Car Training Part 2: Loading Up

fearful dogs Oct 11, 2021
Dog sitting in car

Does your dog hate to get in the car? In Part 2 of our 3-part series on car training, I talk about training a dog to get into the car, by breaking the behavior down into small steps. The video features our dog Pancake's training, so you can see what the training looked like for him.  

Here are some key points from this week's video. 


Behaviors Needed to Load Up Into a Car

When you train a new behavior, you need to know what you want to behavior to look like after training.  Here are some questions to keep in mind when developing your training plan: 

1) How will my dog get into the car?  Will they need to approach and jump into the car? Walk up a ramp?   Stand still to be picked up? 

2) Where in the car does my dog need to go? Will your dog ride in the back seat, or the cargo area? Do you need them to get into a crate, carrier, or booster seat? 

3) Does my dog need extra training to stay while I close the car door? Some dogs are afraid of the car door closing, and might try to jump out.  If this describes your dog, you'll need to include car door closing into your training plan. 

Avoid Ruining Your Training With Non-Essential Rides 

If your dog is fearful of the car, taking them on rides longer than they can tolerate can derail training. There are least three ways that this can happen:

1) Each additional unpleasant car ride could strengthen negative associations with the car. This can undermine your efforts to teach your dog that the car predicts good things; 

2) A miserable car ride could punish the behaviors you are trying to train, like loading up on cue;

3) You might also inadvertently reinforce behaviors you DON'T want, like barking.  Any behavior that's happening when you stop the car at your destination could be (negatively) reinforced. 

So what are you supposed to do if you absolutely have to take your dog somewhere? For unavoidable car rides, it's worth asking your vet about whether anti-anxiety and/or anti-nausea medication may be appropriate. 

If you're looking for more guidance with your fearful dog, check out our monthly training membership. For a more personalized plan, sign up for private training


If you try these tips and have success, or trouble, we want to hear from you.  Join our Facebook group and post your questions or comments there, or email us at [email protected].