Help with Puppy Fear
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Thread: Help with Puppy Fear

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    DefaultHelp with Puppy Fear

    Help! My new lab mix puppy is afraid of cars and road noises and I don't know what to do. She is 13 weeks old. The fear seemed to develop at 10 weeks (we have had her since 9 weeks old). The only thing I can connect it to was a vet visit which happened Thursday of her 10th week (no shots- just puppy check). Friday of that week she was fine, on Saturday she refused to walk past our driveway. She trembles and pulls on the leash. I have been trying to make her walk a little bit each day but I feel terrible about it. The vet said to lay a line of cheese down the driveway and out into the street (we have no sidewalks but live in a VERY quiet development in the woods) When I did this she walked a little bit and now with some effort of pulling and coaxing I can get her a few feet. Worse than her fear of walking however is her fear of car travel. She cried a little when we brought her home in the car and then went to sleep but got carsick on the last turn into our road. The next 2 car trips she did the same, cried, trembled, drooled and got carsick again once we got home. I tried taking her somewhere fun- to Petsmart and she was fine once we got there, then got carsick on the last turn to home again. I think I may have trully terrified her however because on Sunday I had to take my son back to college (4 hours up and back) and having no one to watch her, I brought her rather than leave her crated, which I thought would have been too long a time for her. The trip there she was terrified, trembling, drooling and shaking. We stopped frequently, reassured her, tried using her favorite toys and treats, but nothing helped. She vomited twice and was clearly badly distressed. We did not tell her it was ok or make soothing sounds, just kept calm and told her to "settle" or "sit". (I had read that comforting with it's ok makes them think it is ok to be scared) On the return trip when I was alone with her in the car she first drooled and trembled but then sat and slept. Although nervous when I stopped halfway for a break for her, she went potty and then back to the car to sleep. Today I thought I would try to sit in the car with her and offer a treat of cheese just to keep her familiar with the sensation. She was so terrified that she couldn't eat the treat. We sat for about 3 minutes with the engine on, then I told her good girl and brought her back inside. I feel as if I have done everything wrong and probably traumatized her for life. I want her to enjoy going places with us in the car- taking longs walk and so forth. Should I keep trying a little each day? Stop all together? HELP!
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  3. #2
    Bob Pr. is offline Senior Member
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    Feb 2009
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    Lawrence (ex-Topeka), KS
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    DefaultRe: Help with Puppy Fear

    I suggest you contact Dr. Patricia McConnell's website, http://www.dogsbestfriendtraining.com/index.php which has a booklet on the protocol for conquering phobias.

    Your efforts were well-intentioned and in the right direction but you didn't apply it in quite the right way. You can e-mail P McC's group for guidance on which booklet best fits your needs and, I think, you can pay them for a consult if needed. But if you get the booklet and follow it meticulously without any significant changes that should clear things up.

    The procedure for deconditioning a phobia in humans and a dog are very similar and quite effective.
    Puff [YF, AKC field line (from competing HT/FT breeder) 62 lbs, dob: 8-'01]

    Bess [BF, AKC bench line (from competing show breeder) 55 lbs., 1967-1981] "Poor Bess, the Wonder Dog":
    http://forum.justlabradors.com/showt...?p=748#post748

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    DefaultRe: Help with Puppy Fear

    Thank you! I went to the website and ordered her booklet on canine fears. I really appreciate the help.
    Nutmeg's Mom

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  6. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
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    DefaultRe: Help with Puppy Fear

    Is she crated at home? If she's comfortable there it may help to crate her in the car as well. The crate may give her some comfort as her safe place.
    Good luck.

  7. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    DefaultRe: Help with Puppy Fear

    Yes she is and loves her crate, however it is too large to put in the car. Thank you so much for your response. We are considering getting her a smaller one for car travel.
    Nutmeg's Mom

  8. #6
    Neska74 is offline Senior Member
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    Feb 2009
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    Guelph, ON
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    DefaultRe: Help with Puppy Fear

    I must say that Saba developed a fear of the car about the age of 6 months. So much later than yours, but it seemed that it was just from one day to the next. I couldn't figure it out. The trainer at my obedience class explained that pups go through different fear stages - now this might of course not apply to your situation. Anyway, it was pretty strange because for a couple of months I could not take him anywhere. I too was wondering what I could have done to make him fearful of the car ???
    I'd try walking around the care from time to time, then getting him to jump into the car, give him a treat, jump out and just go for a walk rather than driving etc.
    It took a lot of patience and love, Then one day I think he just got over it... I really hope that your pup starts to enjoy the rides... but every situation is so different...
    Good luck!

  9. #7
    AngusFangus is offline Senior Member
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    Apr 2009
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    DefaultRe: Help with Puppy Fear

    I have one who was fearful of the car as well. Maybe something about our story will be helpful.

    Now, I cannot *prove* this is what it was, but here's what I suspect:

    When I got Simon, he was about 7 months old. Terrified of car trips. No idea about his previous life or what it was like. Just know that he was very distressed in the car.

    I had a Maxima. He rode in the back. It had leather seats.

    His fear seemed to be substantially less if he was sitting in the front seat. We started letting him ride with Kevin in the pickup, which has cloth seats.

    His fear seemed to improve somewhat when I got him a seat belt. Then it seemed to get even better when I bought a car hammock for the back seat.

    He has gotten exponentially better since I got a Volvo, which has two divided crate areas in the back. They each have their own bed back there.

    My theory (and it's just a theory, unproven): A lot of his distress was being caused by not being able to get a good footing. He would get nervous, stand up, this would make him feel even more unsteady...vicious cycle.

    He's so much better in the Volvo. He lays down for the whole ride now.

    Maybe make sure she has a secure surface of some sort?



    Connie and "The Boys":
    Angus, Yellow Lab, CGC, RE, CD
    Simon, d.b.a. Flat Coated Retriever, CGC, RE, CD

    Gone ahead, but forever in my heart:
    Crash, Pit Bull x Rottweiler x Golden Retriever

  10. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    4

    DefaultRe: Help with Puppy Fear

    Thanks so much to all- it is very reassuring to hear from folks who have experienced this problem and come out the other side with a happy outcome!
    Nutmeg's Mom

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