Fer cryin' out loud!
March 25, 2009 6:00 AM   Subscribe

Suggestions for stopping a dog from crying in the car?

Okay. I has a question about my dog.
He's a pug, about 9 months old now, we've had him for about 3 months.
The only time he cries/whines is when he is in the car, or when "the poo train" is about to leave the station.
You can see the dilemma this causes if we ever take him on a long car ride... we might end up mistaking one whine for the other, and we'll have poop in the back seat. =(
I know what you all are thinking "he thinks that going in the car equals going to the vet".
Well, that actually does NOT seem to be the case. He loves the car. When we walk by it, he wants to get in. We open the door, and he's up on the seat before we even get to say "up, boy". He knows there is a good chance of a dog park, or a trip to the pet store, or some other social event happening at the other end of the trip.
So, it's like he's excited in the car but not sure how to express it, other then crying and whining like we've just taken him from his mommy pug. (I mean, he sounds really heartbroken and pitiful).
I've wondered if it might be motion-sickness related (he doesn't really start fussing until the car starts)... but he seems ready to play the *instant* he hops out of the car... and I don't know if that is unusual for a dog that is carsick.
Often, on the trip home, he's much more quiet and sedate - though that might be because he's tired from playing at wherever our destination was.

Anyhoo... I was wondering if anyone had suggestions for getting my pup to quiet down. We have done some clicker training with him... and I've tried a ["Quiet...." (settles down briefly), click, then treat] routine, but it's so far only worked for short periods of quieting down. (also, the fact that he has no problem eating the treats makes me doubt the carsick possibility)
Suggestions? Similar experiences?
posted by Tbola to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
When you were nine months old you probably shit yourself in the car quite a bit too, so technically speaking, he's already one up on you.

He's young. Just give him time and he'll be happy as Larry. Even Jake. Don't punish him for being upset or nervous, but at the same time, don't reinforce his behaviour by reaching back and giving him a scratch and going "It's okay sweetie, shhhh, we're nearly there, good boy". Just let him get used to it.
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:22 AM on March 25, 2009

Crate training. In the car, put the dog in the crate. Done correctly, dogs won't poo in the crate.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:28 AM on March 25, 2009

The best advice I can give is to just have patience and NEVER reward his silly whining with attention. Trying to "soothe" a nervous dog trains them to behave nervously. That kind of unwanted behavior should be ignored.

posted by General Tonic at 7:13 AM on March 25, 2009

If you are trying to get to a place on time, you can try to leave earlier and walk him until he does poo and then take him into the car.
posted by spec80 at 7:24 AM on March 25, 2009

I'd like to suggest something vets use quite often - called Rescue Remedy. Check out the uses for pets here: http://www.rescueremedy.com/rescue-remedy-in-the-news/pets.asp

Also, lavender essential oil is a good alternative. RR can be found at Whole Foods or other holistic shops. (You can put it in their water or even rub it on your hands and then pet your dog.)

Good luck!
posted by Mysticalchick at 8:22 AM on March 25, 2009

I always walk/run my dog until he poops before we get in the car, since he is now 12 years old and has never stopped with the car-whining. He's usually fine on highways, and only whines when there's lots of speeding up / slowing down so I think it is a car-queasy issue. So yeah, I can't tell if it's a "I gotta poop" whine or a "I hate this stupid car" whine so I make sure I get the poop out of him first.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:22 AM on March 25, 2009

It does sound like he is just excited or overstimulated in the car. One of my dogs is like this, too, and the cure for her has been to make it so she can't see outside. We put her in her crate in the way-back of our station wagon. We put the back seat down so we can see her, but we also pull the cargo cover over her crate so that she can't see the motion of things passing overhead. Basically her view is limited to what she can see out of the holes in the back of her crate. She is MUCH, MUCH happier now--just settles in and chills, whereas she used to be a barking, whining mess. You may not be able to replicate this exact setup, but you could experiment with draping a cloth over the crate. Obviously, you want the dog to be crate trained first so he is comfortable being in it.
posted by HotToddy at 8:27 AM on March 25, 2009

I just saw this great video with the Dog Whisperer on this very subject. Have a look.
posted by watercarrier at 9:04 AM on March 25, 2009

I would just say that your dog can't wait to reach the exciting new destination. He's basically saying: "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we..." over and over.

A good indication is that he is quieter on the way back when he has already had a lot of fun.

Our dog does this with more restrained, a few whines shortly before we reach a desirable destination that he knows and reproachful glares when we have to stop at a red light.

I think this will cease when he gets older (maybe your lucky and the time can be counted in month and not years :-) )
posted by mmkhd at 10:56 AM on March 25, 2009

Our dog cries often in the car, too, and we weren't sure if it was discomfort or excitement. Since we usually end up at the dog park, or somewhere equally fun, we figure it is excitement. Our trainer told us to start taking him *everywhere* with us, even a quick trip up to the store. She said to mix it up a bit. One trip to the park, a trip to the pet store, a trip to somewhere where he doesn't come out of the car, or even go out and get in the car and just SIT THERE. Then hopefully the car will no longer be associated with FUN, and be just another ordinary thing. We're just starting to do this more - it was too cold to be leaving her in the car for long or just going out there, but now with the milder weather we'll just put him in there and come inside for a few minutes. Let's hope it works.
posted by wennj at 11:45 AM on March 25, 2009

Our dog gets pretty anxious in the car, but he doesn't whine very often. He'll pace for a while, but usually settles down and either lays down or sticks his head out the window. No matter how nervous he is, he'll instantly want to play at the dog park and he'll always accept treats.

Your dog is still relatively young, give him a chance to grow out of it. Don't encourage the nervous behavior by giving him attention.
posted by schyler523 at 2:15 PM on March 25, 2009

Sounds like your dog might be anticipating the fun that comes at the end of a car ride - he 'knows' that he's going to the park (or wherever) because there's a reliable correlation between getting in the car, and having fun. So his 'having fun' frame of mind propagates backward through the routine (a clumsy way of putting it, but hopefully you get the meaning), until he's ready to have fun as soon as he gets in the car. But there's no outlet for this energy, so it manifests as whining. You can try to break the association between car and fun as suggested above by wennj - take him for car rides that end in indifferent situations. Then the car is no longer a reliable predictor of fun, and he'll wait till he gets to the park before getting excited.
posted by primer_dimer at 4:43 AM on March 26, 2009

I have two pugs (one's 3, one's 4 years old) and they try to do this terrible whining whenever we take them anywhere if we put them in the "way back" of the station wagon. We used to put them back there because it had a plastic lining, but they slide around a lot and hate it back there.

Now, for short trips, I like putting them in the back seat - the upholstery is more comfortable and they can settle in and go to sleep while the car is moving. They will stand up and look out of the windows when the car's stopped, but they don't whine. If we're going on long trips we put them in their crates, and put both crates into the way-back. If they're in their crates, with their bedding, they only complain very occasionally.

Some of this is redundant, but there you go.
posted by rubadub at 10:26 AM on March 27, 2009

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