How to Train Your Dog to Stay Away from Cars

How to Train Your Dog to Stay Away from Cars
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Time icon1-2 Months
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

Can you really teach your pup a modicum of common sense? That is a tough question to answer, but when it comes to running into traffic, your pup may lack the common sense it takes to play somewhere else. Many dogs just do not have the fear of moving traffic that humans do and will simply walk out into traffic fearlessly and without a second thought. While many do so all the time without a problem, it only takes one small misstep to have the trip across the road end in tragedy.

Worse than this, far too many dogs seem to love chasing cars, which also ends in disaster more often than not. The good news is that there are ways you can train your dog to stay away from cars as long as you are willing to put in the time and effort. 

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Defining Tasks

Allowing your dog to run out in the street, by not training him to behave in another manner, is tantamount to allowing him to risk his life every time he decides its time to play with the cars on the highway. You can avoid this in several different ways, such as boundary training that keeps him "locked" in his yard or using a training collar or even long leash training. You can even use the 'down from a distance' method. Anything, as long as it keeps your dog from chasing cars, running out into traffic, and most importantly of all, from being badly injured or killed.

Until you can be sure your dog will no longer chase cars, you should never leave him outside unattended or off his leash. Not only will this give him the opportunity to chase cars, but also joggers, pedestrians, motorcycles, and cyclists, all of which could end up with someone, including your dog, being injured. 

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Getting Started

There really isn't much you need in the way of supplies in order to train your pup to respect cars and stop running around in traffic. For this one, you will need:

  • A long leash: Look for one that is 20 to 30 feet long.
  • Treats: To use as rewards.
  • Time: You need to be able to set about 15 minutes a day for this training every day.
  • Patience: Teaching your pup to stay away from cars is going to take plenty of patience, because no matter what, you cannot yell at your dog when he disobeys. This will only excite him and make him more likely to run out into traffic instead of coming back away from it. 

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The Distraction Method

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1

Time for a walk

Take your pup for a walk on his leash along a road with a moderate amount of traffic.

2

Spot that car

As soon as you spot a car approaching the two of you, move far enough away that your dog will remain calm as the car passes

3

Make noise

As the car passes you, make a loud noise to distract your pup's attention away from the car. Once the car passes, give your dog a treat and praise him.

4

Repeat as needed

During your first few walks, you may feel as though you are fighting a losing battle. But you have to keep trying. If you give up, your pup wins the battle.

5

Getting closer

If you had to start out far away from the traffic, now is the time to start working your way closer to the cars until your dog, in anticipation of a treat, will no longer go anywhere near them. Be patient, this may take some time.

The Down Method

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1

Out in the yard

Take your dog out in the yard on a long leash with plenty of treats in your pocket.

2

Allow him to roam

Allow your dog to roam until he reaches the end of the leash or the edge of your property.

3

Down, boy

Give your pup the 'down' command and when he lies down, give him a treat.

4

Rerun

Repeat this every time he goes out and a car comes by. Each time he does so, call him back and reward him with plenty of praise and a treat.

5

In time

In time, your pup will learn to associate cars passing by with lying down and getting a treat.

6

No more leashes

Time to work with your pup off-leash. By now, he should be able to watch the cars go by from a position where he is laying on the ground. You can slowly wean him off the treats and never have to worry about him wandering out in the traffic.

The Stay Method

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1

Start indoors

Start by working indoors when the house is nice and quiet. Your dog will learn better without distractions.

2

Sit, stay

Have your dog sit and give him the 'stay' command. Step back a pace or two. If he stays in place, give him a treat.

3

Moving up and out

Now that you have him staying in place, you can start increasing the distance from where you give the command and time that he needs to stay in place.

4

Take it outside

Time to go outside and play with the traffic (or not)! Try to pick a time of day when the traffic is not heavy. Each time you see a car approaching, give your pup the 'sit/stay' commands. When he obeys, give him a treat and praise him.

5

Work it

Once your pup seems to be doing what you tell him on a quieter road, you can take him out during progressively busier times of the day. Work with him until he anticipates your command when a car is approaching and automatically assumes the 'sit/stay' position. Repeat until he won't move an inch unless there is no traffic, or you tell him it's okay.

By PB Getz

Published: 11/17/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Gracie

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Boston Terrier

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3 Years

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Question

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We have a little Boston who loves people. We live on an acreage with a long lane. When ever any car comes down the drive or is leaving, Gracie runs out to meet them. She is so excited thinking that everyone loves her. She will jump in the car as well even if she doesn't know them like the UPS truck, etc. She is so fast that we're afraid she will get run over as people don't expect to see her. We don't let them out unless we are out. If we see someone coming, we have trained her to sit and stay until the car is stopped, but we have to be there to do it. Our other Boston does much better. What can we do to stop this overly friendly, dangerous behavior?

June 6, 2022

Gracie's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Cathy, I would either teach an avoidance of cars or use something like a Halo collar, which uses GPS mapping for boundaries, like an electric fence but better. You would use this to create a boundary line 2-5 feet inside of the yard where the yard meets to road and driveway, to keep pup away from the area where cars approach. Check out the videos I have linked below. These videos show a livestock chasing dog being trained to leave livestock alone, even when the owner isn't present - in your case, the livestock are the cars. You will need someone who can watch for pup carefully to be in a car for practice, switching out the car used for practice periodically, so pup learns to leave all cars alone and not just a single car alone. Day 1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgNbWCK9lFc Day 2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kpf5Bn-MNko&t=14s Day 3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xj3nMvvHhwQ Day 4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxrGQ-AZylY Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 7, 2022

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Nala

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Shar Pei half red nose

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5 Months

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We’ve trained Nala to sit and stay since we’ve had her and it’s been going really well. But when we take her for walks on the road she barks and leaps towards the road when a car passes by. I have tried sit, stay, treats amd many other options to get her attention but it hasn’t worked. Do you have any other ideas of how I can keep my puppy calm on walks please.

Nov. 22, 2021

Nala's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Lisi, First, I suggest teaching a solid Leave It command to pup. Follow the Leave It command using the Leave It method from the article linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Second, teach pup a structured heel - practice away from cars at first. Check out the article and video linked below Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Check out this video on how to utilize pup's obedience skills to help with a car fixation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buaZctWLWR0 At this age, the above training is often all that's needed if you will practice multiple times per week. I would start there. Some dogs who have a strong chase instinct will need additional training in this area if they are really fixating on the cars, and because of the danger of a car fixation I would use an interrupter. For a puppy this age, I would start with just a pet convincer and a calm "Ah ah" verbal correction, then reward pup when they return their focus to you or ignore the car at all while you pass by. When you correct, you would calmly spray a brief puff of air from a pet convincer at pup's side while saying "Ah Ah". Once pup stops looking at the car, praise pup, give a treat and another command, like Heel, and reward pup for heeling instead of watching cars. Any other training you can do to help with impulse control is also great, such as a long Place, Down-Stay, waiting at doors, not exiting a crate until told Okay, ect... If you aren't seeing improvement in this area in the next two months, I would go ahead and hire a professional trainer with experience with chasing behaviors, obsessive behavior, and behavior issues in general, to work with you in person. I wouldn't wait too long to address this because of the dangers of car chasing. Many puppies do react to cars at first though, many try to run away and some try to attack them. This is often just a socialization and obedience issue at first, which I would address with just obedience practice, rewards and mild interruptions to help pup learn to ignore the cars and get used to their presence. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Nov. 26, 2021


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