How to Train Your Dog to Not Whine in the Car

How to Train Your Dog to Not Whine in the Car
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon1-3 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

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.

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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.

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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.

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The Reduce Anxiety Method

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Teach 'Be Quiet' Method

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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.

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.

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.

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.

5

Introduce praise

Start replacing treats with praise and attention for being quiet.

The Alternate Behavior Method

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Teach alternate behavior

Teach your dog to perform 'sit and look at me'.

2

Practice behavior

Give the command in a variety of different locations and provide treats for 'sit and look at me' until well established.

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.

4

Reinforce behavior

When your dog performs the command, give him a treat and praise

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.

By Laurie Haggart

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

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Skye

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Scotty Chihuahua

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9 Weeks

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Shhe is smart. She potty's next to pad or litter box. Or sneaks off to unknown place until i find it. She cries in car unless you hold her, tried every type of car seat for dogs. Cries when you leave her. Likes her create, knows how to open it. BITES EVERYTHING ! LUNGES TO FACE & BITES WHILE PLAYING. BITES BITES BITES EVERYTHING ! have tried frozen carrots, toys. Treats, etc .... HELP! we git her at 6 weeks, people wanted puppies gone. She was 2 pounds, now, almost 4 pounds at 9 weeks. PLEASE HELP is Chihuahua and Scotty

April 5, 2022

Skye's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, For potty training, check out this article and the Crate Training method or Exercise Pen method. Those methods can be used with a doggie litter box, disposable real grass pad, or pee pads. Since pup is going next to the pad instead of on it, I would start the exercise pen method by covering the entire floor of the pen with pee pads or disposable real grass pads (may puppies do best with the grass pads out of all indoor potties and they transition to outside potty training easier when needed). https://wagwalking.com/training/litter-box-train-a-chihuahua-puppy 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. I would also crate train pup and pup ride in a crate while little. Tether the crate to the seat or something secure though so pup's crate can't slide around. Another option is also to use a seatbelt harness but instead of tethering pup to the seat, tether pup to something secure on the floorboard of one of the middle or front passenger seats, as long as its away from airbags. From the floorboard pup doesn't fell like they are sliding as much, can often still see you, and can lay down more easily. There is going to be crying, don't give in and pick pup up, let them practice riding without being held, do the above car desensitization, and practice the concepts from the surprise method I have linked in the article below. Pup needs a chance to see that they can calm themselves and relax in the car. Most puppies cry terribly at first, just like the crate. Being somewhere low and not in the very very back of the vehicle can help prevent motion sickness, desensitizing pup to the car while it's turned off can also help. Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Since pup was taken from litter mates a bit early due to the breeder, it will be especially important to join puppy play groups or classes with off-leash puppy play times. Pup may not be old enough to enroll quite yet but go ahead and find one because I would start as early as possible. If you have any friends with puppies too, get together with them and let the puppies practice learning how to control their mouths through play that you moderate and facilitate breaks for pups as needed. Check out the article linked below. Starting today, use the "Bite Inhibition" method. BUT at the same time, begin teaching "Leave It" from the "Leave It" method. As soon as pup is good as the Leave It game, start telling pup to "Leave It" when she attempts to bite or is tempted to bite. Reward pup if she makes a good choice. If she disobeys your leave it command, use the Out command from the second article linked below to make her leave the area as a consequence. The order or all of this is very important - the Bite Inhibition method can be used for the next couple of weeks while pup is learning leave it, but leave it will teach pup to stop the biting entirely. The Out method teaches pup that you mean what you say without being overly harsh - but because you have taught pup to leave it first, pup clearly understands that you are not just playing (which is what pup probably thinks most of the time right now), so it is more effective. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - which means leave the area, is also a good command. Check out the section on Using Out to Deal with Pushy Behavior for how to calmly enforce that command once it's taught. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Another important part of this is puppy learning bite inhibition. Puppies have to learn while young how to control the pressure of their mouths - this is typically done through play with other puppies. You are looking for puppies under 6 months of age - since young puppies play differently than adult dogs. Some pet stores with trainers offer free or cheap play groups too. Some areas will conduct outside classes too if being inside is a concern. Moderate the puppies' play and whenever one pup seems overwhelmed or they are all getting too excited, interrupt their play, let everyone calm down, then let the most timid pup go first to see if they still want to play - if they do, then you can let the other puppies go too when they are waiting for permission. Finding a good puppy class - no class will be ideal but here's what to shoot for: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/puppy-classes-when-to-start/ When pup gets especially wound up, she probably needs a nap too. At this age puppies will sometimes get really hyper when they are overtired or haven't had any mental stimulation through something like training. When you spot that and think pup could be tired, place pup in their crate or an exercise pen with a food stuffed Kong for a bit to help her calm down and rest. Practicing regular obedience commands or having pup earn what they get by performing commands like Sit and Down before feeding, petting, tossing a toy, opening the door for a walk, ect... can also help stimulate pup mentally to increase calmness and wear them out. Commands that practice focus, self-control, and learning something a bit new or harder than before can all tire out puppies. Know that mouthiness at this age is completely normal. It's not fun but it is normal for it to take some time for a puppy to learn self-control well enough to stop. Try not to get discouraged if you don't see instant progress, any progress and moving in the right direction in this area is good, so keep working at it. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

April 5, 2022

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Milo

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Snorkie

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1 Year

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Hates the car whines, pants and paces

Jan. 7, 2022

Milo's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Dee, 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. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Jan. 7, 2022


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