Every dog should learn certain life skills, and enjoying getting into and out of a car is an important one.
While it’s not necessary for smaller dogs to learn this skill, because they’re easily portable, it’s vital for medium and large-sized dogs.
With that said, sometimes it’s not an easy behavior to teach dogs, especially if they’ve had negative car riding experiences before. Plus, it’s scary jumping into a high SUV, especially if a dog or puppy has fallen while jumping up in the past. The key to getting your dog in the car is to make the act of jumping into and out of cars super fun. This will save your back plus make car rides enjoyable.
Car Rides Are Fun!
Before going on car rides with your dog, teach your dog that jumping into and out of a car is rewarding. Grab lots of pea-sized and super yummy treats, such as chopped up baked chicken, cheese cubes or hot dogs. You’ll also need:
- A clicker or marker word, such as “yes”
- Your dog
- A parked car
Open both rear car doors or trunk, and toss yummy food inside the car. Most dogs will readily jump inside the car to get the yummy treat, but this doesn’t work for all dogs. If your dog is hesitant to jump inside, click and treat every time your dog looks at or walks toward your parked car.
Dogs quickly learn that cars make delicious treats appear, so cars must be fun. Continue to click and treat small progressions toward your car until your dog will poke his head inside. Eventually, your dog will place two feet inside the car and will jump inside.
When rewarding dogs, pop treats into your dog’s mouth in the beginning because tossing earned treats into a scary car might be too much. Once your dog will step into the car, place treats next to his feet. Move slowly at your dog’s pace, practice 2-3 minutes per training session and keep sessions fun.
Make It a Game
Playing an enthusiastic game is another fun way to teach dogs to happily jump inside and out of a car. With both back car doors wide open, ask a friend or spouse to stand four feet away from the door with super yummy treats.
Position yourself and your dog in front of the other open car door. Ask the volunteer to make happy high-pitched, rapidly repeating sounds to entice your dog to jump in, through and out the car door to grab treats from your volunteer. Make this fun by asking your volunteer to run away from the car, toss a toy into the lawn and reward generously. Now, it’s time for you to make happy sounds, such as “puppy, puppy, puppy,” smooching or clapping sounds. Ping-pong your dog running back and forth through the car for a few seconds, and then end the game. Place a seat protector on your car’s seat if needed. Practice daily for 2-3 minutes per day, and have lots of fun.
Scary Car Rides Happen
Scary things happen, and sometimes dogs suddenly become scared to jump into and out of cars again. If this happens, play fun games and reward your dog for looking at or walking toward cars daily.
Some dogs physically have a hard time jumping into cars, so invest in car ramps or harnesses that safely and comfortably help dogs into vehicles. For car motion sickness, consult your veterinarian for medications that can prevent nausea.
If you make it fun and reward generously, your dog will love loading up into your car!
Fanna Easter is a freelance writer and professional dog trainer; she has earned several national behavior certifications (CPDT-KA, KPA CTP).