guardian uses the technique detailed in the above link.

Because it was such a nice day, we headed outside to help Finn feel more relaxed in the oversized yard. When we got out back, I had my apprentice Lidia practice a simple recall exercise with Finn and his guardian.

This exercise gave us an opportunity to reward Finn for accomplishing something. Dogs have a sense of pride and rewarding them for desired actions and behaviors can boost a dog’s confidence. I stressed how important it is to pet Finn under his chine to get his nose int he air. Confident dog’s have a nose tilted up and insecure dogs look down.

By petting Finn under his chin, and saying the command word, his guarding will help Finn feel better about himself each time she practices this exercise.

Because Finn had a tendency to avoid eye contact, I showed his guardian a focus exercise that will help him practice having his nose up and looking the guardian in the eye.

Direct eye contact can be considered a challenge to dogs and those with lower self esteem often avoid eye contact. By training the dog to focus, Finn’s guardian can help him feel better and condition him to look at her face which will result in a raised nose.

Until the new kennel arrives, I suggested that Finn’s guardian take him with her for errands instead of leaving him home alone. Problem with that strategy is the dog is scared of the car. You can watch the video below to see the approach I used to help Finn get over his fear of the car.

Because Finn took a small tumble when getting into the car the first time, we had to practice the car mounting several times before he was comfortable enough to do most of the work himself. Because this was stressful for Finn, it was pretty taxing. We all headed to the garage to discuss and give Finn a chance to relax.

After a few minutes Finn laid down and took a nap while we went over the do’s and don’t’s of practicing this getting into the car exercise. Once Finn woke up, we headed back to the car to practice some more. It was great to see how much better he did this time around.

Shortly after we finished the above video, I had Lidia leading Finn back into the car which I spotted something pretty cool.

Instead of guiding Finn to the car by his collar as I had been doing, Lidia used a completely different approach that I liked much better. You can check out her gentle touch and see how effective it was in the video below.

Its going to take some practice guiding Finn into and out of the car before he overcomes his fear and gets into the car on his own. Once that is the case, then his guardian will need to practice taking him for rides. At first these need to be short and very slow. Avoiding hard turns, acceleration and breaking will help Finn get used to the motion of going for a car ride.

By the end of the session, Finn was looking at his guardian and our faces more often, coming when called and getting into the car with little hesitation.

Its going to be important that the guardian go slow when doing the kennel training outlined in one of the video links above. Gradual progress is what you are looking for. The idea is to help the dog practice being in the kennel while remaining completely calm for progressively longer and longer periods of time.

But the more the guardian pets with a purpose, rewards the dog for desired actions and teaches him new skills, the less anxious he will feel when left home alone. If the separation anxiety continues, we may need to schedule a follow up visit to help him get over that dog problem for good.

We wrapped things up by shooting a roadmap to success video to make it easy for the guardian to remember all the things we went over in this session.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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