Travels with Ziva

Last night we had our “Nose Work” class, which is kind of an extra thing we thought we’d just try out to keep Ziva interacting with other dogs -and also because she has such an active mind as well as body, it seemed like a good “hobby” for her. She has turned out to be pretty good at it, considering we don’t practice as much as we should. But she really seems to enjoy it, so I think it is something we will continue with, at some level. It’s really very easy to practice: I have a collection of small cardboard boxes, and in a couple of them I put some hot dog (of course!). Then I bring Ziva in the room and say “Find!” and she races around the room from box to box looking for the ones with the hot dog. When she finds one, I can tell because she tries to open it. We’re not working at any specific way for her to indicate to me that this box is “the one.” That can come later if we choose to do this “officially.” For now, it’s just a fun game.  She enjoys it more than I ever thought she would. And it has the added benefit of exercising — and therefore wearing out — her brain.

I’ll share some pictures, and maybe a video if we can get our act together, in another post. In this post, I really wanted to talk about Driving with Miss Ziva. Traveling in the car has been a learning experience for all of us. The first few times we went anywhere, I think she was still in sort of a daze about where she was and who we were so she was relatively calm. But as we began going to more places and she seemed to understand that we were all together now, she started to get a little crazy in the backseat.

That is, when she wasn’t suddenly appearing in the front seat.

I’ve never had a dog that was so restless in the car. At first, we tried just putting her in the back seat, but it became clear immediately that she was not going to stay back there, no matter how you put your arm across the divide, or if you had one person driving and another holding her back. So next we tried the seatbelt attachment that clips onto the collar like a leash, which is what her foster mom had used. The first time I took her to our private lesson by myself, she spun herself around in circles so much that she had shortened the leash until there was only enough length for her to be lying on the seat with her head next to the seatbelt. Scary to me, and pretty darn uncomfortable — not to mention dangerous — for Ziva.  A few more spins and she would have been choking.

We had started working on teaching her how to “get easy,” so I began using this phrase with her on our drive to and from lessons. I lengthened the leash attachment and used the phrase and she seemed to be calming down. “Seemed to be” because I didn’t hear her. I didn’t hear her because she was busying chewing through the leash. She appeared in the passenger side front seat while we were stopped in traffic on I-895 one evening. Traffic began moving and I put my foot on the gas but we weren’t moving — Ziva had leaned on the gear shift and we were in Neutral.

We eventually got to class that night, and the trainer suggested we put vicks vapor rub on the leash to keep her from chewing it. That did indeed work for a while (and cleared my sinuses). But then she seemed to understand she could step n the seatbelt clip to undo it, as one does to release the seatbelt.

And on top of all this, she was still really worked up during these drives. One time she stood behind me and barked in my right ear for the entire 40 minutes.

Eventually, we tried a new tactic, which is what we do on all trips now and which seems to be working for us all: a crate. I got one of those plastic travel crates, which has ventilation holes but which limits how much she can see outside. We did a few really short drives to get her used to it, and she seems to be pretty happy in it for the most part. She does better if I’ve really exercised her before we go anywhere, and settles down. But she also knows when we are almost at our destination and starts whining and moving around as we get close. I drive a little Nissan Versa hatchback, so the crate sits on the backseat. I’ve strapped it down as best I can so it won’t go flying in case of an accident, but there is still little give when she is really moving around in it. She gets really excited when we’re almost home, and that’s when she really starts moving around int he crate. Last night we were about 5 minutes from home, sitting at a red light. And she’s back there, whining and spinning around, because she knows we’re in our neighborhood and almost home. And all I can think is that the people in the next car must think I’ve got a T-Rex back there, or some other Jurassic Park wannabe.

Safety experts will tell you that you should have your dog restrained in the car, and you really should, especially if you’re doing any highway driving. You wouldn’t let your kids sit without a seatbelt, why would you let your dog? The best setup is either a harness and seatbelt arrangement, or a crate. I’m happy the crate seems to be working for us, and I think she will continue to get more and more used to being in it during car rides.  (She loves her crate at home, and even puts herself to sleep in it at night. She sleeps in there all night, with the door wide open. She doesn’t come out until my alarm goes off, and then she jumps on the bed. No sleeping in around here!)

As with all things Ziva, we are both learning. Happy trails!

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