Almost two weeks ago now, I bought a Labradoodle (Labrador-Poodle mix) to train as a guide dog for the blind.
Over and over again I was warned by his previous owner how much he hated car rides: “He has to sit in the front with me, otherwise the poor baby gets so scared. He always throws up if he has to be in a box in the back…” Oh great, I thought to myself. Imagining my life, filled with long car drives all over Germany, with a dog who would whine, bark and throw up the entire time, was a nightmare.
Nightmare pushed aside, I said goodbye to the lady and walked with Buddy, the Labradoodle, calmly to the car. I will pretend he has no issues with car rides, I told myself. I asked Buddy to sit down and wait as I opened the back and prepared my transport box for him. Very confidently I wrapped my arms around him and heaved him in. He didn’t want to at first, but I calmly told him he was fine and to stop being a drama queen (I did nothing physically – I actually said, “Stop being a drama queen.”)
He let out a very short (with what sounded like a question mark at the end) whine as I closed the door. I ignored it completely, got in the driver’s seat, started the car, turned up the music and sang along as I drove home. Hmm… no barking! No whining! The entire ride, Buddy was quiet. There was a moment where I even forgot he was back there.
When I got home, I saw he had thrown up a bit, but I think that was because he had eaten right before the drive. A few days later, we drove again. He loaded up into the car easier, was quiet the entire time and… Noooo barfing! So do you think Buddy actually had a problem with cars and driving, or did his owner make the the situation out to be something it wasn’t? She was so anxious and worried about her “poor baby”, that Buddy was a wreck by the time she had turned the key in the ignition.
This is relevant to many areas in our life with dogs. We say or think our dog feels or acts a certain way, because we think – Oh, if I were a dog and someone put me in a box in a car, I would be so scared and would probably throw up! So from day one, we project that on our dogs. We constantly say it, think it, and they sense that.
Try changing things up and expect your dog to approach a situation neutrally. Allow him or her to make their own decisions about how they feel about it. Then you can improve their behavior or just enjoy their well-behaved selves.