I am fortunate enough to be able to take my dog on an afternoon outing (nearly everyday) with the goal of wearing her out. We typically stop at one of the local grocers on the way home for any missing dinner ingredients. I have noticed that she occasionally displays somewhat anxious behaviors when I get back to the car. Some parking lots seem to upset her more than others.

This morning we ran an errand and I pulled into a parking lot to "get one thing". I stopped the car and my girl popped up onto the center arm rest, shaking. As if she was terrified of being there. Clearly an anxiety issue. My impromptu solution was to leave without going into the store. My pup is more important and after we drove off, she was fine again.

My guesses are:

  • someone tried to reach into the car while she was alone (to pet her, or take her)?
  • the noise and general chaos of a busy parking lot overwhelms her
  • she saw something that upset her (which could be litterally anything)

I'm concerned about this. I can prevent it from happening again by never leaving her alone in the car again, but that doesn't seem very practical. Eventually I'll have to leave her in the car (for any number of reasons). Is there a realistic way to train her to not be afraid if she's alone in the car? Or some way to help her feel safer when she is?

Note: My dog gets 1-2 half hour walks, a 1-2 hour outing, and a beef neck bone to chew on (daily average). Outings = dog park playtime, off leash on wooded trails, learning to run beside my bicycle, etc.

  • Have you done any kind of training for leaving your dog alone in your car? Depending on the personality (and especially with anxious dogs), you should start with very short intervals and gradually increase the time the dog stays alone in the car. – Elmy Mar 14 '19 at 14:19
  • Yes, started with short (5-10minute) stops, but never more than 30 minutes. She doesn't display any anxiety when I leave her at home (alone), even for 4+ hours. – elbrant Mar 14 '19 at 16:44
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    I'm guessing she had a horrible experience too. Could you get a friend to sit in the car with her and give her treats etc? Not every time but just to give her a more positive experience for a bit – SAM A Mar 15 '19 at 20:27
  • I have to disagree a little bit here. The negative experience for her could possibly be she has no idea where you're going or how long you'll be. However, when you try this at home she's familiar with the area and she knows you'll be coming back. Could you clarify for me if she's anxious when you return to the car or when you stop the car? You start by saying it's when you return but then say it's when you stop. It's a very important detail to find what she's anxious about. – SimplyRedAppaloosa Feb 13 at 11:35

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