I thought someone here asked about car sickness… and looking for something else I just found a post by Debbie Kirby and was going to post it, but can't find the thread.. So here it is:
The technique below has been foolproof, (so far!) on at least a dozen dogs with varying degrees of car sickness and car phobia. You'll have to commit yourself to six weeks of re-conditioning and adhere strictly to the rule about not putting her in the car unless you're training. That means she has to stay home for six weeks.
First – pick a reward. She's going to get the same reward throughout training, so pick a good one. Cheese, hot dog, liverwurst, squeaky toy (a new one) or whatever turns her on. It's important that her goodie is something she's not going to have access to any other time except this particular training lesson.
Week One: Have her sit/stay while you open the door and then tell her "OK" or whatever word you want to use that means get in the car now. If she doesn't get in right away, pick her up and put her in, don't wait for her to decide, just put her in the car if she doesn't move right away. Then you get in and wait for her to be calm. If she's already calm because you haven't turned the engine on that's fine. Tell her good girl and give her her special
goodie. Repeat this exercise twice a day for one week. Even if this is not an issue for her (sitting in the car with the engine off) still do it. You're laying groundwork for the weeks to come. When you're ready to get out of the car make her wait, with the door open, until you give her a command to get out of the car.
Week Two: Same as week one except turn the engine on -- leave it run for 30 seconds then turn it off. As soon as she's calm, give her her goodie. Do this twice a day for the rest of the week.
Week Three: Same as week two except leave the engine running for one minute. For the rest of the week alternate between leaving the engine off and turning it on -- it shouldn't be predictable though -- two times with it on, once with it off, once on, three times off --- if she's calm while the engine is running, give her the goodie. If you have to wait until the engine is off, that's fine. The lesson her is that "when you're calm you get the
goodie", not "when the engine is off you get a goodie".
Important note: Don't try to encourage her to calm down or interact with her in any way - wait calmly for her to calm herself :)
Week Three: Same as above except you're up to two minutes with the engine running. Do the exercise twice a day, but every third of fourth time you get in the car leave the engine off.
Week Four: Same as above -- but now the engine stays running until she is calm. Bring a book to occupy yourself and be patient <g>. Your timing has to be right on. When she's still and calm for two seconds, pop out the goodie. As with before, do this twice a day. By the middle of this week most dogs are over their car fear/anxiety, but if you stop now the dog could backslide, so it's important to finish up this week and do the next week's
exercise. The slower you take it the more likely it will be that the dog's behavior is permanently changed.
Week Five: Same as above, but the engine stays running for one minute after she's calmed down and gotten her goodie. The reason for this is that we don't want to teach her that calming down is a way to get the engine turned off.
Week Six and beyond: Same as above, but you pull out of the driveway and back in again. If she's calm, give her a goodie. If she's not just sit there, engine running, until she is. Do this twice a day, but increase the distance you drive (out of the driveway and around the block, for example) each time you get a positive response while the car is moving. By the end of the week you should be able to go for a fifteen or twenty minute drive. If she is
now calm at the first turn of the engine, give her her goodie, then give her another one when the ride is over.
I've only explained this once before online and it worked well for the owner. Normally, I'd be there to see the dog's reactions and adjust the schedule or technique, as needed. Feel free to back up or go slower if you think your dog needs it, but resist the temptation to speed up things the first three weeks when things are looking good.
Please let me know how it goes!</g>