His fear of vehicles was so bad, that the staff had some trouble getting him into a vehicle to take him to the vets for neutering and vaccination; it was a major obstacle to overcome. He must have had a terrible experience to have frightened him so much and have such a negative association with vehicles. Initially, he didn’t even want to walk through the car park, let alone get into a vehicle. So the staff knew that they had a challenge on their hands.
The Cornwall team did plenty of work to help Ozzy overcome his fears. His training was very gradual, moving at a pace that Ozzy was happy to accept, taking four months from start to finish. The aim was to get Ozzy comfortable wearing a muzzle, being in a crate and ultimately travelling in a vehicle in that crate.
All of this was needed so that in the future, he could go to the vets safely and stress-free, but also because his new family lived almost two hours’ drive away - a long journey for a dog terrified of vehicles!
Ozzy could get a little over-excited by treats, so rather than using her hand, Animal Trainer Keran used a target stick, rewarding him for focusing on it. Once he had got familiar with that, the target stick was then used to help him navigate the ramp, which he would need to get into the van.
Alongside this training, each time Ozzy was taken for a walk, his carers attempted to get him used to walking near cars and vans. The team gave him extra incentive by setting up treats for him to sniff out. Eventually, they placed the treats onto a van bumper, so that he would be happy to get up close to it. Now they just had to get him in it…
They started with a ramp flat on the floor, then gradually they would raise the ramp and place it in various places around the centre, teaching him that he would get a reward at the top of the ramp, no matter where it was.
After months of training, eventually the ramp was placed on the van and Ozzy went in. The team started with very short van journeys, and then they would get out and walk back to the centre. They then moved the van so he would see it during the walk, and want to get in and come back to the centre.
Next, they did plenty of trips to the vets. They didn’t want his vaccinations and neuter operation to be associated with the van, so they would walk him the last 1/4 mile to the vets on the day, then lift him back into the van (still drowsy) so he’d come back round properly at the centre.
All the hard work paid off in the end. His new owners will very rarely need to take him anywhere too, as they live on a small holding with plenty of land for his exercise. They are keeping up with his training though, and still putting him in a vehicle to make sure he will cope next time he has to go to the vets or anywhere else.
The Cornwall staff are also still having training meetings over zoom with the owners, to help them through any niggles and to ensure this bright boy has truly conquered his fear of vehicles.
Some animals like Ozzy come to NAWT with behaviours such as this, which need time to be worked on before they are put up for adoption. We couldn’t have let him be rehomed knowing that he would be starting his new life with a petrifying two-hour car journey, and be unable to be transported to the vets in the future. At NAWT, it’s our policy to give animals as long as they need to be ready to find their forever home.
If you’d like to help animals like Ozzy (and husky Fluke) by giving them the time they need to be ready to find their forever home, please click the Donate button below.