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

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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

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Effective
0 Votes
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

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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
Teddy
Shorkie
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
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Teddy
Shorkie
1 Year

He is super sweet, but will bark at people as they come into room. A very loud and defensive bark which doesnt stop if they approach and extend their hand for him to sniff. If person leaves room for 30 min or more he starts barking again just as if furst time.
Th
Thank you.is happens on walks as well with people and other dogs, an aggressive bark mixed in with a bark that sounds like I am hurting him.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Heather, Has pup ever bitten someone or attempted to? If pup is truly aggression, you may need to work with a trainer in person, take additional safety measures, and do some foundation training also, to build pup's overall trust and respect for you as well. If pup is simply nervous, suspicious, reactive, overly excited, or in the habit of barking, but not aggressive, I recommend the following. First, check out the Quiet and Desensitize methods from the article I have linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Second, check out the videos I have linked below for desensitizing pup to people entering your door, and seeing people and dogs outside. Barking at door: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpzvqN9JNUA&list=PLAA4pob0Wl0W2agO7frSjia1hG85IyA6a&index=7&t=2s Barking during walk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JY7JrteQBOQ&list=PLAA4pob0Wl0W2agO7frSjia1hG85IyA6a&index=4&t=9s Barking at strangers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXCELHDT2fs&list=PLAA4pob0Wl0W2agO7frSjia1hG85IyA6a&index=5 Barking at dogs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3n_fPKPLA2g&list=PLAA4pob0Wl0W2agO7frSjia1hG85IyA6a&index=5 Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Rosie
Border Collie
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Rosie
Border Collie
2 Years

She barks and lunges at passing cars and people with or without dogs with them. Also, does this when friends enter our home

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jenna, For these behaviors, especially the people related reactivity, I recommend hiring a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression, fear and reactivity, to work with you in person. Look for someone who comes well recommended by their previous clients and ideally works with a team of trainers so that there are numerous other trainers who can practice being "strangers" entering your home. At least part of the training also needs to take place in your home and neighborhood since that's where the issue mainly is. For the car reactivity, 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 Check out this video on using obedience commands to desensitize pup to cars. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buaZctWLWR0 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... When looking for a trainer, ask them a lot of questions. Look for someone who understands the intelligence, herding drive, sensitivity, and intensity of a Border Collie. Often respect needs to be built with a Border Collie using training that stimulates them mentally instead of something overly physical. There is a need for a high level of consistency in training, and an awareness of how they are responding to things like pressure and impute during training. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Gunner
Border Collie
3 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Gunner
Border Collie
3 Years

My dog barks at EVERY car he hears and sees drive by and pull up. Even if I go out to my car he knows the key chain sound and immediately starts barking. He will bark until the car is out of his site. This has become very frustrating and embarrassing when guest are over as it appears I am unable to control my dog. I would love some advice on how to control this behavior with cars. Thanks!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kayle, It sounds like pup has become overly sensitive to cars. Check out the desensitize method and the Quiet method from the article I have linked below. Desensitize and Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark I recommend desensitizing pup to the sound of the car, starting with desensitizing pup to things like keychains, doors opening in the car, starting the engine, then finally the car driving. You will need a volunteer to help you with this. Check out the two videos I have linked below. Neither of these videos are of cars, but both are of dogs who are overly sensitize to certain sounds and actions, and are then gradually desensitized to those things. The same type of training can be applied to your situations by substituting the sounds associated with your car in place of the ones in the video. Door: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpzvqN9JNUA Noises: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhc2jlc6dmc Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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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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Question
Izzy
German Shepherd
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
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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