How to Train Your Dog to Not Bark at Cars

Medium
2-3 Weeks
Behavior

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.

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.

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.

The Positive Association Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Teach 'Quiet' Method

Effective
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Step
1
Present car
Have an assistant drive a car slowly by, turn around, and drive by again continuously. Your dog will start barking.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Alternative Behavior Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Laurie Haggart

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

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Flynn
Border Collie
2 Years
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Question
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Flynn
Border Collie
2 Years

My collie is car obsessed, he is a rescue as a pup he was found in a box with his other brothers in a layby of a motorway, I can distract him when he is out in the garden with his toys however when out walking toys, treats or even verbal commands he doesn’t listen to as he is so focused on the car. I have tried all these methods but walking him is getting so awful I would drive to parks or wherever I can where there are no traffic but at night when parks etc are closed I have to walk him around the streets and we do encounter cars.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
823 Dog owners recommended

Hello Louise, I highly suggest hiring a local professional trainer who is extremely experienced with using electric collars, and also uses positive reinforcement. Car chasing is a very serious, often prey driven, behavior. Many Herding breeds, like Border Collies are especially prone to it because they are obsessed with movement and controlling things. You need to teach a strict avoidance. You can teach this the way that you would stop livestock chasing. Always practice such training on a normal or long leash, never off-leash, so that your dog cannot get to a car at any point, even if you think he is doing well. You want a trainer to help you find the proper collar stimulation level to train him on, and work on teaching him a command that means get away from that, like "Out" or "Leave It". When he starts toward a car or fixates on it, give him the command and if he turns away from the car, then praise and reward him. If he does not leave it alone, then correct with the e-collar remote on the proper level, and then when he is "snapped" out of his fixation and obeys your command, reward him. Start doing this on a six or eight foot leash for control and make sure that he cannot slip out of the harness or collar that you are using for him. You may want to clip him into both for added safety. As he improves on the six-foot leash and can obey you while you are right beside him or the car is further away, then purchase a twenty-foot leash and work on his obedience while you are further away from him but he is still securely leashed. If he is pretty strong, then attach the end of the leash to something secure and not yourself, like a column on your porch, as a backup for safety. Eventually, you can even attach him to something very secure in a safe area, like your neighborhood and front yard, and hide somewhere close-by where you can still see him but he cannot see you. When a car drives by, if he attempts to chase it because you are not there to stop him, then correct him with the electric collar remote. Doing that will help him to associate the correction with the car and not just you, so that he is not as likely to try to do the behavior when you are not present or prepared for it. Do not simply go out and buy an e-collar for this. Cheap, poorly made ones can be dangerous and there is a very specific, safer way to use them. Get the help of a qualified trainer. High quality brands include: Garmin, E-collar Technologies, Dogtra, and SportDog. Also, make sure you only use high quality leashes, harnesses, or martingale collars for this. A slip or a break could be devastating. Ruffwear makes a Webmaster Harness that is hard to slip out of. You can also attach two leashes. One to a martingale collar (a collar that tightens slightly when he pulls so he won't slip out of it easily) and a harness). Take whatever precautions you need to to keep him safe while training. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
paige
german shepard lurcher cross
2 Years
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Question
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paige
german shepard lurcher cross
2 Years

CARS ...nothing more just cars not trucks/bikes other dogs just cars ..indoors out on a run (no traffic in the vicinity) perfect recall great sits waits on command just cars ..she love to get in ANY car and sits there eagerly waiting quite and composed...until you start moving and she sees other cars then wimpering turning to constant high pitch barking NON STOP for the entire journey (longest time to date 30 mins)(this also happens on walks but with lunging) we have tried treats but she is so focused on looking for cars she REFUSES all types of food even her fav. toy she totally ignores HELP

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
823 Dog owners recommended

Hello Geof, This sounds borderline Obsessive Compulsive Behavior. I suggest hiring a trainer who is very experienced with remote stimulation collars, who can find the right level of correction to interrupt the obsessive behavior AS SOON as she starts getting excited about the cars - the earlier you interrupt the behavior the less adrenaline and dopamine and the better she will be able to learn. You want to make going after cars no longer fun. Once you have effectively interrupted the unwanted fixation with cars, THEN you can use rewards to encourage calmness and a Down Stay while riding in the car. While in her heightened obsessive state she will likely not take food or be open to learning anything else until that is addressed by interrupting it though. A good trainer, who is experienced with remote stimulation collars (e-collars) should know how to use the least amount of stimulation necessary to get her attention, and the collar becomes more of an unpleasant sensation than a harsh correction. There is a protocol for doing this, called finding a dog's working level. A qualified trainer should know how to do that process first, before you start the training with the cars. Also, you want to purchase a high quality collar for this because a quality collar will have a wider range of levels, good consistency in signal, and be more comfortable to wear, in addition to better training features. E-collar technologies and most collar brands that are commonly used during sport dog hunting training tend to be made better. Do not buy a random, no name brand off of Amazon from China - those are unsafe. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Dog barks at car for 2 reasons: one is you car is risk you may encounter an accident and dog is warning you that to be careful while you drive. 2nd one is your car is already met with an accident earlier and your car made an injury or death to persons/humans. This iam writing after taking survey from 2000 car owners who does not have dogs on their homes.

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Question
Pablo
chihuahua mix
5 Years
0 found helpful
Question
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Pablo
chihuahua mix
5 Years

Dog barks at any large vehicle that passes house or sits in front of house. I.e. UPS, Amazon, FedEx, SUVs. We both work from home and can’t afford for him to keep barking throughout the day while we’re on calls.

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
104 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I think the best thing you can do right now for an immediate fix is to block Pablo's view to the outside while you are at work. Keep the curtains closed or place a barrier in front of the lower half of the window. Set up a fan for white noise so that Pablo does not hear the noises of the vehicles outside. Along with these deterrents, give Pablo a kong to keep him busy when you know you will be occupied with calls. Take a kong, stuff it with mashed kibble and a smear of dog-safe peanut butter (no xylitol as it is toxic to dogs!). Place the kong in the freezer overnight, and when it is time for quiet, give the kong to Pablo. Because it is frozen, it will take some time to go through. But he'll enjoy it and be distracted from the vehicles. Keep one ready in the fridge at all times for when you need it. Good luck!

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Question
Buddy
Pitsky
4 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Buddy
Pitsky
4 Years

Buddy does not bark at passing cars on the *road* ... but I have a driveway that other people use for a house up the hill... they make multiple trips in and out every day in multiple cars... buddy *does* bark at *those* cars, and he rushes at them and tries to bite his runner lead, which he hangs onto by his teeth trying to get loose and get after those cars... he's not *aggressive* in a *mean* way... but he *really* wants those cars, and not only does the noise annoy me, I'm afraid he'll hurt himself eventually...

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
823 Dog owners recommended

Hello Eric, Check out the video linked below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buaZctWLWR0 Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Beau
Collie
5 Months
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Question
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Beau
Collie
5 Months

He’s just started barking uncontrollably at cars while on a walk. We live on a street but he doesn’t bark from inside the house just when they pass us on the road. We have to walk short distance along the road to get to quieter spot for walk.
Tried distracting with the treats which usually work for recall etc but he had no interest in them, he is too focused on the car and is a bit worrying as he pulls and wriggles so much trying to get at the car had to hold him as I was worried he’d slip the harness.
Tried while the car is further away but he’s only distracted by treat until it gets closer.
Any ideas please?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
104 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I apologize for the delay in reply. Little Beau does have an innate sense to chase, since the Collie was once (and still is in some places) a herding dog. You can let Beau get the need to herd out by joining a herding club if there is one in your area. Otherwise, play with a large ball that you can kick and let Beau chase it to his heart's content. Tons of exercise may help to get some of the need to chase cars out of his system. Work on teaching Beau to heel. He's got the smarts so should pick it up pretty quickly. All of the methods here are excellent: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel. Both the Turns Method and the Stop and Go Method require complete focus which may be good for Beau. Practice heeling on every walk, even when there are no cars in sight. Keep working on it! Good luck!

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Question
Izzy
German Shepherd
2 Years
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Question
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Izzy
German Shepherd
2 Years

Izzy hates cars, she is so out of control. When we are in the car all she does is bark all the way to destination. Sometimes when a car is not even present. When I walk her, a car approaches she gets ready to attack to the car. Tonight she threw me on the ground.

I don't know what to do, this has been going on for a full year.

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
104 Dog owners recommended

Hello, no doubt Izzy is big and strong and can pull you down easily. I think it is best to have a trainer come to your home and accompany you on a few walks and maybe even a car ride to assist you in getting this issue under control. It will be well worth the expense and your time - you will be able to enjoy Izzy so much more and she will feel better as well, getting over this fear or dislike of cars. So, please look online or ask at the dog park about a trainer used to giving dogs a hand getting over issues. Take a look here also; you may see helpful videos: https://robertcabral.com/. Online training may be available also. In the meantime: https://wagwalking.com/training/stay-away-from-cars-2. Try the Come Method. Work on Izzy's Heel; if you can get her to focus on you, it may lessen the problem somewhat, although I do feel you will need a trainer: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel. I also suggest obedience training: https://wagwalking.com/training/obedience-train-a-whippet. There are excellent tips, spread the guide through. All the best to Izzy!

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Question
Maxie
Jack Russell Terrier
5 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Maxie
Jack Russell Terrier
5 Months

Chasing and lunging at cars, barking at people and other dogs.

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
104 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Maxie is displaying behavior typical of this energetic and curious breed. He is at the perfect age to start obedience classes and I think that stimulating his keen mind is the solution to curbing the behavior. Enroll him in classes as soon as you can and you'll see a huge difference! The socialization is important, too, and will teach him that barking at people and dogs is not necessary. In the meantime, start working on obedience training at home: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-dog-basic-obedience. There are excellent tips in the guide so read it through. As well, when on walks, work on training Maxie to heel. Then he'll focus on you and not worry about the cars, people, and dogs in your vicinity. Jack Russell Terriers need a lot of exercise and he'll do really well on walks with a task to do. Take a look here, and if treats are a draw for Maxie, start with the Treat Lure Method. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel. Good luck!

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