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.
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.
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.