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It all started when my dog was young. At 6 months old a lady wanted us to have him and took him to a local bank not too far from my house. I ended up walking there to pick him up but when we actually tried walking home with him I noticed how he wouldn’t move. I had to carry him home because he was too afraid of cars. I got started on his training as soon as I could but he would barely leave the outside of my house. Now he’s a year old and the most I’ve been able to take him is about a quarter of a mile. When we start to get near busy streets he freaks out. I can tell he’s anxious because he won’t take treats or toys when I try to reward him for getting farther then he has before. He also is hesitant to get inside a car and pulled trying to get away from getting inside. Once I finally get him inside, he doesn’t stop shaking no matter what. So please, what do I do to help my dog be less afraid of cars? As of right now I’ve just been walking him to the busy street and sitting there with him while I try to desensitize him from the sound of cars but it’s not working. I’ve never known anyone else with this problem nor do I know how to fix it.
 

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It all started when my dog was young. At 6 months old a lady wanted us to have him and took him to a local bank not too far from my house. I ended up walking there to pick him up but when we actually tried walking home with him I noticed how he wouldn’t move. I had to carry him home because he was too afraid of cars. I got started on his training as soon as I could but he would barely leave the outside of my house. Now he’s a year old and the most I’ve been able to take him is about a quarter of a mile. When we start to get near busy streets he freaks out. I can tell he’s anxious because he won’t take treats or toys when I try to reward him for getting farther then he has before. He also is hesitant to get inside a car and pulled trying to get away from getting inside. Once I finally get him inside, he doesn’t stop shaking no matter what. So please, what do I do to help my dog be less afraid of cars? As of right now I’ve just been walking him to the busy street and sitting there with him while I try to desensitize him from the sound of cars but it’s not working. I’ve never known anyone else with this problem nor do I know how to fix it.
Hi.

By sitting on the busy street as the object of his fear speeds by, you're not desensitizing him - you're flooding him. It's like you being afraid of spiders (or snakes, or wasps or whatever it is you're afraid of), and me putting you in a room with them and not letting you run out. You might stop trying to run out of the room, but your heart's still pounding, you're still tense, still sweating, and still thinking "please get them away from me! Please leave me alone! I can't cope with this!" In short, you're still panicking, but inwardly.

So.

Avoid the main streets as best you can If you can't, walk him at quieter times when there's less traffic. Put as much distance between the traffic and your dog as possible, keep yourself between him and the road (Big Bad Scary Car has to get through Hooman to get to me). Hold a treat in your hand and teach a prolonged touch, which helps block off the line of sight, use parked cars, walls and hedges for the same reason.

If he can only make a quarter mile, turn round and head back home just before that quarter mile mark. What you're saying then is, "I can see you're getting scared. That's OK. I get it. We'll go home/find another way to get to that park/field/walking spot".

Once he's far enough away from the traffic to be calm, give him a treat. Not for being calm - but so that you start to change the emotional response.

Do this with your own car.
Treat him for walking past it.
Treat him for standing beside it.
Treat him for sitting beside it.
Open the door and treat him for standing beside the car with the door open.
Treat him for sitting beside the car with the door open
Close the door and treat.
Open the door again, treat.
Close, treat.
Put a treat on the floor of the car, see if he takes it. If not go back to desensitizing him to the sound of the door opening and closing. Try again a few days later.
Put treat on the floor of the car. Leave the door open as he takes it. Rinse and repeat until he's running to the car to get the treat.
Put the treat on the back seat of the car or in the boot, wherever you want him. If he hops in, great! Reward him for being there. Leave the door open.
Next try closing the door, but immediately let him back out again.
Rinse and repeat until he's fine being in the car with the door closed.
Get into the driver's seat. Treat. Key in the ignition. Treat. Key out of the ignition. Treat. Get out of the car. Treat.
Start the engine. Treat. Kill the engine. Leave the car.
Start the engine, move forward a few feet. Treat. Kill the engine. Leave the car.
Start the engine, go round the block. Kill the engine. Treat. Leave the car.
 
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Well done for recognising the problem. I think you might be trying to push him a little too fast though.

A dig cannot overcome anxiety while he is in a state of anxiety. So taking him to a busy road might be sensitising him, rather than desensitising him.

Sensitisation is when the stimulus is repeated, but to the point of annoyance. Like a colleague who has a habit of clicking a pen - most days you can tolerate it or ignore it, but one day, maybe in an important meeting where everyone is pressured and maybe you have other stresses going on, you haven't slept and you have a headache, and he is click - click - clicking.

The place you need to be is where he is aware of traffic - but only just. If he is ok at ¼ of a mile, then ¼ of a mile plus 10 metres is where you need to be. Aware, but relaxed. At this stage, reward him generously for being calm with whatever he loves; frankfurter sausage works well and to a dog several tiny pieces seem to have more value than one piece of equivalent size. You are trying to create a positive conditioned emotional response (google +CER for the science). This is where his brain changes from cars = scary, to cars = sausage =good.

Over time - months rather than days - you can work on reducing the distance.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Hi.

By sitting on the busy street as the object of his fear speeds by, you're not desensitizing him - you're flooding him. It's like you being afraid of spiders (or snakes, or wasps or whatever it is you're afraid of), and me putting you in a room with them and not letting you run out. You might stop trying to run out of the room, but your heart's still pounding, you're still tense, still sweating, and still thinking "please get them away from me! Please leave me alone! I can't cope with this!" In short, you're still panicking, but inwardly.

So.

Avoid the main streets as best you can If you can't, walk him at quieter times when there's less traffic. Put as much distance between the traffic and your dog as possible, keep yourself between him and the road (Big Bad Scary Car has to get through Hooman to get to me). Hold a treat in your hand and teach a prolonged touch, which helps block off the line of sight, use parked cars, walls and hedges for the same reason.

If he can only make a quarter mile, turn round and head back home just before that quarter mile mark. What you're saying then is, "I can see you're getting scared. That's OK. I get it. We'll go home/find another way to get to that park/field/walking spot".

Once he's far enough away from the traffic to be calm, give him a treat. Not for being calm - but so that you start to change the emotional response.

Do this with your own car.
Treat him for walking past it.
Treat him for standing beside it.
Treat him for sitting beside it.
Open the door and treat him for standing beside the car with the door open.
Treat him for sitting beside the car with the door open
Close the door and treat.
Open the door again, treat.
Close, treat.
Put a treat on the floor of the car, see if he takes it. If not go back to desensitizing him to the sound of the door opening and closing. Try again a few days later.
Put treat on the floor of the car. Leave the door open as he takes it. Rinse and repeat until he's running to the car to get the treat.
Put the treat on the back seat of the car or in the boot, wherever you want him. If he hops in, great! Reward him for being there. Leave the door open.
Next try closing the door, but immediately let him back out again.
Rinse and repeat until he's fine being in the car with the door closed.
Get into the driver's seat. Treat. Key in the ignition. Treat. Key out of the ignition. Treat. Get out of the car. Treat.
Start the engine. Treat. Kill the engine. Leave the car.
Start the engine, move forward a few feet. Treat. Kill the engine. Leave the car.
Start the engine, go round the block. Kill the engine. Treat. Leave the car.
Thank you for the suggestion, but what do I do If his comfort zone is only in front of my house and he will no longer accept a treat past there. I don’t think he understands that I reward him for good behavior with treats because he’s not imprinting his actions onto good behavior.
 
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