Friday, 21 January 2022
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Dog Gone Problems: Our greyhound refuses to get into the car

Dog Gone Problems is a weekly advice column by David Codr, a dog behaviorist in Omaha. David answers dog behavior questions sent in by our readers. You can reach him at

Dog Gone Problems,

My rescue greyhound will not get into the car. This is a big problem — as she needs medical attention. What can I do?

Hi Garcia,

Whenever I have a dog who has difficulty doing something, I try to recreate the situation in a practice setting. This way I can control the situation and remove several elements to make it as easy as possible for the dog to succeed.

If you haven’t already used a clicker, you will need to prime your dog first. Toss a treat on the floor and when your dog licks it up, click. Toss another treat and click. Repeat this with a dozen or so treats — or more if your dog twitches when she hears the clicks. The idea is to associate the click with a treat. It can take more practice at this for some dogs.

After you have the clicker down, the first step would be to go where the car is with your dog, a clicker and a high-value training treat your dog really likes. Chicken liver is my go to treat.

Grab a seat about 10 feet away — farther if your dog won’t stay in near you — and watch your dog closely. The second she looks at the car, click and then throw a treat on the ground at your dog’s feet. Keep repeating this until you have given your dog 15 to 20 treats. Then take a break.

Repeat this process again later the same day, but this time toss the treats so they cause the dog to lean towards the car. Eventually, you’d like the dog to take a single step towards the car to get the treat.

The next practice session, toss the treats even closer — but don’t push too far too fast. If at any point your dog won’t move to get that treat, pick it up and toss again. But this time toss it slightly farther away from the car. At this point, we are simply trying to build up a positive association with the sight of the car and practice approaching it.

Keep practicing this way until your dog is able to walk all the way up to the car without any hesitation and looks calm — no stiffness or heavy breathing.

Once your dog is calm and relaxed walking up to the car, walk to the car and then stand next to it for one second. Then treat your dog and walk away. Do this four to five times.

The next step is to walk to the car, then reach for the door handle. Don’t actually touch it, just reach your arm out. After you pull your arm back, treat the dog, then repeat that motion. If your dog wants to move away when you reach for the door, go back to the previous step a few times.

At first you will probably only be able to reach your arm out a few inches without your dog moving away. After you can reach out that far a few times in a row without the dog looking or moving away, reach a little closer to the door handle. Keep repeating this step until you can touch the handle.

Once you can touch the handle without the dog looking or moving away, start jiggling the handle. After each jiggle, treat the dog. Keep doing this until the dog no longer moves away.

Now you are ready to open the door. At first, only open it one inch, close it and then treat the dog. Repeat this until she no longer move away. Once that is the case, open it another inch and keep repeating until you can open the door completely.

Many dogs have difficulty climbing into high-sitting cars such as SUVs. If this is the case, you may need to provide your dog steps or a ramp. Make sure the steps are ramp are stable. If it wobbles, that will make things worse. You may want to have the dog practice getting on it without the presence of the car.

The next step is to open both doors to the car and have your dog get onto the step or ramp. Once they get to the car, treat them if they stop. Have someone else the dog likes on the other side of the car calling the dog to walk through the car to get a treat from them. You may need to leave a treat on the floor or seats.

If the dog won’t get into the car, pop a treat on the seat or floor slightly inside the car so they can get it without getting inside. Once that is the case, move the treat slightly farther in or leave a train of treats about three to five inches apart.

By going slow, letting your dog get comfortable and motivating her with lots of positive reinforcement in the form of treats, your dog should be able to overcome her fear of getting into the car.

Good luck and remember — everything you do trains your dog. Only sometimes you mean it.


The Bark Box

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