Dog Car Rules– getting in, getting out, riding by Jeanine Renzoni
He shall remain nameless, but he is small and white and a terrier, and he jumps in and on anything in the car, stands up on the armrests and rolls down the windows to his delight, he doesn’t know the meaning of staying in one spot, he is randomly noisy and must be in a crate or tethered or held if he is to be a safe passenger. I’m sure he’d attempt driving if left to his own devices.
A dog that is good in the car: waits to be asked to jump in, is direct-able to go to the right place to settle, lies down/or sits and stays in that spot when the car is moving, waits when the doors are opened and people get in or out, and only leaves the vehicle when asked/signaled and goes through the door indicated. If people are eating in the car the dog does not try to take their food and is polite when given food to eat.
Maybe these are like ‘house rules’ and so there is room for personal variation, but riding in the car is more risky than being at home so avoiding interference with the driver is primary in importance. Then there are the comfort/cleanliness features and the dog safety/politeness issues.
- Dog is in back seat or on floor in front passenger seat area (preferably crated or harnessed), but not walking around or bouncing around and climbing on people or windows. why? driver doesn’t need this distraction and visual barrier, dog is not stable when standing up and can easily become a missile given unfortunate circumstances, dogs that stand/walk often learn to bark at cars/people/motorcycles making them awful traveling companions and more of a hassle on trips.
- Dog gets in and out through back door or passenger side door, not over the driver’s seat (why? usually if the dog thinks he gets out the driver’s way he is willing to jump over/on the driver — not a good idea and makes the driver into a veritable dog ninja, trying to block the escape or wriggle out without the dog. Otherwise, having the dog (wet, muddy, full of stuff) jump on the driver’s seat means the driver’s seat is now wet, muddy – yuck! OK now get in and drive – oh, you always carry a dog towel, do you?)
- Dog doesn’t get to hang his head out of the window (why? eye injury is expensive, dog’s often want to go out after things they smell or see, and they can become a projectile if you hit the brakes or turn rapidly).
- Dog doesn’t get to sit/lay on driver’s lap (why? because he’s/she’s the driver! and having a dog that is in the way may kill you.) And having a dog that freaks out and tries to get under your legs/feet is very bad – ah, did you just picture that?
- Dog doesn’t get to chase the windshield wipers, bark at pedestrians, jump out the window or through the topper screens to get out at stops, whirl and act crazy, chase tires and pop them with his teeth … and preferably the dog doesn’t get car sick, poop or pee in the car, fart, howl, whine, drool or shed fur all over everything or open the cooler and help himself.
So how do we get to this paragon of car riding virtue? The easiest way is to start from the beginning with the pup in the crate (preferably one that is plastic sided or a wire one with a cover to block the rapidly changing views). A crate will contain any accidents or up chuck and is easily cleanable – both great recommendations for one. Less movement in a moving car means less likely to be car sick with the accompanying discharges. If you don’t start from the beginning the training will take as long as the pups does, just keep at it and remember what you want.
Put the crate in the back (seat) within reach of the driver or whoever is going to do the rewarding. When the pup is quiet offer a food treat, then graduate to when the pup is quiet and lays down offer a food treat. Then try to offer so the pup doesn’t necessarily see you do it, you want them to settle, not intensely stare at you. Goal; A pup who rides in the car quietly and calmly. Continue with the crate system thru the pup’s rowdy, gangly stage — multiple months later. Then since you have been doing training ask for a down in their spot and go for a short drive without the crate, reward for success.
Or tether the pup with a harness – the spot behind the driver is good because then getting them in and out does not take extra walking around the vehicle. Remember they are not to jump in over the driver’s seat or out that way either because practice creates a pattern. The tethered pup gets the same kinds of rewards for quiet lay downs.
What about the older dog who is barking at motorcycles and pedestrians as you drive by? Lucky you, how are your ears do’in? And no, it isn’t true that all German Shepherds do that, fyi. The covered crate can really help this, with rewards for quiet and calm. Each time they get to have the fun of lunging and barking extends the time it will take to resolve the issue by 10-20 rides.
What about the little dogs? Well if they are as old as the one I ended up with (9) I’m thinking crate or tether, and lock the windows as a management solution, plus his crate isn’t actually that cumbersome. Otherwise they can learn the same things as the big dogs, and they truly don’t need to see out the windows. he has learned to just jump in and get into his crate instead of thinking he needs a car ‘search and seize tour’ before submitting to confinement – too funny, such a terrier.
What about barking at people from the parked car when you’re not there, which has become a recent problem of mine. This is a tough problem. It seems that some people are good at getting dogs in cars to bark by going over close to the car and staring in and then leaving when they’ve caused a ruckus.
And once this fun activity is established even practicing sitting in the car with the dog(s) in parking lots doesn’t rectify it. Blocking the view would help, but that means crating everyone which is difficult with big or multiple dogs – need a bus to fit them in. I’m leaving this one unsolved for now, innocent bystanders will just need to get over being startled.
Sorry for your heart attack, really.
(Jeanine is a positive applied behavior dog trainer with over 40 years experience. She has three dogs of her own currently, all 2nd hand. All but the little (in this post) un-named one are great car riders, except for the new barking while parked issue.