How to Train Your Dog to Jump Into a Car

Medium
1-4 Weeks
General

Introduction

It is a rare dog indeed that never travels by car. Some dogs have issues around travel itself, as a result of feeling nauseous or visiting the vets, while for some, getting into the car willingly is a more basic problem. If your pet pal is a Chihuahua then the solution is simple because you can pick the dog up, but when your four-legger is larger then it's much better to use brains rather than brawn to overcome the issue. 

Indeed, juggling a small dog in your arms, while carrying a heavy bag and fumbling for the car keys, is a feat of multi-tasking that is going to end badly one way or another. Better by far is to have a well-trained dog. Imagine the ease of having your pet pooch wait for the car door to open and jump in obediently on the "Up" command. But this isn't just a flight of fancy because, with a little planning and practice, you too can be the proud pet parent of such a miraculous animal. 

Defining Tasks

Teaching a dog to jump into a car starts with the dog learning what the action "Up" looks like. This doesn't have to be taught in the car but is better learned in the home, by teaching the dog to either target a towel or jump onto steps on command. Another advantage of learning somewhere other than the car is that it generalizes the command, so the dog doesn't just link jumping in the car with one place (i.e., the car). This can be useful under other circumstances, such as asking the dog to jump onto a low table for grooming or to have him at a convenient height to put his collar on. 

All dogs learn at their own pace, so take your time and be patient with the dog. Be sure to reward the small victories and ignore the failed attempts. It is never appropriate to punish the dog if he fails to jump up as required. Instead, think about why he might not have complied, such as the training session being too long or there being distractions in the room. The object should always be to make the training fun, rather than onerous, since this is the best way to have a happy, co-operative pet partner. 

Getting Started

You will teach the dog in stages, depending on the method chosen. Start in a quiet room, free from distractions. Once the dog becomes accomplished at one step, then move onto the next. If at any stage the dog is struggling to comply then move back a step to reinforce what the dog already knows. 

The training sessions should be fun for both you and the dog. Don't overlook using play as a reward when the dog does well, such as incorporating a game of tug into a successful "Up" onto a step. This way, the dog will work hard to do what's commanded in anticipation of a game at the end. 

You will need:

  • Tasty treats
  • A towel
  • Books to make a low platform
  • Furniture you are happy for the dog to jump onto

The Target a Towel Method

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Step
1
Understand the idea
This method teaches the dog to 'target' a towel to lie on. The dog learns to lie on it no matter where the towel is placed, which will eventually be in the car.
Step
2
Introduce the towel
In a boring room with few distractions, place the towel on the floor. Let the dog investigate and when he goes to the towel, say "Yes" in a happy voice and give lots of praise.
Step
3
Place the towel higher up
Make a low platform wide enough for the dog to stand on, using whatever comes to hand, such as some books. Lay the towel over the top. Encourage the dog to step onto the towel, then praise him.
Step
4
Raise the towel still higher
If the dog is allowed on furniture, place the towel on the sofa. Pat the towel and as the dog jumps up, use the command you decided on, such as "Up". Praise and treat the dog.
Step
5
Practice in different locations
Now practice as frequently as possible. Be sure to change the towel's location regularly so the dog builds a strong link between the towel as an object and jumping onto it (rather than linking jumping to a certain place).
Step
6
Place the towel in the vehicle
Once the dog is happily jumping onto the towel on command, place it on the back seat of the car or the rear of your vehicle. Give the "Up" command and praise for dog for complying.
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The Lure to Jump Method

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Step
1
Understand the idea
By using a tasty treat as a lure you teach the dog the "Up" command to jump onto objects. It is also helpful to pair this with "Floor" for jumping down. The idea is to train the dog to jump up on command, into the car.
Step
2
Get the dog's attention
Have the dog close to a step or low object to jump onto. Hold a tasty treat in front of the dog's nose so to get his attention.
Step
3
Lure the dog up onto a step
Move the treat slowly, allowing the dog to follow it. Lure the dog up onto the step. Once on the step, label this as "Up", praise him, and give the reward.
Step
4
Lure the dog down
Use another treat to lure the dog down. You may wish to show him the treat and then toss it onto the floor, for him to jump off and follow. As he jumps, label the action "Floor".
Step
5
Practice "Up" and "Floor"
Now practice regularly and have the dog jump up and down from various objects in the home or while out on walks. While teaching "Floor" is not strictly essential, a dog taught both "Up" and "Floor" is better able to understand the task.
Step
6
Practice "Up" in the car
Now practice in the car, but choose a time when there's no need to travel. This takes the pressure off the dog as it doesn't matter if he doesn't get it right. Repetition is key, so get into the habit of practicing "Up" into the car, even though you aren't going anywhere.
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The Build Good Links Method

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Step
1
Understand the idea
Some dogs learn "Up" but refuse to apply the command when getting into a vehicle. This can be for a number of reasons, including an association with travel sickness or having insecure footing in the vehicle. By teaching the dog that good things happen in the car, he will be willing to jump into the vehicle.
Step
2
Tackle unsteady footing
Some dogs dislike jumping into vehicles because the seat shifts under the paw. Tackle this by teaching the dog the Target a Towel. Method. Place the towel on soft surfaces, for example, a duvet or blanket, to build confidence in his footing.
Step
3
Tempt the dog into the vehicle
For the dog that is fearful of the car and refuses to get in, build some pleasant associations. With the car stationary in the drive, open all the doors so the dog can see a clear escape route and doesn't feel trapped. Scatter delicious treats on the seat or put his favorite toys inside. When he's bold enough to go for the treats, give him lots of praise but allow him to leave when he wants.
Step
4
Spend longer in the car
Repeat the step above but encourage him to spend longer inside. Use the "Up" command, but while the car engine is turned off. Try feeding his meals in the car, which also has the dual advantage of linking the vehicle to something nice.
Step
5
Start the engine
With the dog happily jumping in for meals, play on the backseat, or treats, try turning the engine on for a short time then off again. This helps build the dog's acceptance of the vehicle and reduces anxiety, making him more willing to jump in as requested.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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