My clients are such clever, smart, clued-up people. I love the many questions they ask because these questions keep my tiny brain ticking over.
This week I was reminded of a question which comes up a lot. “Why is my dog okay when he’s left alone in the car?”
I feel like I could do a webinar on it. And maybe I will! But in the meantime, I decided to blog.
Lots of dogs struggling alone at home seem okay with being left in the car—as was the case with my own dog. He freaked if we so much as hinted at leaving the house. But put him in the car, and he blissed out.
We couldn’t leave him long, and we could only do it when the weather was right-not too hot and not too cold. But at least we had another option for managing absences.
We definitely got lucky here.
But Why Might Some Dogs Find The Car an Okay Place?
We don't know exactly why some dogs handle being alone in the car. And perhaps the reasons are different for each dog. But here are some thoughts on what’s possibly behind it:
1. Short Absences
When we leave dogs in cars we often do lots of very short absences – pop into the store, bank etc.
And we especially follow the same pattern when they’re young. We’re so petrified of them peeing in the car we tend to rush in and out of wherever we need to go.
So can you see what's happening? Lots of short, safe absences. And it’s exactly what we prescribe for separation anxiety. Unwittingly we’ve got our dog used to the being alone in the car. We used the very same method we use for separation anxiety training.
2. They Can See You Come And Go
Maybe this is important to some dogs.
They might feel better seeing their owner. Or they’ve associated seeing their owner with safe absences.
Interestingly I find when doing absences from the house, seeing the owner through a window can make things harder.
So I’m less convinced by this one.
3. None of The Above!
Sometimes, with dogs, the best answer is “nobody knows”. Since we can't ask them we often don't know why they do what they do. As frustrating as it is, we have to accept that.
If your dog is okay in the car, you might never know why.
But why isn’t always important. What's important is he’s shown you he’s okay on his own. Which also means, we can teach him he’s okay on his own in the house.
I was able to use the car absence a lot with my guy. When we lived in the UK, we parked the car in the driveway.
Here in Canada we have a garage. He’d snooze in the car in the garage as happy as! I'd put a camera on him so that I knew he’s okay. It was hilarious to see him flat out in what we called “The World’s Most Expensive Dog Crate”.
If your dog does okay in the car, see if you can work it to your advantage. Of course, you need to be mindful of the weather. And you may find that he’s not okay with being alone when you park the car in strange locations.
But if it works out, you may have another option to help manage absences. And we all know how precious those options are.
If you have any questions on separations anxiety, contact me for a free consultation.
Please don’t leave your dog in a car when the outside temperature is higher than 15c (60F). Dogs can overheat in a car much quicker than you think. If the car is in the sun, make sure the outside temperature is even lower.