How to Train Your Dog to Behave in the Car

Medium
2-8 Weeks
General

Introduction

Are you blessed with a hound that is a happy traveller?

Unfortunately, not all dogs are good in the car. They may exhibit bad behaviors such as chewing the seats, barking at passers-by, or whining.

For example, imagine the dog who cries constantly and poses a distraction risk to the driver. Worse still, the dog can barely travel round the block without drooling heavily and then losing his breakfast all over the backseat. This makes it almost impossible to take pleasure trips to the park and adds a whole new layer of stress to routine vet clinic visits.

Sometimes these behaviors are a reflection of deep-seated issues that need working on, such as being anxious, over-protective, or bored. Some dogs misbehave in the car because they associate the vehicle with feeling sick or it might be they once had a bad experience in the car which makes them fearful on board. However, with time and patience, it's possible to create new, positive association with travel to turn things around for the better.

Defining Tasks

Behaving well in the car enables travel to fun places (for the dog's benefit!) safely, without distracting the driver. To achieve this requires a mixture of training and practical considerations, such as restraining the dog in transit.

The ultimate aim is to have the dog travel in a relaxed manner, so that he feels content to settle down and sleep for the duration of the trip. Depending on your dog's earlier travel experiences, this may take considerable time and retraining or be relatively simple.

Key to success is recognizing the challenges faced by the dog, and then putting a plan in place to overcome this hurdles one by one, until the dog behaves well. For those dogs with the worst problems, you may need to avoid car travel while you rebuild the dog's confidence. For others, the answers could be as simple as taking the dog for a good walk ahead of the journey and providing them with a chew toy en route.

Getting Started

To do the job properly rather than paper over the cracks, requires you to list how your dog misbehaves in the car, and then analyze their behavior to look for triggers. For example, the dog that gets stressed just getting into the car needs to learn new, happier associations with travel.

To get started you will need:

  • Adequate travel restraints for the dog

  • A food bowl and treats

  • A favorite toy

  • A spray bottle containing water

  • Time and patience

  • Medications to prevent travel sickness

The Undo Bad Memories Method

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Undo Bad Memories Method
Step
1
Park the car
Take baby steps, start with the car parked and engine off. Open all the car doors so the dog won't feel trapped, and scatter ultra-tasty treats on the back seat. Give the dog as long as he needs to find the treats (never force him - walk away and try again another day if necessary) then praise his boldness.
Step
2
Feed him in the car
Once he is happily jumping in for treats, close one or two of the doors and start regularly feeding his meals in the car.
Step
3
Start the engine
Once he accepts eating in the car, switch the engine on while he eats. Praise his calmness.
Step
4
Out of the drive and back
Now he's happily eating meals with the engine running, reverse out of the driveway and then back in.
Step
5
Short pleasure trip
Finally, only once he shows no sign of stress with steps 1 -4, go for a short drive round the block. Ideally, if there is a park or field at the end of the road, drive there and take the dog for a game so that he realizes the car is a way of making fun things happen.
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The Travel Restraint Method

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Travel Restraint Method
Step
1
Safety first
Knowing the dog is safe and won't interfere with your ability to drive is crucial, and allows you to ignore bad behavior and stop rewarding it with attention.
Step
2
Travel pods
For toy or small dogs, consider a travelpod or dog booster seat. These are a car restraint that raises the small dog up slightly so they can see out of the window. This can reduce motion sickness and help the dog to settle because they can see where they are going.
Step
3
Invest in a travel harness
Travel harnesses are available in a wide range of sizes from small to giant dogs. The dog wears a special harness which attaches to the car's seat belt system. Look for a crash-test certified harness (Top tip: Some unscrupulous manufacturers state their harnesses are 'crash-tested' - What they fail to add is they were tested and failed...so be sure the harness has crast test approval.)
Step
4
Grills or dividers
For larger dogs that travel in the cargo area, get a sturdy metal grill that confines them there.
Step
5
Travel crates
Consider a crash-test approved crate for transporting medium or larger dogs in the cargo area.
Step
6
Build acceptance of the restraint
Whichever method you choose to secure the dog, get your pet pal used to it first. This could mean wearing the harness indoors or sitting the dog in the travel pod while giving them rewards. Only once you are sure the dog is happy, take them on the road.
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The Curtail Howling Method

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Curtail Howling Method
Step
1
Rule out stress or anxiety
For the inveterate howler, first rule out the possibility he is nervous, anxious, or stressed. Do NOT use the following technique on a stressed dog but use The Undo Bad Memories Method instead.
Step
2
Equip yourself
Take a friend along for training purposes. Equip them with a spray bottle containing water.
Step
3
Respond to the howl
When the dog starts to howl, have the friend immediately spritz the dog's face with the water and say a short, sharp "No".
Step
4
Repeat
The dog will likely fall silent, so continue your trip. Each time the dog starts to howl, repeat the same action of spritzing and saying "No"
Step
5
Phase out the spray
Keep the spray to hand, but start issuing the "No" slightly in advance of the spritz. This gives the dog a chance to quiet, without getting a shower.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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