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
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

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?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Flynn
Border Collie
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
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
154 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

Add a comment to Flynn's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!
Sketch of smiling australian shepherd