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My 6 month old standard poodle, Misty is extremely car reactive. She lunges at cars and tries to chase them. She also gets anxious and frantically barks while riding in a car if she sees cars passing. She will also chew through any sort of seatbelt or harness out of anxiety in the car. We talked to our trainer and she basically told us to just keep her away from cars. We have tried a stuffed kong in the car which she didn’t really care for and also a kennel which made things much worse. Do you guys have any advice?
 

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Is it possible you misunderstood your trainer? Because maintaining ample distance from cars while you slowly desensitize your poodle to their presence, and build positive associations with play and/or yummy treats, is exactly what I'd recommend you do.

This doesn't mean stay away from cars forever. But you need to keep enough distance that your poodle doesn't go over their threshold. Kind of like how I can handle seeing a spider from across the room, but if one was on my leg I'd scream bloody murder and would be oblivious to everything else around me, unable to think straight and acting on pure reflex and adrenaline.

If indeed your trainer did say to "just stay away from cars," I'd recommend finding a new trainer or working through an online course like Spirit Dog. Some behavioural issues can simply be managed (i.e. avoided) but that's not realistic with something like cars.
 

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Is it possible you misunderstood your trainer? Because maintaining ample distance from cars while you slowly desensitize your poodle to their presence, and build positive associations with play and/or yummy treats, is exactly what I'd recommend you do.

This doesn't mean stay away from cars forever. But you need to keep enough distance that your poodle doesn't go over their threshold. Kind of like how I can handle seeing a spider from across the room, but if one was on my leg I'd scream bloody murder and would be oblivious to everything else around me, unable to think straight and acting on pure reflex and adrenaline.

If indeed your trainer did say to "just stay away from cars," I'd recommend finding a new trainer or working through an online course like Spirit Dog. Some behavioural issues can simply be managed (i.e. avoided) but that's not realistic with something like cars.
Thank you. I have read about desensitizing her and counter conditioning with treats and planned on trying that. I could have misunderstood her but she made it seem like we should just stay away and eventually the problem would go away. Although she might’ve misunderstood what I was saying as we were talking during a group class so there were lots of loud barking. I will look up Spirit Dog. Thank you!
 

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Maybe she would do a private session with you. We once had a bunch of classmates not show up, and we accomplished more in that one class than all the previous classes combined! It was a huge leap forward for us.

I love reading about training, and will also watch videos, but one-on-one guidance, tailored to you and your dog, is invaluable.

I find working under threshold tricky. We constantly push Peggy a little too far, which ends up setting us back. Your patience will really pay off.
 

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My boy Pogo was car reactive. Not every car set him off, but he definitely tried to chase many types: any sort of delivery truck, slow moving SUVs, sedans with poorly tuned engines. It was, honestly, a bit dangerous. He ran behind me and clothes lined me with his leash more than once.

I don't think the reactivity issue will go away if you ignore it. Chewing on seat belts might get better with age, if Misty is not allowed to rehearse the behavior. I never found that treats were very helpful in managing Pogo's reactions. At the point where he had started a meltdown, he was already too overwrought to be interested in food.

Although he didn't !ove car rides, Pogo never reacted as severely as your Misty. I think part of the reason was that roughly five days a week he rode in a car to do something fun. Much of his puppyhood was spent at our horse barn. He loved visiting the barn. So, make sure Misty gets plenty of rides to fun places. You might want to try a dog crate in the car again, but cover the crate with a bedsheets so Misty can't see out. Pogo's favorite vehicle was our pickup truck. He spent most of the ride lying on the floor of the back seat; he could only see out if he stood up.

Unfortunately my neighborhood has few sidewalks. During Pogo's worst periods I walked him very early in the morning or late at night to reduce our car interactions. I also found he handled cars better if I brought a toy along and redirected him to the toy.

It sounds like you are in a good path with your thoughts around counterconditioning. For more background you might also want to read about flooding and trigger stacking. It's easy to push too hard, too fast, and set yourself back. I think one of my mistakes, early on, was getting hooked up with a trainer who was a lot more experienced with police dog breeds than poodles (and who wasn't as experienced a trainer with anything as she liked to think.) She saw the issue as pure prey drive and didn't recognize the anxiety. Fortunately she was a positive methods trainer, so she did no damage, but I would have had a much easier time if I'd found someone with a better behavioral background.
 

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Not that this will help you but it does add a bit of humor to the situation. My daughter and I used to dog sit; usually one family at a time and the dogs were just integrated with our own. Well, one of our clients had a huge English Mastiff. On our first car outing, she about scared the britches off of us, when she exploded with a volley of barking that all but deafened us. My daughter and I did not even speak to each other, but the next time the Mastiff let loose, we double teamed on her, scolding her and telling her to be quiet. She was shocked into silence, and never gave us a bit of trouble in the car again. A few months later we mentioned to the "mom" that we had taken a ride to the mountains with all the dogs. Her eyes got big and she wanted to know how we could stand being in the car with that dog's booming bark, adding that it gave her migraines. We had to tell her what had happened and she couldn't believe a solution could be that simple. Hah, I think we just lucked out by stopping the behavior immediately. It also helped that our own dogs did not bark on rides. It is tricky to stop bad car behavior when you are driving and you have no back up person to help. Good luck to you.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
My boy Pogo was car reactive. Not every car set him off, but he definitely tried to chase many types: any sort of delivery truck, slow moving SUVs, sedans with poorly tuned engines. It was, honestly, a bit dangerous. He ran behind me and clothes lined me with his leash more than once.

I don't think the reactivity issue will go away if you ignore it. Chewing on seat belts might get better with age, if Misty is not allowed to rehearse the behavior. I never found that treats were very helpful in managing Pogo's reactions. At the point where he had started a meltdown, he was already too overwrought to be interested in food.

Although he didn't !ove car rides, Pogo never reacted as severely as your Misty. I think part of the reason was that roughly five days a week he rode in a car to do something fun. Much of his puppyhood was spent at our horse barn. He loved visiting the barn. So, make sure Misty gets plenty of rides to fun places. You might want to try a dog crate in the car again, but cover the crate with a bedsheets so Misty can't see out. Pogo's favorite vehicle was our pickup truck. He spent most of the ride lying on the floor of the back seat; he could only see out if he stood up.

Unfortunately my neighborhood has few sidewalks. During Pogo's worst periods I walked him very early in the morning or late at night to reduce our car interactions. I also found he handled cars better if I brought a toy along and redirected him to the toy.

It sounds like you are in a good path with your thoughts around counterconditioning. For more background you might also want to read about flooding and trigger stacking. It's easy to push too hard, too fast, and set yourself back. I think one of my mistakes, early on, was getting hooked up with a trainer who was a lot more experienced with police dog breeds than poodles (and who wasn't as experienced a trainer with anything as she liked to think.) She saw the issue as pure prey drive and didn't recognize the anxiety. Fortunately she was a positive methods trainer, so she did no damage, but I would have had a much easier time if I'd found someone with a better behavioral background.
Thank you for the tips! I really appreciate it!
 

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Not that this will help you but it does add a bit of humor to the situation. My daughter and I used to dog sit; usually one family at a time and the dogs were just integrated with our own. Well, one of our clients had a huge English Mastiff. On our first car outing, she about scared the britches off of us, when she exploded with a volley of barking that all but deafened us. My daughter and I did not even speak to each other, but the next time the Mastiff let loose, we double teamed on her, scolding her and telling her to be quiet. She was shocked into silence, and never gave us a bit of trouble in the car again. A few months later we mentioned to the "mom" that we had taken a ride to the mountains with all the dogs. Her eyes got big and she wanted to know how we could stand being in the car with that dog's booming bark, adding that it gave her migraines. We had to tell her what had happened and she couldn't believe a solution could be that simple. Hah, I think we just lucked out by stopping the behavior immediately. It also helped that our own dogs did not bark on rides. It is tricky to stop bad car behavior when you are driving and you have no back up person to help. Good luck to you.
Oh wow! I am surprised I haven’t gone deaf yet with all the ear piercing barks I’ve heard the last few months 😂 thanks for sharing!
 
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