JD Allinder

Coonhound on Board

In Posts on December 27, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Rebecca recently left the following comment, and I thought I’d respond to it today:

Thanks so much for your insights. We have Hudson, a 9-month-old BTCH, and he is a handful. What do you do in the car? We have a GSP who has never been trouble in the car (it’s a Jeep Liberty, and she loves sticking her head out the sunroof, which does get some attention, but otherwise she’s great). Hudson seems very anxious in the vehicle, but only when it’s moving. He whines and brays with that deep voice of his; but mostly whining and jumping around. We tried sitting in the vehicle with him for a while, but it’s just not going anywhere. Any other ideas? How is Jane in the car?

Jane was anxious in the car for at least the first six months – maybe even the first full year. It was pretty challenging for both of us at times, particularly since we took several extended road trips together within the first few months. She continually paced and whined during the drives to our daily hiking spots around Southeast Michigan, though never on the return back home. (Rule number one for managing any unwanted behavior with a dog: exhaust her.) On long-distance trips she’d work herself into a terrible state and fill the car with her especially stinky farts. I’d have to stop after the first 20 miles or so whereupon she’d have explosive diarrhea. After that she’d pretty much settle down and sleep for the duration of the trip. I think with Jane there was a combination of coonhound excitement and nervousness from whatever horrible previous experiences she’d had. I’m guessing she’d had a few unpleasant surprises in her past that involved being transported in cars. Once she trusted I wouldn’t abandon her, the farting and diarrhea subsided. Curbing the pacing and whining just took a lot of patience and correcting. I use the forceful and curt “tsch” sound to let Jane know I want her to stop whatever the offending behavior may be, and she responds well to it. That correction has been the most successful tool in managing her whining. (Of course, there are many times when whining is appropriate – it’s important to let dogs be themselves.)

A big part of the coonhound’s pacing and excitement seems to involve movement. This probably explains why Hudson is only agitated when the Jeep is in motion. Jane is attracted to and stimulated by anything that moves. She’s lunged at falling leaves, shadows, bicycles, sleds, even, terrifyingly, a freight train. I think car travel might just be too stimulating for a coonhound while he’s still young – way too much stuff moving around out there. One effective technique I’ve used for changing Jane’s behavior is to use food to reward what I want her to do. I take my car through the drive-through car wash about once a week. This used to be too much for Jane. She’d howl at the brushes and spraying water and lunge at the windows with her gums pulled back. Finally I got the bright idea to feed her treats while going through the car wash – she’d always rather eat than attack – and it did the trick. I did this about three or four times, and the behavior stopped. She now associates the car wash with pleasure and sits as quiet as a church mouse.

Maybe you could try this with Hudson: correct his unwanted behavior – whining and pacing – with a “tsch” and then reinforce his compliance with a treat. If he’s as intelligent (and as food-centric) as Jane, he’ll figure out the jig pretty fast. You might also try exercise before riding in the car. A brisk 30-minute walk before going out might help take the edge off of his excitement.

Thanks for visiting Life With Jane. I’d love to see pictures of Hudson and your GSP and read about your experiences.

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