How to Train Your Dog to Not Bark at Cars

How to Train Your Dog to Not Bark at Cars
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon2-3 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

Bella the Lab-Collie cross hates cars! At least that's what her owners infer, by the way she barks uncontrollably at a car or truck every time one drives by her house, her yard, or while on they are on a walk. The behavior is annoying, and Bella seems so out of control her owners worry she will lunge at or jump into traffic one day. 

Why is Bella barking at cars? It could be that  she is exhibiting territorial behavior trying to guard her property from intrusion, it could be that she is trying to protect herself and her family from the strange car creatures she perceives as a threat, she may be alerting you, her pack member, to intrusion, she may just be bored and looking for something to do, or she may actually hate cars, having a negative association with their sight, smell, or sound.  Figuring out what motivates Bella’s barking may be helpful in choosing a method to train her out of the behavior. 

Whether or not you ever figure out the root of your dog's car barking obsession, there are several methods you can use, or combinations of methods, to teach her not to bark at every car she sees and give you both some peace when a car goes by.

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Defining Tasks

When a car drives into your driveway, having your dog bark to alert you may be a good thing, but being unable to stop your dog barking won’t be. Also, having your dog bark at every car that drives by your home or that you encounter on a walk is not necessary, and can even lead to dangerous behavior if your dog becomes car-obsessed and aggressive towards the cause of her excitement. Dogs bark instinctually to alert you to perceived dangers to you or your property, and training a dog out of an instinctual behavior may be difficult. But, there are methods you can use to direct your dog to more appropriate behavior. If your dog is barking for another reason, like boredom, negative association, or excitement, training to counter these states may be helpful to stop your dog barking at cars. Your goal will be for your dog to ignore and be calm and quiet around cars. A few alert barks to a car approaching your home may be acceptable, but barking should not be uncontrollable.

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Getting Started

If your dog is excited or trying to alert or protect you, punishing your dog for barking at cars will be confusing and only contribute to the behavior. Avoid punishment as a means of correcting your dog. Taking time to train your dog other behaviors, such as a verbal 'quiet' cue or an alternative behavior when cars are present, will be more effective. 

For training your dog not to bark at cars, you will need to provide treats to create another behavior. Having a relatively quiet, traffic-free area to practice, and having an assistant in a car drive by to create the barking stimulus provides you with control of the situation and will make training easier as you can control timing and be prepared. You can use two-way radios or cellular phones to communicate with your assistant driver.

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The Positive Association Method

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1

Set up car

In a controlled setting, have an assistant with a car drive by your yard while you wait with your dog on a leash in the yard or in a planned location on a walk. This lets you control the presentation of the stimulus.

2

Reinforce approach

As soon as the car starts to approach, and before your dog starts barking, provide your dog with a high value treat like chicken or hot dogs. Keep providing the treats while the car drives by. It is important not to provide treats after or if the dogs starts barking, as this reinforces barking and not the car.

3

Decrease stimulus if required

If your dog is not distracted by the treats and barks, have the car drive by, farther away, or start giving treats sooner, when your dog is quiet around the car.

4

Repeat

Repeat, having your assistant with the car drive by closer and slower to increase exposure, as your dog learns to focus on the treats and not bark.

5

Create positive association

When your dog starts looking for treats instead of barking at the approach of the car, gradually reduce the number of treats and the value of the treats, until your dog learns that it is not necessary to bark in the presence of the car and to look for a reward. A positive association has been created.

The Teach 'Quiet' Method

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Present car

Have an assistant drive a car slowly by, turn around, and drive by again continuously. Your dog will start barking.

2

Reward pause

Wait for a pause in barking, when your dog pauses even for a moment to take a breath, say "quiet" and provide a treat.

3

Distract

If the barking continues, you can try to blow a whistle or shake a can of marbles to create a distraction. When your dog stops to attend the distraction, say "quiet" and provide the treat. Practice until the noise maker is no longer required.

4

Associate command

Repeat frequently until your dog learns an association between the command 'quiet', not barking, and a treat. Gradually increase the length of time your dog needs to be quiet in the presence of the car, before getting the treat.

5

Use command

Gradually remove the treat and replace with praise, continue to use the quiet command. If necessary, return to a previous step to reinforce quiet with distraction and treats.

The Alternative Behavior Method

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Teach alternate behavior

Teach your dog a behavior, such as 'touch my hand', 'sit-stay', or 'look at me'. Once your dog is reliably performing the behavior, move on to car exposure.

2

Present car

Have an assistant drive by with a car with your dog outside. Or, if your dog barks from inside the house, have your dog in the house.

3

Ask for alternate behavior

As the car approaches, command your dog to perform the alternative behavior. If the dog stops barking and performs the other behavior, reward your dog.

4

Create distance until successful

If your dog continues barking, have the car approach again. This time, give the command for the alternate behavior when the car is further away. Wait until your dog is successful performing the other behavior with the car at a distance.

5

Increase stimulus

Gradually have the car come closer, and drive by slower, increasing the stimulus while asking for the alternative behavior until your dog learns to perform another behavior rather than barking when exposed to a car.

By Laurie Haggart

Published: 11/09/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Chewy

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Norfolk Terrier

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1 Year

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Question

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My dog lunges at every single car that drives past us please any ideas?

April 29, 2022

Chewy's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jennifer, For less severe cases, I recommend the training in the video below generally. Car Chasing without e-collar https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buaZctWLWR0 For dogs who are more obsessed or prey driven toward the car, a different approach might be needed, that sometimes involves using an interrupter, and if pup redirects aggression toward you or you don't feel you can safely train pup for other reasons, then a professional trainer should be hired to work with you in person there to help also. First, I suggest teaching a solid Leave It command to pup. Follow the Leave It command using the Leave It method from the article linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Second, teach pup a structured heel - practice away from cars at first. Check out the article and video linked below Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Third, purchase a high quality remote training collar with stimulation, lean how to fit it properly and find your dog's "Working level" - which is the lowest level that your dog feels and responds to. Only use a high quality collar such as E-collar Technologies, Dogtra, Sportdog, or Garmin. Check out the videos below: Fitting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLxB6gYsliI Working Level finding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cl3V8vYobM Jeff Gellman cat aggressive dog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MLJV5PBh7Y More e-collar work with cats: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8lkbX0dhT0 Fourth, teach an e-collar heel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJaZsZdcjwU Fifth, put it all together. Walk pup on a collar or harness that's secure. Practice your e-collar heeling with cars in sight. Whenever pup starts to fixate on the cars or break the heel position, tell pup "Ah Ah Heel" - If breaking heel, or "Ah Ah, Leave It" - for fixating on cars, and correct on pup's working level on the e-collar. Practice around cars a lot until pup will ignore them and focus on you around them. Any other training you can do to help with impulse control is also great, such as a long Place, Down-Stay, waiting at doors, not exiting a crate until told Okay, ect... Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 3, 2022

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Kona

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Jack Russell Terrier

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2 Years

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Barking at and aggressively charging at passing cars

April 17, 2022

Kona's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Charles, There are a couple of ways of addressing this, depending on the level of reactivity and specific dog. The first way is without the use of an e-collar, through desensitization and working on impulse control. Check out the following video for an example of this type of training. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buaZctWLWR0 Along with the video, check out the Quiet method and Desensitize method from this article: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Pup will also need to know a structured Heel, practiced without cars around first. Turns method for Heel: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel For harder cases, a remote training collar is sometimes needed to interrupt the behavior in addition to obedience practice to increase impulse control, and desensitization. These harder cases often involve a strong prey drive being triggered by the cars, a herding drive being triggered, an obsessive compulsive element, or pup being a dog who is very easily aroused and goes over threshold without being able to de-escalate from that on their own in your typical training scenarios. For training where an e-collar is utilized, start by teaching a solid Leave It command to pup. Follow the Leave It method using the Leave It method from the article linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Second, teach pup a structured heel - practice away from cars at first. Check out the article and video linked below Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Third, purchase a high quality remote training collar with stimulation, lean how to fit it properly and find your dog's "Working level" - which is the lowest level that your dog feels and responds to. Only use a high quality collar such as E-collar Technologies, Dogtra, Sportdog, or Garmin. Check out the videos below: Fitting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLxB6gYsliI Working Level finding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cl3V8vYobM Examples of addressing something like prey drive with an e-collar for management of the behavior. Jeff Gellman cat aggressive dog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MLJV5PBh7Y More e-collar work with cats: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8lkbX0dhT0 Fourth, teach an e-collar heel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJaZsZdcjwU Fifth, put it all together. Walk pup on a collar or harness that's secure. Practice your e-collar heeling with cars in sight. Whenever pup starts to fixate on the cars or break the heel position, tell pup "Ah Ah Heel" - If breaking heel, or "Ah Ah, Leave It" - for fixating on cars, and correct on pup's working level on the e-collar. Practice around cars a lot until pup will ignore them and focus on you around them. Any other training you can do to help with impulse control is also great, such as a long Place, Down-Stay, waiting at doors, not exiting a crate until told Okay, ect... Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

April 18, 2022


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