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New Dog Terrified of Cars While on Walks

662 Views 13 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  Muskie46
We just brought home our 8 month old German Shepard Maggie from a rescue. Maggie was a stray when the shelter found her near St Louis. Now, she is a resident in northern Wisconsin. She is one of the sweetest dogs i have ever met. Within 5 mins of having her, she was playing fetch with my 5 year old son; being extremely patient and gently with him. Maggie is not vocal, have only heard her bark twice, shes house broke, is not a chewer (unless its her toys) and when its time to sit and relax shes as cool and mellow as can be. Maggie gets very excited for meals and eats quickly. I have been able to get her to sit and stay until i am finished filling her bowl before she starts gabbling. Working with her for only a few days, she quickly learned and responds to her name, sits on command and has stopped jumping. Very smart girl. She was also doing great on a leash. Our first time out, she was a heavy puller. After working on a few leash exercises, she walks right along side me, follows does not lead and sits every time we come to a stop. The girl is a dream come true. Que the car...

I live in a fairly quiet neighborhood on a dead end street (last house on the block). This means no passing cars. Our first couple of walks were great. a few bad habits were quickly corrected and she was very calm while walking. Being February in Northern Wisconsin, the sun doesnt come up until around 7am and its dark by 6pm. I work early and having active kids, we dont settle down for the day until 7pm (if we're lucky). This means morning and evening walks are in the dark. Up until now, she has seen and heard passing cars in the distance. Headlights and all. Maggies ears always perks up and she would become hyper aware of that vehicle. But never anything more then that. Last night, my neighbor, in a pick up truck, drove by us as we were walking and she quickly moved away and never allowed her back to the truck. Once it was past, she continued walking, turning her head back to look at the truck as it was now parked. No more then a minute later, a car turns onto our street ahead of us a full block away and she was done. Maggie booked it the opposite direction and pulled like it was the Iditarod. We headed home and she seemed fine once back in the house.

The next morning (this morning), Maggie and i headed out for our morning walk. I purposely stayed home a little later then normal, waiting for the sun to peak up for some light while walking. Once we had some light, we headed out. We only got 3 houses down the block when a car pulled onto our street a full 2 blocks ahead of us. Again, she turned and ran. This time i brought treats that she really likes, thinking i could distract her fear with those. Putting one right in front of her nose, she didnt even notice it. Walk over.

Driving in my truck sitting next to me, she does great and doesnt bat an eye lash at passing vehicles. its only when walking that she is terrified of vehicles. Even ones that arent passing or very loud.

What do you all think i could do to help?

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If your 'leash exercises' and 'corrections' consist of collar pops, I'd be very cautious of that. Punishing your dog, even though it may seem relatively benign in nature and intensity, can have negative impacts on progress. Your dog could begin to equate the presence of cars with pain or discomfort from collar corrections, even if those corrections come from inadvertently hitting the end of the leash while in flight mode.
The exercises i was referring to are more active drills; gassers (walking 5 - 10 steps forward, pivot and walk 5 - 10 steps back, etc), figure 8's, zig zaps. all drills are intended to constantly be changing direction to keep the dog watching you and learning to follow your lead. "pops" are never needed during these exercises.

I strongly suggest you teach your dog proper leash walking skills by using a flat collar (or even a martingale in the early stages, if this provides a level of safety)
I do use a martingale collar to help reduce the risk of her slipping out. some have recommended a harness, much like the ruffwear webmaster as its apparently very secure. Ive never used a harness before and am not sure if i want to go that route just yet.
Oh absolutely! That is why I use a harness and NEVER walk a dog with just the collar unless they are trained and I KNOW they will not pull. (I use the Lupine Pet roman harness and the Petsafe 3-in-1, she's never pulled out). And I definitely think there should be rules in place, and they should be enforced, not doing that is cruel. And so if what the dog's finding "unpleasant" is that I gently enforce my rules, then so be it. But since dog's don't really understand our weird human world with our weird human rules, I think causing them pain for disobeying them in rather unfair. I think gentle corrections and showing them what to do instead is much kinder. But believe me, I am not saying that using a flat collar is kinder than using a martingale. But using a harness is, because the neck is a delicate area. Pressure around the neck is not a good thing. The harness distributes the pressure over a larger and less delicate area. But it all depends on how you use it. a harsh jerk on a harness is much worse than a gentle tug on a flat collar, which is worse than no pressure on a prong collar. A properly used martingale really isn't that bad. But in a situation like this with a fearful dog, it may require a gentler approach. In any situation, I'd still prefer a harness to a collar of any kind. "Corrections" shouldn't involve discomfort to their neck.

And yes, I agree, in regards to your last statement :)
didnt mean for this to create a debate on what is borderline cruel... however, the martingale does provide me, and Maggie, with much more security then a flat collar. I do not have any experience with harnesses, but have heard to be cautious as dogs (like any collar) can slip out. I do not feel that a properly sized martingale is any more harmful then any type of collar. all place pressure on the neck when the animal pulls. even harnesses can place pressure on sensitive areas. i wear a harness for work on occasion and believe me when i say they are all uncomfortable. And when you need them to do their goal, it down right hurts. But its better then the alternative! same is true for this discussion. The exercises Maggie and i have done taught her to follow me and prevent her from pulling and placing pressure on her neck when under normal walking situations. When scared and a risk of losing her increase, discomfort takes a back seat to her overall safety. a harness or martingale WILL be uncomfortable. no question. i just want something that will keep her attached to me in that situation. Overall, i dont feel either is wrong. And thank you all for the comments!

Update: I have started to make the time to walk Maggie in daylight only since. I started with rewarding her randomly throughout the walk for sitting on que, staying by my side when hearing sudden sounds/ cars nearby/ now snow blowers/ etc. we have also past park and running vehicles. Obviously, still anxious/ scared but hasn't "freaked out" again. Just going to keep working on it.

Thank you all for the advise and suggestions! I have been incorporating a little bit of everything and it seems to be helping.
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