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Maltese & Car Anxiety
by Jay Bianco

Many Maltese love the car. They love to look out the window. They love to go for a ride. Some Maltese, however, hate the car. They go into immediate down-stays and will not move until the engine is off. They simply do not care for the motion of the car. Each dog is different. But a lot has to do with early learning.

If you have a puppy, take him for car rides whenever possible. be sure he is secured with a car harness or placed in the back seat. Make it a pleasant experience. And talk to him from time to time telling him he is good. If you have a passenger, have that person pet the puppy to comfort him. Always refrain from feeding or watering the puppy several hours before traveling. You'll be glad you did.

An older Maltese with a car phobia can sometimes be cured with behavior modification exercises. Begin by feeding your Maltese near the car. Over the course of several days, move the dish closer to the car until you are finally feeding the him in the back seat with the door open, motor off. Next close the door. The next step is to go back outside and feed him near the car with the motor running. repeat the same procedure until the dog can eat in the car with the motor running. You can now try short drives while your passenger offers food treats and praises and pets your Maltese. You may also want to start by opening the two rear passenger doors so that, to the dog, the car looks like a tunnel. With your dog on a lead, climb in and don't look back; there will come a point at which the lead tightens because it refuses to move, but keep the tension on the lead by pulling gently, i.e. NOT SO HARD as to drag your Maltese, and remain absolutely silent. We are counter conditioning the dog through reinforcement training. Do not rush this procedure. If your Maltese is very afraid of car travel, these exercises can take weeks or even months. Be patient.


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