Love your dog? Belt it … restraint keeps canine rider in place

In response to a recent letter and response on an excited drooling dog in a car, I received a number of letters, including:

Dear Dr. Spiegel,

Being a person who is controlled by a dog and three cats, I am delighted to see a column such as yours appear in the News Journal.

[Referring to the drooling dog in car letter]… I can relate to what she is going through and solved my problem with a dog seat belt.

The following problems have been eliminated: Getting between me and the steering wheel to hang his head out the window because the window on his side is closed for safety reasons. Jumping repeatedly from the front to the back seat, being thrown to the floor or into the dash when I had to brake hard. And I no longer have to command sit, stay, down all of which was ignored because of being excited (stressed).

With the dog seat belt, he can lay down or sit up and look out the window. I can even open the window on his side without fear of his falling out or getting hit in the eyes with insects. It took two trips to accept the restriction of the seat belt. He is now a much calmer, happier traveler and sits on the passenger side like he owns it.

As you can tell I’m an advocate for dog seat belts.

A.T., Harbeson

Dear A.T.,

Thanks for your reply.

You’re quite right! Dog Seat belts can be a highly effect means of restraint and control for dogs in cars. But a panacea to the dog-car problem it’s not. Take these next two letters:

Dear Dr. Spiegel,
What do you do with a dog who gets car sick even for short 10 min. rides to the vet or groomer? We have taken him on longer two or three 

L.C., Landenberg, PA
Dear Dr. Spiegel,

I would appreciate some help in dealing with my young (16 month) Rottweiler (Mari) who drools and sometimes vomits. I would enjoy taking her out with me but the drooling is pretty bad and I hate having her sick in my car. Is there any hope this will stop? When we brought her home from the breeder, I sat in the seat and held her in my lap. I needed a shower when we got home from all her slobbers.
We have tranquilizers for her which stops the vomiting, though there is still some drooling. It, however makes her very lethargic and I don’t want to have to tranquilize her every time we go for a ride. She wouldn’t have much fun and neither would I.
Thank you for your help.
Dear L.C. and V.P.,
Here a seat belt alone won’t cut it. It may have a positive influence by restricting the mobility of the dog (e.g., the pacing or inability of the dog to settle), and thereby increasing the animal’s relative sense of stability/balance. However, it doesn’t address the underlying cause of the problem.
Dogs are getting sick in cars. Why? Most likely for the same reason people get sick in cars or on boats. There is a disturbance to their sense of equilibrium. So how can you help them. You need to slowly and gradually get them accustomed to the various stimuli associated with riding in a car (the sight of the car, the sound of the engine, and the motion associated with stopping and going and turning).
Essentially you must reintroduce riding in a car to your dog in such a way that it remains relaxed and comfortable.
First, don’t plan on taking your dog any where with you in the car for the next two-three weeks.
Reward him with praise and occasional food rewards when he’s come in and when he’s calm and relaxed. Have him get in and jump on the seat multiple times during a session. Hook on a seat belt as well.
After 4-5 days start having him get in while the car’s running, and in other sessions have him get in and then start the car. Have him sit there waiting for a delicious treat (something he really loves).The next step is adding motion. Go very slowly. You may want to just put the car in drive without moving at first. Avoid having the first motion be backwards. You can deal with that after he’s gotten comfortable going forwards. So just advance a few feet very slowly at first. Don’t break hard. You will be very slowly increasing thedistance traveled while moving slowly; then gradually add in increasing speeds.
Occasionally, take him for a walk or play when you’ve finished one of these short practice trips.
Getting him relaxed for many regular short practice rides will allow you to maintain that relaxed, comfortable state for regular trips. When he’s good for a real trip, continue doing some short trips in between.
This is a process that should be utilized for introducing first time travelers, pups/kittens to cars, as well.

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