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Afraid of the car

Welcome to Pitbulls.org Forums Pit Bull Talk Training Afraid of the car

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    We adopted our girl last weekend and she will not get into the car! We’ve tried the open doors, sniff, treats, etc etc for the past week. She got into my brother-in-law’s van just fine, but won’t get into our cars.

    I feel that it has to do with bring left at the Humane Society twice (through no fault of her own!). Has anyone had this problem? How did they get over it? She’s already 44 lbs, so it’s kinda touch to pick her up to get her in the car- and that doesn’t solve the problem.

    Thank you!



    Hi there,

    I just adopted a female from a shelter too. She has the same fear of getting into a car and like you nothing seemed to motivate her to get in. She just recently started to get into the car on her own. We are so excited because she is 78 pounds and installing a crane to get her in the car was just not an option. The trick that seems to be working for her at this point is that getting into the car consistently means she is going to go have fun. I think it’s all about trust and consistency. Even if we have to go do something that isn’t so fun (the vet for instance) there is always something fun that happens afterwards. Unfortunately, this has been totally her idea and there was no ah-ha fail safe method of getting her into the car. I think you are just going to have to gain your dogs trust that getting in the car is how you get to have fun.


    I had the same issue with Layla. When I adopted her from the humane society she wouldn’t get in my car. Like you I suspected it was because she was given up twice. She hated the car, that was until I took her to the vet. I know that sounds very strange but she LOVED the vet. It was just a meet and greet. She loves people and loves being with other dogs. Since she wasn’t sick she had a blast. The vet and all of the ladies in the office knew what kind of dog she is and they didn’t have an issue, in fact I couldn’t get them to stop loving on her, getting on the floor with her, and giving her treats. Before I took her to the vet I tried the treat trick which didn’t work, tried short drives in which I would just drive around the neighborhood and come home, didn’t work. Went to the neighbors several times, that didn’t work either. The vet is what did the trick. We then went to the dog groomers and went home. We were away from home a total of 4 hours. While getting groomed I had to leave her and come back to get her, (the groomers loved her too said she was so well behaved and sweet). Now if I say wanna go for a ride she jumps around in circles. I think because she went to a place that she was extremely happy, (the vet of all places), and the fact that we were in a long ride and I still brought her home made her realize that I am keeping her. Keep plugging away. Try to find a place that she is going to have a blast, take her there. Build up to a longer ride and be gone for a while. It helped my girl, maybe it will help yours. =)


    I actually had a friend w/a Sheltie that did the same thing.  What she did was open all the car doors, set with her other dog inside the car, played gave him treats, and just made a HUGE production over the dog that was in the car.  They just let the Sheltie do her own thing while they were doing this. I think she said that went on for 2 days.  When the Sheltie eventually got into the car, she basically just “threw a party” and made a HUGE production over her  (she also got hot dogs as treats while they were doing this–but only when she got in the car).  Eventually, they took short rides (to the dog park, someplace where she could just have a TON of fun).  Eventually the dog got over it.  As people motivated as pits seem to be, I bet you could tailor this to suit your dog too!  Good luck!


    You know, it probably does have something to do with the fear of the shelter.  My 9 year old step daughter had the same issue.  Whatever you do, work with your dog BEFORE you have to be somewhere in 30 minutes!!!!  Also, she may be more afraid of enclosed spaces, rather than of being left (would explain why she would get into the van, but not your car.)  You can try opening all of the doors and just letting her explore on her own terms to get her comfortable. You can even try calling her through the car, crawl through the car with the leash and stand on one side while she’s on the other, don’t pull on the leash, just have a hold of it so she can’t run off.  Have her come to you by walking through the car.  Once she’s comfortable with that, have her stop and sit on her way through the car, leaving all the doors open.  This may help her discover the car at her own pace.  Plus, if her reward for getting into the car is that she gets to get out on the side you’re standing on, she may be more willing to endure the car for a second. WHENEVER she is in the car make sure she get LOADS of treats and loves.  Take her good places like to the park or somewhere that she will enjoy so that she learns to associate the car with good things (even the vet!)  However, you will also find that her confidence increases with time.  As she learns to trust and love you more and more, she will be less skeptical of your request for her to climb into that box with wheels.  Not to mention that, if she’s like most pits, she will overcome her unease, simply to be able to go with you, rather than be left behind.  Be patient and give her lots of time.  If you pressure her and yourself you will get frusterated and she will read that and pick up more stressful feelings about cars.  Be persistant and she will come around.

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