How to Train Your Dog to Like Car Rides

How to Train Your Dog to Like Car Rides
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon3-6 Weeks
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

If you have to spell out the word C-A-R or R-I-D-E, your dog is probably overly eager to go with you. On the other hand, if you are pulling your dog by the leash to get him into the car, you may need to spend some time working on training your dog to enjoy going for a ride. Getting in the car is necessary even if it's only for veterinary appointments. But there are probably other places you will need to take your dog, whether it's to the groomers, for dog boarding, to a dog park to socialize, or to puppy training classes. The number of times you could potentially have your dog in the car is endless. If your dog doesn't enjoy being in the car, it could be because he feels ill, he may not be used to the motion, or he's not sure what to do while he's in the car and unable to be close to you. 

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Defining Tasks

Teaching your dog to like car rides is about making him feel comfortable and repeating the process, so he knows that he is safe and you are with him. He will also know if the journey is not fun, at least there will be a reward at the end of the trip. Turn your car into a place your dog would like to be. Keep a soft blanket on the seat where you would like him to sit. Take his favorite toys with him, so he has emotional comfort as well. Be sure to make your car safe for your dog, whether you are using a harness and the seat belt or a dog carrier, depending on your dog's size. If your dog is anxious because he feels sick, you can lift him higher with a seat or a crate, so he can see out the window. Preparation before going on a car ride with your dog is key. If your dog is truly afraid of being in the car, you will want to take short trips before you move on to a long-planned trip.

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Getting Started

To get started, you are going to need a vehicle your dog can be safe and comfortable in. A blanket or a chew toy, or even both, to take with you would benefit your dog. A leash and/or a harness for stops will be imperative, so if your dog bolts when open the door, you don't lose control over him. And be sure to have lots of treats handy so you can reward him for a job well done.

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The Overcoming Fear Method

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1

Using meals

If your dog is fearful of the car, begin to feed him one meal a day next to your car. To do this, simply place your dog's bowl next to the car with the car door open so he can peer inside while he’s eating.

2

Move to treats

Once your dog is used to viewing the inside of the car while he eats his meals, take his meals away and put treats near the car. Continue to leave the car door open so he can look inside while he's gobbling up his tasty treats.

3

Play

Play with your dog near the car. This will help teach your dog that good things occur near the car.

4

Sit inside

Get inside your car. You can choose to sit in the back seat or in the passenger seat if your dog will fit with you. Remember not to encourage your dog to sit on your lap, because he will not be on your lap while you're driving. Just sit, have a conversation, praise him, and then get out. This will introduce him to the inside of the car and what it feels like for him to be in the car.

5

Treats inside

Put a few treats inside your car and encourage your dog to jump in, or if he's a small dog and needs help, lift him and put him inside, offering him treats he will find throughout the car.

6

Ride

Take your dog for his first car ride. If you have a friend or family member who can join you for verbal encouragement with your dog you can try this for the first couple of times. If not, put your dog safely inside the car and start driving. Be sure to talk to your dog and encourage him, reminding him with the tone of your voice and verbal praise how well he's doing.

7

Get excited

Get excited about going for rides. Let your dog hear the excitement in the tone of your voice.

8

Rewarding

From your first drive, increase the amount of time you spend in the car with your dog. Go for longer rides. Go for rides where the destination will be fun for your dog, such as a dog park or a pet store where he could pick out a new toy or a treat.

The Car Sick Method

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Upright

If your dog tends to get car sick, keep him upright in the vehicle. A dog harness or a seat belt could give him enough height to look out the window. On the other hand, if you have a small breed dog, using a dog crate is best. You can lift the dog crate up and strap it in so that your dog can see out the window.

2

Prepare

Before leaving home, make sure your dog has an empty stomach and hasn't just eaten a meal.

3

Stopping

Give your dog a rest. If you are going further than he's ever gone before on a trip, be sure to stop every so often to give him some fresh air and a potty break.

4

Windows

Roll your windows down a tad to give your dog some fresh moving air. Be sure not to roll them down too far so your dog does not escape a moving vehicle.

5

Keep it short

Keep your rides as short as possible until your dog is used to the motion of the vehicle as it moves.

6

Build up

Increase the time you and your dog are in the car up to longer rides And get excited each time it's time for you and your dog to go for a ride.

7

Products

If after several times riding, your dog is still not used to it and still gets sick every time he's in the car, you could see your veterinarian for anti-nausea medication. If you have a highly anxious dog, you can also look into getting him in an anxiety vest that will help him to feel better if he's getting sick in the car.

The Crate Method

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Introduce crate

Get your dog used to riding in a travel crate by putting him in the dog crate when he's in the house. Put your dog inside his travel crate for a few moments at a time. Talk to him and offer him treats and verbal praise for being inside the crate. Don't leave him in the dog crate for very long, and praise him when it's time for him to get out.

2

Crate in car

Place the dog crate in the car and talk to your dog. Talk about getting inside and going for a ride. Get your dog into the dog crate and offer him a treat.

3

Drive

If your dog is crying or whining or barking, make your first trip inside the crate a short trip. Go around the block or travel a couple of streets around your neighborhood.

4

Communicate

Talk to your dog the whole time you're driving, encouraging him and praising him for being a good boy.

5

Exit car

Once you're done with your ride, take your dog out of the car and give him a very special treat and verbal praise for a job well done.

6

Practice

Increase the length of time you spend with your dog in the car making your drives a little longer every time you take your dog for a ride.

7

Rewards

Be sure to give your dog a reward when he gets out of the car both at your destination and when you are back home.

By Darlene Stott

Published: 10/11/2017, edited: 04/22/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Levi

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Mixed breed

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2 Years

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Question

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How do I get Levi to not be afraid to walk towards my car(van) so I can work with him to not be so afraid when we drive somewhere? Your training instructions say to give him treats or feed him next to the vehicle, but he won't go near it because he is so scared. How can I train him to enjoy car rides if he is terrified of going near it? Thank you for your help!

April 27, 2022

Levi's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I would start by determining how close pup can get before they act nervous. At that distance, play fun games, practice tricks with treats, then leave a trail of treats going toward the vehicle. Start the train a little before pup's spot you are working from, and have the trail go a couple of feet past the spot, toward the vehicle. Practice those fun activities near the vehicle for a few days until pup will go the couple of feet closer to the vehicle without any signs of fear. Once pup can get those couple of feet close, have that area be your new spot, and do your fun activities and line of treats leading up to that new spot and a couple of feet past that new spot toward the vehicle. Repeat getting pup comfortable with the new distance, then moving that new distance those couple of feet closer to the vehicle as pup gets comfortable again, until you have finally progressed to the area right next to the vehicle, where the training method you read picks the training up. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 3, 2022

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Maxi

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West Highland White Terrier

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7 Years

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How do you get him to stop moaning on car drives

April 11, 2022

Maxi's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Briony, I recommend desensitizing pup to the car and slowing the overall process down. Start by simply feeding beside the car while its off, then feeding treats along the runner with the door open, then inside the car with it still. For at least a couple of weeks practice the Down Stay command and Quiet command once taught on the middle seats' floorboard or seats (if a row seat). Gradually move to practicing with the car in the driveway but stationary while running - don't turn on in the garage to avoid breathing gas fumes. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ When pup is completely relaxed in the car and can do a solid down-stay quietly, recruit a second person to drive or train, so the driver can only focus on driving. Have the person training enforce Down, while the driver simply pulls out of the driveway and back in When pup can stay relaxed during that (which will require a lot of repetition before pup relaxes then too - once pup sees that the driving is boring through repetition), then drive down the block and back. Gradually increase the distance and level of excitement as pup improves, only moving onto further distances or more exciting locations once pup can stay relaxed at the current level of training. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

April 12, 2022


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