writer, warrior, whack-a-doodle

Flooding Agoraphobia

Flooding Agoraphobia

April 26, 2011
Posted in: Dogs | Reading Time: 3 minutes

He's a natural born beauty. If he were human, he'd be a surfer dude or model, with naturally chiseled features and six-pack abs that he didn't have to work for. Unfortunately, with such beauty comes the heavy price:

Severe car anxiety and extreme pack drive anxiety.  Loki always happily and calmly gets into the car, but once we start driving, he goes into a full-on panic attack. And he never stops. It's the kind of anxiety that just makes your heart bleed while simultaneously wanting to reach around the back and smack the crap out of him.

This weekend we took him and Juno on their first road trip to Lugano.  I was armed with his new seat belt harness and a bottle of Acepromazine left over from our travel from Zurich airport to Morges back in August. Back then, he didn't need it--probably because Mr. Wild Dingo and I gave him full attention for the 4-hour trip while someone else drove. But 20 minutes into our own 4-hour drive to Lugano, Mr. Wild Dingo and I couldn't take it another minute so we narc'd him.

Even on the ACE, he didn't sleep. He continued to moan and yip lowly as if he desperately wanted to keep going but didn't have the energy.

A well-behaved gentleman all weekend, he sat calmly under cafe tables, walked confidently through busy shopping areas and happily greeted the boisterous Italians who doted on him.  But his extreme pack-drive anxiety drove him into small fits of panic when any one of us (Juno included) separated from the pack to go to the bathroom or inside a building. Ironically, his Iron Dog certification involved a 2-minute down-stay-out-of-sight--where I would disappear and he would have to stay in his down. But those tests were on familiar territory.

A home-body, the opposite of Juno's adventurous spirit, Loki prefers his own back yard to adventures in new places. It took weeks for him to go for a walk with me when he first came to live with us.

They say dogs don't have memories. I'm not sure I agree with it. Does the memory of his first owner abandoning him as a puppy by car live in his cellular biology causing conditioned muscular tension and even panic attacks? Perhaps.

But none of that matters. All three of us are going to continue to turn his world upside down. Because it's good for him. And because I'm mean that way.

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14 comments on “Flooding Agoraphobia”

  1. I think he's got a sticker stuck to his butt!! You might want to check that out 🙂

    I had a dog that would be fine on a 14 hour trip and then the last 30 minutes start whining like it was the end of the world. So I can relate to the 'turning around and smacking' them!!! Although I don't think it would have done any good! 🙂

  2. And if anyone can change him, we just know it would be you. Ciara isn't fond of the car either, but she just gets sick.

    LOVE that last pic.

    Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

  3. Darn is he handsome! I agree with you, though, getting out is probably the best thing for him. I've thought the same thing about dogs and memory, too. My mom has a Sheltie who is just bat crazy, but she goes into full out freak show when she's in the car. They once left her alone in the back of their Avalanche for less than five minutes and came back to find that she'd completely ripped the cover off the inside of the door. She'd had some bad associations with cars, too, and she's just never gotten over it. I've honestly never seen anything like it!

  4. Once a cracker always a cracker…. He can't help it, he's just made that way. I attempted to adopt a border-collie mix when I wanted to get a companion for Star…what a mistake. In the car he'd bark & howl non-stop, I really did want to stop & jump out to go back there & strangle him. (Of course I didn't)… I decided he needed to go live with somebody else for his own good and we got another Sibe. Best decision ever!
    ~J&M mom

    Love that last pic, great sticker placement, & Juno's doing an A-1 job turning him on his head! ~Miss Moo

  5. Poor Loki! Zoe has a black lab friend, Kobe, who only calms down in the car if you put a drop or two of lavender oil on the back of his neck. At least he smells nice!

  6. I just found your site and I love it! The photos are so cute, esp the censored one! Good for Loki, getting out of the house and facing his fears. I kind of feel for you though, can't imagine driving with a panting, drooling, yipping mess in the backseat. Good luck in desensitizing!

  7. I don't blame him! I can get into the car too, but HATE when it starts moving! You'd better be sure to have a paper bag with you if you want ME to ride along with you!


    Woofs & hugs,


  8. You know neither one of my dogs are comfortable in a car and both of them got carsick as puppies. I really think that contributed to their dislike of riding. The other thing is that I didn't take either of them much as puppies. It could also be because they know they are going somewhere new and that's exciting (or maybe in Loki's case scary). If I'd taken the time to just drive the around the block a few times a week as puppies I'm sure they would have been fine (that worked for baths with Jackal as a pup). As it is they are angels on the interstate because they knows it's for the long haul but as soon as I turn off and stop at traffic lights/stop signs Storm starts panting and Jackal starts whining. Very annoying. It's because they know we're getting close to where we're going.

  9. Hi Loki and family, wow that must have been a stressful car drive. I've never had a dog who didn't like to go in the car. Sometimes as a pup they may have a vomit (yuk) maybe a bit of car sickness but otherwise they have loved it. Our old cocker spaniel still loves it although I have to lift her into the car nowadays. I haven't any suggestions except maybe a Kong or something similar to chew on? Take care all, no worries, love Carol.

  10. Poor Loki. It may just take years of practice, positive experiences, and drugs 🙂 for him to get over his fear of car rides and of being dumped again. Poor you. Have you considered putting Juno in the front passenger seat and sitting in the back with Loki during your trips, so you can give him the comfort & attention he got on the drive from Zurich? Does he panic on short drives around town, or just when you hit the road for a long trip that Loki fears might result in another dump job?

    Having such a strong guarding/herding instinct, he's probably never going to get past his anxiety when the pack scatters in unfamiliar places.

    Couldn't hurt to try a dab of lavender on the back of his neck, along with the drugs as necessary.

    Jed & Abby

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