Getting Dogs Used to the Car

Last updated: February 26, 2013

Leave a Comment

Animal Training and Behaviour Centre

In our modern life, a car is a vital element for work, entertainment, safety, and social interaction. It is important that our canine companion’s learn to enjoy a car trip with us.

Set your dog up to succeed:

  • Don’t hype them up before getting in the car,
  • Make sure they are calm and have had an opportunity to go to the toilet.
  • Avoid feeding your dogs before getting in the car.
  • Make sure your dog likes his harness and has positive associations with being in the harness.
  • Make sure the harness fits well and the dog is secure in the car.
  • You may need to investigate getting a crate or cargo barrier for the car if the dog won’t sit still (an advantage of a crate in the car is that you can cover it with a sheet and reduce the visual stimulation).
  • Make sure the dog has suitable air flow (this does not mean they need to hang their head out the window).
Three dogs in the back seat of a car with their heads out the window for fresh air

If your dog has already developed a problem in the car i.e. fear or over arousal, following this procedure will help. Do not progress to the next step until the last one has been successfully completed on at least 5 different occasions.

With your dog on lead and the car door open:

  • Get your dog to sit, drop, sit, stand, sit.
  • Close the car door and move away before releasing your dog. The dog should be calm throughout, reward as often as required.

With your dog on lead and the car door open:

  • Get your dog to sit, drop, sit, stand, sit.
  • Place a treat on the floor of the car (or seat), where your dog can reach it and allow your dog to take it.
  • Close the car door and move away before releasing your dog. The dog should be calm throughout, reward as often as required.

With your dog on lead and the car door open.

  • Get your dog to sit, drop, sit, stand, sit.
  • Place a treat on the floor of the car (or seat), just out of the dogs reach it and allow your dog to get it.
  • Close the car door and move away before releasing your dog. The dog should be calm throughout, reward as often as required. With your dog on lead and the car door open:
  • Get your dog to sit, drop, sit, stand, sit.
  • Place a treat on the floor of the car (or seat), a little further out of the dogs reach it and allow your dog to get it. By now the dog should be almost completely in the car – so encourage the dog out
  • Close the car door and move away before releasing your dog.

With your dog on lead and the car door open:

  • Get your dog to sit, drop, sit, stand, sit.
  • Place a treat on the floor of the car (or seat), when the dog is completely in the car secure the dog. Release and encourage the dog out, reward.
  • Close the car door and move away before releasing your dog

With your dog on lead and the car door open:

  • Get your dog to sit, drop, sit, stand, sit.
  • Place a treat on the floor of the car (or seat), when the dog is completely in the car secure the dog, close and open the door. Release and encourage the dog out, reward.
  • Close the car door and move away before releasing your dog. With your dog on lead and the car door open:
  • Get your dog to sit, drop, sit, stand, sit.
  • Place a few treats on the floor of the car (or seat), secure the dog and close the door. After five second open the door and encourage the dog out. Reward. Continue increasing the time in the car until you can get into your seat.
  • Close the car door and move away before releasing your dog.

Repeat the routine but making the following changes:

  • Start the car, turn it off.
  • Start the car, let it roll forward, reverse, turn it off.
  • Start the car, move to the end of the drive – park the car at the beginning.
  • Start the car move on to the street – go home.
  • Start the car move to the end of the street – go home.
  • Go around the block.

For nausea – grated ginger could help, or lavender essential oil on the collar may help. Product like rescue remedy can also help control anxiety.

For over excited dogs controlling the amount of stimulation in the car will help, i.e. calm music, quiet discussions, calm driving, experiment with limiting the dog’s field of vision.

Tags:

RSPCA animal training courses are available across Australia:

  • Queensland: call the RSPCA Animal Training & Behaviour Centre for further information in regard to courses available on (07) 3426 9928.
  • Victoria: for any information on training and behaviour in Victoria call Amanda Murcutt on 92242521.
  • West Australia: call the RSPCA PawsCentral Adoption Centre for further information about courses available near you on (08) 9209-9309 or visit the RSPCA WA website.
  • NSW: Information is available on the RSPCA NSW website.
  • Australian Capital Territory: Information is available on the RSPCA ACT website.
  • South Australia: Contact information is available on the RSPCA SA website.
  • Northern Territory: Contact information is available on the RSPCA Darwin website.
  • Tasmania: Training is available at the Hobart Animal Care Centre in Mornington. Go to the RSPCA Tasmania website for further information.

Have your say! Leave us a comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.