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.
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.
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.
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)
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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