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  1. I can't really give prevention advice (since I'm the one with the problem!), but I can summarize some of the mistakes I made and lessons I've learned. 1) Use a crate. I started with my dog in a crate, which he was totally happy with. At some point I stopped using it (MISTAKE!). Without the crate or any other type of restraining device, I lost the ability to control Finn's movements and his access and ability to self-reward by looking out the window and barking. I'm sure every dog doesn't need a crate, but I yield to others in how to prevent bad car behaviors without it. 2) Invest time in training for behavior you expect in the car; have patience, and go slowly. I just transitioned from Finn in a crate to Finn being free without any kind of behavior training (MISTAKE!) Since you can't enforce much while driving alone if your dog is loose, his small behavior problems quickly escalated. I imagine (others please chime in) that taking some time to teach him what I expected (down/stay, no barking) and rewarding those good behaviors early might have helped. 3) Acknowledge when something's not working, and seek other tools. As a new puppy owner, I ignored small warning signs (e.g., fixating on things out the window, low growling as they went by). I thought it was cute... (MISTAKE!). This should have triggered intervention (e.g., back in a covered crate), but I let it go on until it escalated into truly horrific behaviors, making it even harder to desensitize and re-train. 4) Know your dog. I *wanted* Finn to be a dog that can ride calmly, unrestrained in the back seat with no issues. But, that's not him, at least not yet. I wasted a lot of time trying to do desensitization work with too many variables in play (e.g., used a seatbelt and window shades, but Finn could still pace a little bit and look out the front window). With his sensitivity to visual stimuli, we have to use a covered crate. Our training progressed much faster once I based my training decisions on HIM, not myself. There are many others here more wise than myself, so hope they can chip in!
  2. Just wanted to check in and say we've had MAJOR progress using a covered crate to reduce visual stimuli, and a kong stuffed with yummy treats (gives Finn something to do while riding). We spent about a week just getting in the car/crate, sitting in it with the car running while Finn enjoyed his kong. We've slowly been upping our drive times and speed. For reference, I used to not be able to back out of our driveway without Finn barking or crying. We've now made it over a mile from home with NO noise. I pair each drive with a fun place (park, beach, etc), which seems to also be helping. A long ways from being able to drive far or fast yet, but this is night and day from where we were at the start of the month. Thanks again for all the advice!
  3. We've restarted the desensitization protocol, but seems like visual stimuli are just too exciting for Finn. Even when the car is parked, he gets distracted by leaves blowing by, not to mention people and cats. We are thinking of trying the covered crate again to reduce this variable. What type of crate would folks recommend? We have a metal crate, but in the past when Finn has gotten stressed in the car, he's resorted to biting the bars, and I'm worried about him injuring his teeth. Ideally, with the protocol, we won't ever reach this point again, but just curious to know overall thoughts on metal vs. plastic vs. soft-sided car crates? Also, how big of a crate is ideal for car travel? The one Finn sleeps in at night is big enough for him to stand up and turn around comfortably - I'm worried it will allow him to much movement, not to mention it takes up the entire back area of my station wagon. We have a smaller crate from when he was a puppy - he isn't able to sit and stand fully upright in this smaller one, but can lay curled up comfortably. Lastly, has anyone ever used medications to help with desensitization? I've been trying to exercise Finn before working on the car each day, but wondering if meds will help keep him calm and speed the process along. I don't want to have him on meds in perpetuity, just to help him with his fear of car rides. Thanks!
  4. Ok, thanks for the support! Will give it a go again.
  5. Posting again in hopes of any additional feedback that may help. Finn and I have made some progress. With a window shade, chamomile calming treats, and positive reinforcement (praise and treats for being quiet), he will mostly ride quietly in the car for longer rides and if we are on streets he doesn't know. He never naps, but will sit or stand quietly looking forward or out the rear window. He does get hyper alert at bumps in the road, and if we are on a continuously rough road, he starts to whine and bark. Around town, it's a different story. On roads he knows (e.g., drive to the park, commute to work) he reverts back to howling, barking, heavy panting, and "crazy eyes". He almost seems to anticipate the bumps in the road he hates the most - he crouches and fixates on items on the side of the road (e.g., cars, signs), and then lunges at the window when we pass over the bump, no matter how slow I go. Figuring it's time to step back again and restart the desensitization protocol, but any input or advice would be appreciated.
  6. That's what Finn used to do... I also recommend some type of restraining device, it makes a huge difference (sanity and safety)! We've made a little progress! Finn now jumps in the car and goes to his "seat" - he's treating it like a job, which I see as a good thing...shows he's actually listening to me instead of being in hyperdrive. He's still very alert and a little wired up when the car starts to move, but he's stopped lunging at the windows, and we can drive for a few minutes before he starts to exhibit crazy eyes and pant. So, we are slowly working on extending our time in the car. But we made it out of park! Baby steps! Thanks for the support and feedback - much appreciated.
  7. Thanks for the additional ideas and support. We will keep working sans crate, I think.
  8. Well, it's been almost a month, and our progress has been minimal. Finn will happily jump in the crate and sit quietly. As soon as the engine goes on, he is in alert mode, and with any movement, starts crazy barking and biting at the crate bars. This is WITH a month of desensitization as talked about above, and a kong or chew toy with him in the crate. Every time Finn escalates to anything beyond happy dog chewing on his toys, I take it down a notch and spend a few days on the previous step until he seems calm and bored. But we can't seem to progress. Life has required us to take Finn on some longer trips during this period. To avoid totally poisoning him to the crate, we've had him ride at the passenger's feet. This has worked ok - he pants the entire time and doesn't relax, but he's not maniacally barking or lunging at street signs. Two major cons with this band-aid strategy - hair everywhere, and it isn't feasible without the passenger. Feeling pretty discouraged. I'm wondering if the crate just isn't going to work for us. Any thoughts? Other tools we have but haven't started working with yet: doggy seatbelt and a hood/eye cover
  9. We've just begun the "look at that" game, but good idea on eventually building the car into the game once we have a better base. We used a version of this game when he was really young (5 mo) and reactive to passing cars on the street, so I know it will work eventually. Shouldn't have let the game lapse, since evidently he just transferred the behavior to other things moving by him that make noise (skateboards, horses)....another learning moment! The bonus is he's picking it up much faster this round. That's a great story about Gibbs bopping the balloon! Gives me hope! Working with this breed is fascinating... compared to other breeds, the highs are higher, and the lows are lower It's been very humbling to realize all the behaviors I (unknowingly) taught him....
  10. Thanks for all the advice. DutchBorderfan, I hadn't thought of it like this before, but I like the "stop with a win!" concept for each training step and session. Finn is quite intelligent (he learns tricks in minutes) so it's hard not to push too hard too fast, but I can see how that would leave us both frustrated with behavior modification exercises. Urge to herd and D'Elle, I started yesterday with dialing it wayyyy back like you suggested. We get in the car when Finn is calm, and get back out and go inside, also calmly. Several repetitions throughout the day. By this morning, Finn was giving me what I call the "eye"... i.e., what the heck are we doing? Is this what I'm looking for when you say he should be bored with the activity? Some other follow-up questions: - Do you suggest giving treats for the in/out and sitting calmly in car sessions? He is VERY food motivated, so not sure if this helps get him to the "bored with the activity" stage if he is receiving food rewards - Self-rewarding behavior: obviously he was self-rewarding when he was uncrated and running around the back seat. With the crate, though, it's not clear to me if he is afraid or self-rewarding. When crated/covered, Finn was mainly whining and barking when we passed over a rough patch of road or if I accelerated beyond a certain speed. In the limited cases this occurred before I began the desensitization process, he was also gnawing on the sides of his crate or chomping his chew toy. So seemed more like anxiety than self-rewarding. Does this change the steps at all? As far as other over the top behaviors: - He's pretty nuts at the beach: herds waves obsessively, and pulls very hard on the leash as we approach the beach - when I stop moving, he lays himself flat on the ground and tries to army crawl forward. We've been working on polite walking to earn access, or just taking walks adjacent to the beach (i.e., there it is, it's no big deal) - He charges things that scare him (horses, skateboards, aggressive dogs). We've been working on "look at me" games for these kind of triggers, and better general obedience so I can recall him in those situations.
  11. Thanks for all the feedback thus far. Sounds like I need to slow down and break it into even smaller pieces than I originally planned. Willing to try anything, no matter how long it takes! Any additional feedback would still be appreciated.
  12. First, I just want to say thank you to all members on this forum. I've already learned so many tips and tricks for working with this amazing breed, and look forward to continual learning. My dog, Finn, is a 1 year old border collie. I've had him since he was 8 weeks old. I am a first time border collie owner, and our journey together thus far has been filled with lots of learning on both ends. Finn's grown into a polite, friendly, and happy dog, and I've learned so much about how to interact with and motivate him in a constructive way. While I've been able to successfully coach Finn through many characteristic Border Collie-isms (pulling like a maniac on the leash, lunging at cars while walking, etc.), I'm having limited success in helping him learn how to ride calmly in the car. I've looked through the forum regarding this topic, since I know I'm not the first to have this issue, but am hoping for some additional input. The situation: Up until about 7 months, Finn rode happily in the car, laying quietly in the back seat. Around 7 months, he began to notice stuff out the window. He transitioned to sitting and staring intently ("trance" mode), but still being quiet. This soon progressed to growling at certain objects as they approached, particularly highway/freeway signs (the big ones suspended overhead that indicate exits). In hindsight, I realize that this behavior should have been immediately addressed. Chalk that one up to being a novice border collie owner. His obsession with street signs then advanced to barking madly at them and racing from side to side in the back seat to make sure he didn't miss a single one. While in this aroused state, he was mentally unreachable - he didn't respond to any commands that are usually fairly solid (down, sit) and wouldn't even sniff at treats (kibble, ham). Since this behavior is distracting and dangerous to the driver, and obviously distressing to Finn, it was time (belatedly) to intervene. My first attempt was to restrict his movement with a harness/seatbelt, and to put shades over the window to reduce visual stimuli. No luck - he repeatedly tore the shade down, and shifted from occasional barking to continual loud/scared barking and "screaming". I think this was because he didn't like the way the seatbelt was holding him, but not sure. So I moved on to a covered crate, both to restrict his movement and to restrict what he can see outside. He uses a crate for sleeping at home, and shows no hesitation to jump in the car crate. We've been working through a desensitization process - getting in and out of the crate with lots of treats, getting treats while the car is parked but running, and if still calm, taking short trips to fun places (park, trails, beach, etc.) with treats/praise delivered when he is being quiet (I'm using a tube to roll treats to him as I drive). I also have his favorite toy in the crate to give him a chewing option. He doesn't whine at all while the car is parked but running, but often begins a high whine when we start to move. We've been working on this about a week, with limited progress. We go from fine and calm when parked/car running, to agitated and whining as soon as the car starts to move. Any tips on how to help us through this desensitization process? I know desensitization takes time, so maybe it's just a matter of continuing to work on it every single day. Open to any and all suggestions. Thank you!
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