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My Labrador Molly won’t get in the car - help!

Discussion in 'Labrador behaviour' started by Joy, Jun 13, 2018.

  1. Joy

    Joy Registered Users

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    We’re on holiday in Cornwall and quite suddenly Molly has taken a dislike to the car. Yesterday when we went to come back from the sea, she dug her heels in and just wouldn’t get in. In fact she slipped her collar and ran off. I can’t tell you how unlike Molly this is. It didn’t look like mischief- she looked frightened. I tried soothing, luring with food etc but after a very long time I more or less heaved her in bodily.
    She was quiet once in the car, didn’t bark or whine.

    This morning we went to set off and she refused again to get in. In the end we gave up and went for a walk on the moor instead ( which actually was lovely!) But I don’t know what to do - ideally we’d like to go out in the car tomorrow and Friday, but come what may she has to travel in it on Saturday as we go home then.

    I just can’t understand why she is suddenly behaving like this - only that we are going on longer journeys than usual I suppose. Nothing else has changed.

    Any suggestions for a quick solution?
     
  2. snowbunny

    snowbunny Registered Users

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    Hi Joy - this is strange as it was in Cornwall when Willow suddenly started being a bit peculiar with the car and refused to get in a handful of times.

    As for fixing it, you can try pressure on/pressure off with her (throwing food away from and towards the car at a distance she's happy with, gradually working closer) but that might be a longer term solution. The good advice I have had is:

    1. Don't give the dog a choice if you can't accept "no" as an answer. So, if you "ask" her if she wants to get in and she says "no", you have to respect that. If you don't want her to have a choice - because sometimes we can't - then don't "ask" her in the first place; make it non-negotiable, by picking her up and putting her in the car.

    2. While she is finding it stressful, especially when you pick her up, make the "picture" as different to her normal "picture" as possible. For example, my dogs travel in the boot of the car behind a dog guard but until Willow gets over her fear, I'm picking her up and putting her on the back seat. She's not happy about it, but at least those feelings aren't making her "regular" travelling position - which we're working on counter-conditioning - any worse.

    I hope that helps and you get your holiday back on track :)
     
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  3. Joy

    Joy Registered Users

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    Thank you. These are both good tips, especially the first for Saturday, when she will have no choice. It’s not really possible for her to travel in a different part of the car as we have a Hyundai i10, so it has to be the back seat.
    Once we’re home, if it doesn’t resolve itself, I can do the longer term training.
     
  4. snowbunny

    snowbunny Registered Users

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    OK, so try to change the picture some other way. Maybe put a towel down for her, or something that is consistently different for the "you don't have a choice" compared to when you are asking.
     
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  5. Plum's mum

    Plum's mum Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    @Joy, I also have a Hyundai i10 and Plum travels on the back seat, but a couple of times, on short journeys, she has curled up in the footwell of the passenger seat with the seat pushed back as far as it would go. She is a tiddler so it fits her ok and she curls in to a ball and sleeps. The smallness of the space could be a help or a hindrance.

    Also, the back seats go down don't they to form a large boot space so you could try that? When I go on holiday in August I was thinking of doing this to add a bit of extra space for the luggage with Plum in the middle! Again, Molly may find a bit more space a help or a hindrance.

    Good luck.
     
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  6. Joy

    Joy Registered Users

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    @Plum's mum Thanks so much for the suggestion. I wonder if Molly would squeeze into the passenger footwell - years ago my cocker spaniel travelled like that all the time ( I occasionally changed nose instead of gear)- but Molly is pretty big.
    And yes, I’d forgotten that the seats go down so that might be worth looking at too.
    I was thinking I’d put her ‘bed’, a large duvet, on the seat to see if that helped.
     
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  7. MF

    MF Registered Users

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    Snowie went through a stage of refusing to jump in the car. He’d lie down and refuse to budge. In retrospect I wonder if it was his back, which we didn’t know was injured yet.

    One thing I did was throw treats before he knew he was going to the car. It was a constant trail of treats all the way to the car with the last one in the car, which he had to jump into the car to get. It worked until he caught on!

    Another encouragement is having the passenger in the car already calling him - he happily hops in if someone is in the car already.

    If no one is around to help and he’s refusing, I open both back doors and call him from the other door, through the car.

    Thankfully he no longer flat out refuses - again, thinking it might’ve been his back in the past. But he does often want to stay and sniff and not get in the car. Very annoying! So now I make sure he’s on leash before we get to the car so that we have momentum walking to the car and hopping in - otherwise he cleverly disappears into the bushes to continue his outing, like a child not wanting to stop play.

    Interestingly, he never hesitates to get into my husband’s car - open the back door and he’s in! Doesn’t matter who’s driving. But my car - a Hyundai Getz incidentally! - he hesitates.
     
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  8. snowbunny

    snowbunny Registered Users

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    This is the problem about trying to trick your dog. They're smart and they'll just learn they can't always trust you, which isn't ideal.

    I have got from Willow not even wanting to leave our property in the direction that went past the car to having her happily jump into the back and stay there until given her release cue. I must actually continue to work on this - I've not done any in a while because now we're here, there's really no need for her to go anywhere in the car. No excuses, I must crack on!
     
  9. MF

    MF Registered Users

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    Our trainer recommended this at the time. Her rationale was that he was starting to form a habit of refusing, and we had to stop the habit from forming. But I see what you mean about trickery... although how different is this to luring?
     
  10. snowbunny

    snowbunny Registered Users

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    Ah, this is a question I have pondered myself! I am absolutely not criticising, I hope you don't think that - it's a very steep learning curve I've been on.
    The difference between luring and coercion is what you are trying to get the dog to do. If you are trying to get the dog to do something they won't like, it's coercion and wrong. If you're just trying to teach the dog a movement pattern they don't understand, that's luring and is fine. That's my interpretation, anyway :)
     
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  11. Oberon

    Oberon Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    We went through a period of car reluctance with Obi when we got a different car recently. He wasn’t highly fearful, just hesitant. Fortunately it’s been greatly helped by doing a few of the things advised above, like changing the environment a bit (we put a sheepskin on the seat to make it different and more comfortable/inviting). We also upped our treat value and showed him how to get in in a two-step process - footwell, then seat (we did this with luring at first, then a cue + reward). Another thing that helped was having a person sit in the car before he got in (I sit in the driver’s seat).
     
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  12. Ski-Patroller

    Ski-Patroller Cooper, Terminally Cute

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    We would be in a world of hurt, if Cooper decided she did not like the car. Picking her up and putting her in would not be an option, and she is highly resistant to food lures when she really does not want to do something, ie is frightened of it. Fortunately she loves to ride and so does Tilly. We have to give Tilly a boost because she can't jump in any more, but she doesn't mind.
     
  13. Carys

    Carys Registered Users

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    I feel your pain. Cody will now get in the boot of my astra if i throw a treat. He won't however get out. He can as he has on a handful of occasions he just is so hesitant and on the rare occasion he has it taken ages of coaxing

    However at 36kg this very much restricts car journeys to when both my OH and I are available as I cannot lift him.

    He quite happily gets both in and out of the dog walkers van. So frustrating.
     
  14. Joy

    Joy Registered Users

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    Well we got home without any loading problems- once Molly saw the luggage being put in the car, she wasn’t going to be left behind and jumped in. However she was a bit sick on the journey. I suppose she usually just spends 10 to 15 minutes on a car journey so perhaps it was the length ( though she has done a few 4 hour ones before without a problem.)
    It will be interesting to see how she behaves tomorrow.
     
  15. drjs@5

    drjs@5 Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    Poor Joy :(
    Bet she's glad she's home x
     
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  16. Emily

    Emily Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    Haha I think you meant poor Molly ;)

    Although, poor Joy works too.
     
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  17. selina27

    selina27 Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    That's good Molly thought better of getting in the car. Not so nice to be sick though!

    I've been wondering @Joy how your IMDT course is going?
     
  18. drjs@5

    drjs@5 Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    He he....oops!
     
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  19. Snowy

    Snowy Registered Users

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    We also hit this problem a couple of months ago. Previously Nelson had sat neatly, ready to jump in the back seat on command. But then suddenly he started to refuse, despite high value treats being thrown inside. He took a stance similar to a race horse refusing a fence :(

    The solution that worked for us: "Reverse psychology".

    So rather than continuing to give the order to jump in the car, I turned it round to give him the order NOT to jump in the car. So as soon as we got close to the open car door, I threw in some high value treats as normal, and then made him sit and told him to wait. I then got him to heal and we walked a few metres in the opposite direction, to further tease him a bit.

    We repeated this routine a couple of times, and then once he was in the "wait" position near the car door, I gave the "jump in" command, and he was in like a rocket. We reinforced this behaviour every time over the next few car journeys, and still repeat this routine every week or two. We haven't had any more problems since.
     
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  20. Joy

    Joy Registered Users

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    Thanks for asking. I’ve done the two day theory and the four day practical and have taken the plunge and booked my assessment, a level 3 qualification, for October (two days). I feel a bit unsure about the puppy element of the assessment so going to see whether I can shadow someone for a while before then. (There is a one day ‘perfect puppy’ course but the Sussex one was yesterday while we were travelling home and the only one before the assessment is in Liverpool which is just too far / too expensive to get to for now.)
     
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