How to Train Your Dog to Not Whine in the Car

Medium
1-3 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

Every time the Smith family took their dog Taffy for a car ride--to the vet, to the park, to the groomers--Taffy started whining in the back seat, and not just a little, a lot! Her family was not sure if it was the car she was riding in, the noise, or being contained that caused her to whine, or the other cars whizzing by that upset Taffy, but the whining was terribly annoying and distracting to the driver. They needed a solution, and fast. Fortunately, their dog trainer friends had some advice for teaching Taffy not to whine in the car, which included addressing her anxiety and training alternate behaviors in the car. Soon her car ride whining was under control. Now rides with Taffy are a lot quieter and less stressful for both Taffy and her family.

Defining Tasks

A dog that whines in the car constantly is not only annoying but can be dangerous, as the dog distracts the driver with the noise and upset he is causing. Teaching your dog to ride quietly in the car is important for everyone's safety. Getting your dog used to cars and reducing anxiety around the sights and sounds of the car can be helpful. Teaching your dog alternate car riding behaviors that are incompatible with whining, like 'be quiet' or 'sit and look at me', and rewarding and reinforcing that behavior while ignoring whining behavior will help establish a different association with car rides, and result in a peaceful road trip.

Getting Started

You will need treats to teach an alternate behavior such as 'be quiet', or 'sit and look at me', in the car to replace whining. Also, a crate and favorite blanket or toy may be useful for calming an anxious dog. Remember not to yell at or punish your dog, as this will only increase anxiety and noise. Check with your veterinarian to be sure that your dog is not experiencing car sickness on trips. This may be a cause of whining, and medication to alleviate motion sickness may help.

The Reduce Anxiety Method

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Step
1
Exercise
Exercise your dog. Take your dog for a long run before putting him in the car so he is tired and has no excess energy to burn off.
Step
2
Vary destination
Take your dog on short trips to locations he is happy to go to, like the park, a friend's, or just a short car trip, then back home so your dog does not always associate car rides with trips to the vet, kennel or groomers.
Step
3
Increase adaptibility
Give your dog lots of social interaction, play and training to build up his confidence. Expose your dog to lots of new situations so that he learns to be more adaptable to new situations, sights, sounds, and noises in general.
Step
4
Use favorite things
When riding in the car, put your dog in a crate and provide a toy or familiar blanket that makes your dog comfortable.
Step
5
Create positive association
Feed your dog in the car and give him treats and playtime near and in the car or next to the car with it running to create a positive association.
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The Teach 'Be Quiet' Method

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Step
1
Have treats ready
Have a few treats at hand while you are driving, keep them in a container that is easily accessible while you are driving or have an assistant ready to provide them.
Step
2
Command 'be quiet'
When your dog starts to whine, say “be quiet” in a firm voice. If your dog continues to whine, don't yell or punish, as this will only escalate the behavior. Ignore him, and after a few minutes repeat the 'be quiet' command.
Step
3
Reinforce quiet
When your dog stops whining, even for a moment, provide the treat and repeat "be quiet" to further associate the verbal command.
Step
4
Repeat
Repeat, asking your dog to be quiet for longer and longer periods before rewarding be quiet. Never reward or pay attention to whining.
Step
5
Introduce praise
Start replacing treats with praise and attention for being quiet.
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The Alternate Behavior Method

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Step
1
Teach alternate behavior
Teach your dog to perform 'sit and look at me'.
Step
2
Practice behavior
Give the command in a variety of different locations and provide treats for 'sit and look at me' until well established.
Step
3
Apply in car
When your dog whines in the car, give the command 'sit and look at me'. If your dog continues whining, ignore him and repeat the command a few minutes later.
Step
4
Reinforce behavior
When your dog performs the command, give him a treat and praise
Step
5
Vary reward
Gradually reduce the number of treats. When your dog whines give the command followed by praise when he obeys. Give treats at the end of the car ride for being quiet and following the 'sit and look at me' command. The command distracts your dog from the whining behavior and eventually replaces it as the desired behavior when riding in the car. Periodically provide treats to reinforce.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Laurie Haggart

Published: 12/07/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Han Soli
Carolina Dog
2 Years
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Han Soli
Carolina Dog
2 Years

This is a picture of Han Solo in my car and another at our destination - a hike in the desert. I’ve now been sitting here for about 25 minutes listening to him whine, trying to wait for him to calm down, with intermittent treats when he’s quiet (lasts about 1 second). I’ve tried to follow the suggestions about training not to whine in the car, but so far I haven’t had any luck. I’m really stuck on the suggestions to “give the command and then wait a few minutes,” or to vary destinations. Namely, just how long am I supposed to “wait” for him to calm down? What am I supposed to do if he actually never does? I live in an apartment in a neighborhood without good walking spaces, and I really want to take my dog hiking or to the dog park. But these require riding in the car, and he needs exercise every day. So we HAVE to have car rides even though he whines. I’ve tried just taking him on boring trips to the grocery store, but he whines regardless. I also work full time (of course), so but I’m committed to making the car rides more bearable for us both. I think it’s actually getting worse. What do I do? (I’ve had him about 18 months and think he’s around 2 and a half)

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
912 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jennifer, First, I suggesting teaching a Quiet command using the Quiet method from the article linked below. Once pup knows what Quiet means, help him generalize it to meaning no whining also by telling him Quiet when he whines, then waiting, then rewarding when he gets quiet. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Second, practice a down stay with pup in the car with the car off. If pup doesn't already wear a car harness that requires him to sit or lie down, add that too. Pup needs to be in the least arousing position, which is generally Down on the floorboard of the middle seats, or at least lying down on the seat. Pup definitely shouldn't be looking out the window - that's highly arousing. Third, recruit an assistant who can either help by driving while you work with pup or who can can work with pup while you drive. Whoever is working with pup should work on enforcing pup to stay in the down position during the ride. Your approach should be calm but firm here. Keep a leash on pup so that you can use the pressure method from the article linked below to enforce pup's down if they disobey. Pressure method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-lay-down Finally, once pup can down stay and knows quiet well, use a pet convincer to interrupt the whining (while someone else is driving) if pup doesn't get quiet when told to Quiet. Calmly praise pup when they obey and generally make the car ride as boring as you can. For the pet convincer (which is a small canister of unscented - NOT citronella - pressurized air, when pup whines, calmly tell pup "Quiet" in a monotone, soft voice. If pup gets quiet, then calmly tell pup "good" - no exciting praise or it will make it harder for pup. If pup continues whining, calmly say "Ah Ah" and spray a small puff of air near pups side (NOT face) to interrupt the whining. If pup is pretty sensitive, the puff of air doesn't have to come in contact with pup, but the sound should surprise him enough to interrupt the whining. If pup is less sensitive, then he will need to feel the sensation of the air to stop whining most likely. Once pup is very quiet and stays down, and his body language is actually calm, you can give treats to reinforce the calm if you like - but only when pup is actually calm, don't reward arousal and anxiety. If you can't do any of the above, then in the very least, have pup wear a car harness that requires pup to lie down calmly throughout the ride - pup will probably still whine but there will probably be less of it and no pacing. Since it looks like pup already wears a harness and is belted in, just adjust how pup is clipped in so that pup is clipped low on the seat where they have to stay down. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Benji
toy poodle
5 Years
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Benji
toy poodle
5 Years

Benji love to climb in the car when he thinks we are going somewhere, but as soon as I start the car he starts crying loudly non stop, I cannot even get his attention to calm him down

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

Thank you for the picture of Benji. I am wondering if Benji has motion sickness. In this case, he could be excited to go but once the car begins to move, he does not feel well. Take a look to start things off slowly: https://wagwalking.com/training/behave-in-the-car (very good methods are described in the guide). And https://wagwalking.com/activity/activities-for-dogs-with-motion-sickness. As well, some dogs feel better if they have a special raised seat so they can look out. Others feel safer when they have a seatbelt on, just like we do. This may help: https://bestcarseathub.com/finest-dog-vehicle-seats/. Good luck!

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Cali
Pomchi
2 Months
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Cali
Pomchi
2 Months

We just got cali less than a week ago and im planning to train her. I tried traning her to know her name and doesnt really work so well. Also im having a hard time potty traning her and pee. What would be thw best way to train her. Also even after a good amount of playing session outaide, once we put her on her pen, she whines. Should i ignore it? also at night weve been trying make her sleep for 2 days on each room of our house for her to be comortable but usually she whines.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
912 Dog owners recommended

Hello Aldrich, First, check out the free PDF e-book AFTER You Get Your Puppy for a great outline of what to expect in a variety of areas with a puppy. www.lifedogtraining.com/freedownloads The whining is completely normal. If pup does not need to go potty, ignore it. Pup needs to be given a chance to realize they can calm down and go to sleep on their own. It is completely normal and generally lasts anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks. The more consistent you are with training, the quicker pup will often adjust. With that said, do proactively practice the Surprise method during the day to help pup learn sooner. At night don't give treats though - just ignore if pup doesn't need to go potty. Surprise method https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate For potty training, I suggest the Crate Training and Tethering methods from the article linked below. The Crate Training method tends to work the quickest and lead to less accidents if followed consistently. Expect potty training to take at least 2-3 months, and learning to alert (opposed to holding it between schedules potty trips you have initiated) to take another 3 at least. There should be gradual improvement though, but don't give too much freedom too soon, or it will take longer in the long run with many dogs. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside If you are trying to indoor potty train, check out the Exercise Pen method or crate training method. I recommend using disposable real grass pads and doggie litter boxes over pee pads in most cases though, because some (not all) dogs will have issues confusing pee pads with carpet and rugs. https://wagwalking.com/training/litter-box-train-a-chihuahua-puppy If you plan to outside potty train and your schedule will allow it, start with only outside potty training instead of switching from inside to outside later - for best results. Not everyone is able to do so due to work, but if you can, it will generally go easier overall. At night, have her sleep in the crate regardless of which room. Ignore the whining- it's normal, unless it's been at least two hours since she last went potty and she is waking to pee. If that's the case, take her potty on a leash, keeping the trip quiet and boring with no play or treats. Return to the crate immediately after, and ignore whining again so she will learn to settle and go back to sleep after peeing - keeping things boring prevents her from learning to wake up and cry just for play or attention at night. If she is only waking to pee after learning, she should begin to sleep through those wake ups too as her bladder capacity increases with age. To teach her her name, say her name when she is looking at you and then toss a treat. Repeat this often. When she gets excited about hearing her name, wait until she takes a step or two toward you, then give the treat. Begin to say her name when she isn't already paying attention throughout the day, then reward when she looks. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Lacey
Jack Russell Terrier
4 Years
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Lacey
Jack Russell Terrier
4 Years

In the car,whines and barks and jumps back forth front and back

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
234 Dog owners recommended

Hello! There are quite a few tips and steps to help your dog be more comfortable in the car. So I am going to send you an article full of information for you to read. https://wagwalking.com/training/behave-in-the-car

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Jax
Vizsla
2 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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Jax
Vizsla
2 Months

She is crate trained and I put her in the crate in the boot with her toys, but she cries the entire jounrney. only small journeys to take the boys to school and to pick them up. When I am a passanger and she sits on me she is fine. I have tried her sitting next to me when I drive on a towel she is fine. But in the boot in or out the crate she is not fine. I only want her to be travelling in the boot. How do I reduce the anxiety she has and the noise as it is distratcing. Thanks, Martina

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
234 Dog owners recommended

Hello. It sounds like you have the right idea by making her crate a little more inviting with toys. If you haven't already tried covering the crate, I would start there. Sometimes if they can see us and can't get to us, it makes their anxiety worse. Cover the sides that are facing you with a blanket and see if that helps to calm her down.

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Jack
Border Collie
10 Months
0 found helpful
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Jack
Border Collie
10 Months

My dog whines in the car. He also runs from side to side and will not focus on me. He won’t take treats or a toy as he is too interested in the cars outside. I don’t know what else to do with him.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
234 Dog owners recommended

Hi there. Dogs are often pretty anxious in the car. They do make harnesses that attach to the seat or seat belt which prevents dogs from pacing, or causing any safety issues. This may be something to look into to keep him under control while driving. He may settle down as time goes on, but keeping everyone safe until then is your best bet for now.

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Alfie
Doxie-Pin
5 Months
0 found helpful
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Alfie
Doxie-Pin
5 Months

Hi there! Alfie is a cutie pie but has one big problem: whenever we take him in a bus/metro he starts whining continuously and does not stop when we reach destination ( for example a 15 min metro ride + 1 hour of walking whining and screaming continuously). The only things that momentarily stop him are treats or chewing stuff. He is very excited to go to the stop and wants to go in the bus/metro, but once in the whole madness starts. We (and the people around us) are going insane and don’t know what could be the reason and how to stop it. He does not puke, but it’s like a switch is pulled and he will only stop the whining back home.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
912 Dog owners recommended

Hello Daisy, I would start with desensitizing pup to the anticipated ride, practice going to the bus stop/station as if you are going to ride, rewarding pup as they stay calm leading up to it, then leaving again. This changes pup's perception that you are always going to ride when you approach one so they aren't building as much tension leading up to the ride. Next, I would practice rides in the car. If you don't have a car I would see if a friend with one will practice with you. A car will let you control the situation before moving onto the bus practice, instead of going straight to the more exciting bus. Start by simply feeding beside the car while its off, then feeding treats along the runner with the door open, then inside the car with it still. For at least a couple of weeks practice the Down Stay command on the middle seats' floorboard or seats (if a row seat). Gradually move to practicing with the car in the driveway but still while on - don't turn on in the garage for gas breathing reasons. When pup is completely relaxed in the car and can do a solid down-stay, recruit a second person to drive or train, so the driver can only focus on driving. Have the person training enforce Down, while the driver simply pulls out of the driveway and back in When pup can stay relaxed during that (which will require a lot of repetition before pup relaxes then too - once pup sees that the driving is boring through repetition), then drive down the block and back. Gradually increase the distance and level of excitement as pup improves, only moving onto further distances or more exciting locations once pup can stay relaxed at the current level of training. While doing this, I suspect you will need a way to interrupt crying too. You may find that you need a low level vibration type remote training collar. If so, I would teach Quiet and practice Quiet until pup is reliable, then I would use a vibration collar to interrupt pup's whining or barking in everyday life when they don't obey Quiet. Once pup is reliable with this around distractions, but not on the bus yet, then I would practice the bus riding with Quiet command again with pup, using the interruption if needed. Avoid citronella collar though. They are too harsh because of how sensitive a dog's nose is and will bother people on the bus. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Chase
toy poodle
7 Years
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Chase
toy poodle
7 Years

Hello. My name is Ana. I have a dog named Chase. He is a toy poodle, and I’ve had him for the last 7 years. When he was a puppy, he was well-behaved around other dogs and people. He loved playing with my aunt's dogs, but she moved away a long time ago, so Chase hasn’t seen them in so many years. He was also very calm in car rides as a puppy. As he grew older, things changed. Now he barks at a dog when he sees one, and he whines really loud in car trips. My family doesn’t take Chase anywhere anymore because they don’t want to deal with his whining. They also lose their patience quickly. I don’t know if it’s considered normal for dogs to behave like this, but I personally find it irritating and difficult to deal with. I do my best to be patient with Chase. Most of the time, I think the reason he behaves like this is that I did something wrong or I’m not raising him right. The truth is, I want to fix that. I want him to become more social with other dogs and people so that he understands that no one means any harm to him. I also want to get him to stop whining in the car, so I can take him to places more often. Are there ways I can fix these problems with Chase?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
912 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ana, Is pup aggressive toward dogs or just overly excited? If aggressive, I would see if there is a G.R.O.W.L. class in your area, which is a class for dog aggressive and reactive dogs, where the dogs wear basket muzzles and are intensively socializes together to help overcome their suspicion of other dogs. If simply overly excited, I suggest working on the structure of your walk first. You want pup to be working during the walk - having to stay behind you, focus on you, perform commands periodically, and not have his mind on scanning the area in search of other dogs. The walk should start with him having to exit your home very calmly, performing obedience commands at the door if he isn't calm. He should wait for permission ("Okay" or "Free" or "Let's Go") before going through the door instead of bolting through if that's an issue. When you walk he should be in the heel position - with his head behind your leg. That position decreases his arousal, reduces stress because he isn't the one in charge and the one encountering things first. It prevents him from scanning for other dogs, staring dogs down or being stared down, and ignoring you behind him. It also requires him to be in a more submissive, structured, focused, calmer mindset - which has a direct effect on how aroused, stressed, and reactive he is. Additionally, when you do pass other dogs, as soon as he starts staring them down, interrupt him. Remind him with a gentle correction that you are leading the walk and he is not allowed to break his heel or stare another dog down. It is far easier to deal with reactivity when you interrupt a dog early in the process - before they are highly aroused and full of adrenaline and cortisol, and to keep the dog in a less aroused/calmer state to begin with. Staying in a calmer mindset also makes the walk more pleasant for him in the long-run. Once pup can walk past other dogs more calmly, you can carry small, soft treats hidden in a treat pouch or plastic bag in your pocket. When pup's body language stays calm, they remain focused on you, or are very obedient when other dogs are within sight, reward pup with a treat and very calm - almost monotone praise (too much excitement can make the situation harder for pup). Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel If he barks, I suggest also teaching the Quiet command from the Quiet method in the article I have linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Once pup is calmer in general after the initial training, practice exposing him a lot to the things that trigger the barking normally (make a list - even if it's long). Whenever he DOESN'T pull/bark/get tense/react to something that he normally would have, calmly praise and reward him to continue the desensitization process. Finally, if pup is friendly with other dogs up close and isn't aggressive, work on calm socialization, and don't skip rewarding pup for calmness around other dogs once he is doing better on walk and is calm enough to reward it! That can help ultimately. For socialization, do things like joining obedience classes, trainings clubs, group dog hikes and walks, canine sports, ect...Your goal right now should be interactions with other dogs that have structure and encourage focus on you, calmness around the other dogs, and a pleasant activity with other dogs around - opposed to roughhousing or tense environments with tons of unpredictable dogs loose which increases adrenaline. Recruit some friends with well mannered dogs to go on walks with you and your dog, following the Passing Approach method and Walking Together method to help the dogs learn how to be calm around each other, while also continuing socialization. Passing Approach and Walking Together methods: https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs For the car rides, I recommend desensitizing pup to the car and slowing the overall process down. Start by simply feeding beside the car while its off, then feeding treats along the runner with the door open, then inside the car with it still. For at least a couple of weeks practice the Down Stay command on the middle seats' floorboard or seats (if a row seat). Gradually move to practicing with the car in the driveway but still while on - don't turn on in the garage for gas breathing reasons. When pup is completely relaxed in the car and can do a solid down-stay, recruit a second person to drive or train, so the driver can only focus on driving. Have the person training enforce Down, while the driver simply pulls out of the driveway and back in When pup can stay relaxed during that (which will require a lot of repetition before pup relaxes then too - once pup sees that the driving is boring through repetition), then drive down the block and back. Gradually increase the distance and level of excitement as pup improves, only moving onto further distances or more exciting locations once pup can stay relaxed at the current level of training. While the behaviors you mentioned aren't something every dog does or things you want pup to do, know that they are common behavior issues that I see very, very often. You are certainly not alone in this. Sometimes it's from a lack of training and socialization, but some dogs are also just more likely to develop those particular behaviors based on their individual temperament. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Ollie
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
7 Months
0 found helpful
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Ollie
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
7 Months

He whines constantly if we are not in the same room .....we have tried short times of ignoring but he gets louder and more distressed

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
912 Dog owners recommended

Hello Katie, First, work on teaching the Quiet command during the day using the Quiet method from the article linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Second, during the day practice the Surprise method from the article linked below. Whenever pup stays quiet in the crate for 5 minutes, sprinkle some treats into the crate without opening it, then leave the room again. As he improves, only give the treats every 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 1 hour, 1.5 hour, 2, hour, 3 hour. Practice crating him during the day for 1-3 hours each day that you can. If you are home during the day, have lots of 30 minute - 1 hour long sessions with breaks between to practice this, to help pup learn sooner. Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate With young puppies or less persistent dogs, often the Surprise method alone will work if you can continue it consistently for long enough without letting pup out or staying in the room when pup's cries get persistent. For persistent dogs, those who have learned that crying gets you to return, or cases where it's going to be very hard for you to stay consistent for several weeks, I recommend adding in interruptions too. Whenever he cries in the crate, tell him "Quiet". If he gets quiet - Great! Sprinkle treats in after five minutes if he stays quiet. If he continues barking or stops and starts again, spray a quick puff of air from a pet convincer at his side through the crate while calmly saying "Ah Ah", then leave again, to interrupt the crying. Only use unscented air canisters, DON'T use citronella! And avoid spraying in the face. Repeat the rewards when quiet and the corrections whenever he cries. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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