A: For many dogs, if you have the time and patience, desensitization and counter-conditioning does help. Here's what to do:
Next, take your dog to the car and open the door to the back seat. Have your dog jump in and out at will. Each time your poodle jumps in, the pet gets a treat. When this activity is no longer stressful, but instead fun, let your dog jump into the back seat, after which you close the door. Then sit in the front seat and turn on the motor. Without going anywhere, quickly switch off the ignition. When this game becomes routine, go back indoors for a meal. Your dog will learn that good things happen after being in the car.
Of course, eventually you will need to hit the road. Start with a short journey to the end of the driveway, or down the block and back.
During these "trips," keep your pet busy with a Kong or other toy you can stuff with treats like lowfat peanut butter or cream cheese. Hopefully, the pet will focus on extracting the treat rather than stressing out about the ride. Only offer this special treat during car rides, not in the house.
Over time, you'll be able to drive for longer distances. If your dog shows any nervousness, drive back home for a meal. If your dog is anxious, you've gone too far, too fast. Be sure to wait about 30 minutes after each ride before feeding your dog; you want the pet to associate only calm behavior in the car with a reward after the ride.
Eventually, you'll be ready to drive somewhere close to home that your dog enjoys, such as pet supply store or the home of a friend with a dog.
Veterinary behaviorist Dr. John Ciribassi, who practices in the Chicago area, says that if this method fails, ask your veterinarian about an antihistamine (the side affect of drowsiness can help) or an anti-anxiety drug. If your dog gets nauseous in the car, there's a drug for that, too.
Q: Our lovely tabby, Sassy, is certainly sassy about her carrier; she hates going inside. In your columns, you suggest visiting the veterinarian twice a year. I can't get Sassy in there once, and I'm 82. What can I do? -- W.P., Fort Lauderdale, FL
A: I get this question all the time, so you're not alone. This method might work:
Leave Sassy's carrier out like a piece of furniture, periodically dropping goodies inside (when your cat isn't looking), so the carrier becomes a treat dispenser. Spray the carrier with Feliway, a knock off of a calming feline pheromone.
It may take several days, but Sassy will eventually muster the courage to jump inside the carrier to snatch the yummies. When she does, start offering some of her daily food there. When Sassy begins to feel comfortable in the carrier, tell her to "jump inside" or "go to your room" as she jumps in. Eventually, you'll be able to use those words as cues.
Notice that this training process does NOT include chasing your cat around the house and stuffing her inside the carrier.
The final step: Once Sassy is inside the carrier, zip it shut and carry her into the next room. Then, casually let Sassy out, acting as if it's no big deal. Repeat. but this time go two rooms away before allowing Sassy out. Eventually, carry Sassy out to the car in her carrier. Without going anywhere, carry her right back into the house. Each time Sassy isn't sassy about this process, offer her treats when you let her out of the carrier.
There's a great video demonstrating a similar training process at www.catalystcouncil.org. Cats can even become acclimated to car rides by using a similar technique described in the first question.
Q: Our Llasa apso has been a good puppy, but when we leave him in the yard for several hours, he grazes on deer poop. How do we curb this habit? -- R.P., St. Paul, MN
A: A back yard is not a babysitter. Dogs languishing in yards get bored and can develop bad habits, like munching on Bambi burgers.
Of course, you could try keeping deer away, but that's easier said than done. Besides, I think there's something very satisfying about watching deer grazing in your yard. You could try sprinkling vinegar with Tabasco on those piles of deer droppings. Hopefully, you pooch will sniff and go "yuck," but who knows? You'll boost your chances of success by "booby trapping" the deer poo while simultaneously offering your dog something better, such as a Kong toy filled with treats (which the dog will have to work at to get out).
The most efficient solutions are to either pick up the deer poo (good luck with that) or never let your dog out in the yard unsupervised.
(Steve Dale's new ebooks, "Good Dog!" and "Good Cat!" are available on all major eReader devices and platforms. The basic version of each book is $2.99. An enhanced version of "Good Dog!" with embedded videos is available at iTunes for $4.99. For details, check the "Good Dog!"Facebook page. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207. Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is www.stevedalepetworld.com)