Thursday, April 12, 2007

Driving in Cars with Dogs

It seems to me like dogs were made for driving around in cars. I know there are some dogs who are car-phobic, but I've never met one in Real Life. All the dogs I've ever known have thought that cars were magical moving caves purpose-built for dog entertrainment.

Two words in the English language had the ability to transform Kodiak into a tail-wagging, galumphing dog of joy - "walk" and "ride." I loved to say to him "Who wants to go for a ride? Do YOU want to go for a ride." He'd cock his head to the side and a look of intense concentration would pass over his eyes, then the word would register and he would do his little Happy Dance around the house, barking at me if I didn't move fast enough to get him into the car.

Kodiak was a good dog to have in the car. He responded quickly to the "Lie Down" command. He was quite content to stretch out in the back of our Passat and watch the world go by. Once, during a particularly scary drive from Cleveland to Chicago, on snow-slicked roads in a Mini Cooper that had performance tires that offered almost no traction, Kodiak laid his head on Peter's shoulder, as though he could help guide the car home.

About a month ago, while giving Toby ear-scratches, Peter discovered a number tattoed in his floppy-down ear. We had great fun speculating about the tattoo. My contention is that Toby is an army or police dog who went AWOL. That theory explains why every morning, when I let him out, he runs over to the cars and sniffs around them quite thoroughly. It also explains why he has a compulsion to jump into every open car to check it out.

Peter's theory on Toby's car-incursion compulsion is that he was abandoned from a car or by people in a car and so he is terrified that if a car goes somewhere without him, he will be permanently left behind. That's a fairly solid theory - but to me it doesn't explain Toby's willingness to jump into the car of total strangers. (We were walking him past the shop in the village once and a woman opened her car door in front of us and Toby tried to jump right in.

Toby's not the best dog to have in a moving car. Unlike Kodiak, he does not respond quickly enough to the "Lie Down" command. Or to any command really. The car, for Toby, is a sphere of anarchy, at least when I'm alone with him. (Like all our dogs, he behaves much better when Peter is around.) Last week, he tried to jump out my window when he saw some sheep in a field. I rolled up the window far enough so that he couldn't pull his head out but not so far that it was choking him. He hasn't tried that trick since.

This past Tuesday, the trip back from camogie practise was way more exciting than it should have been. I had to stop twice to extricated Toby from the front seat and return him to the back seat. I probably should have stopped a third time, but it was the twisty-est bit of the drive and the options for pulling over were not great. Since I had blocked off the gap between the two seats with my hurley and my helmet, Toby was trying to gain access to the fron by slipping through the gap between my seat and my door. By jamming an elbow in his chest and hunching over the steering wheel like someone's ancient grandmother, I was able to get us home safely, but I was not well-pleased.

Toby needs some car manners. I wish I could import Kodiak to teach him a few things.


At 12 April 2007 at 09:27, Blogger Fence said...

Maybe you should investigate those car harness thingies. Never used one as we always tend to have two people in the car whenever the mutt travels.

He is one that doesn't really like going in the car. He'll get in, very reluctantly because he knows at the end there'll probably be fun, but he isn't happy. He used to get car sick and everything, although luckily enough that no longer happens.

At 12 April 2007 at 12:35, Blogger laurie said...

oh great topic and great posting, ann.

toby loved the car. boscoe loves the car. riley is only now, at 5, learning to not be completely freaked out by being in the car.

when he was a puppy, i had to pick him up and put him in the car. as he got bigger, it became a battle--he'd run around the car and hide in various parts of the garage and it would take forever.

we had to do treat training (don't tell pete this) to get him calmed down.

for years, he'd climb over the seat and worm his way into the front seat and sit on the lap of whoever was driving, and quiver. he's 42 pounds so that's a lot of quiver.

he's better now, but he still really does not like cars. i have no idea why.

interesting about toby's tattoos. are you going to try to find out what they mean?

At 14 April 2007 at 06:12, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guide Dogs for the Blind uses a vegetable dye tatoo in the dogs ears for identification purposes.
The litter mates will have numbers in numerical order. This might be a possibile explanation.

At 22 April 2007 at 01:17, Blogger Career Guy said...

Maybe it's a prison tat. The dogs in the pound have nothing to do all day except tattoo each others' ears. Toby might have a record...for car jacking.


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