Training your dog for a car ride...
The Highway Code requires dogs (and other animals) to be ‘suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly.’
Instructions to help a dog relax and enjoy car rides.
Step 1: Don’t feed your dog her daily meal before doing the exercise. Start with a walk out to the car. If your car is in an unfenced driveway, keep her on a loose lead for safety. Open the car door and hand the dog a treat or her favourite toy, which you have retrieved from inside the car. If your dog doesn’t want to get into the car, walk back to the house. (If the dog does get into the car, move on to step 2.) Repeat this step one to three times each day for six days.
Step 2: Once you’ve established a positive association to being near the car, climb into the car holding the dog’s lead and hand her some of her food, kibble by kibble, or hold out her favourite toy. If she still seemed reluctant during this step, repeat the process three times daily — and start moving further inside the car so that she is stretching to reach the toy or kibble. If needed, repeat three times each day for six days. Hopefully, when she feels more relaxed, she will surprise you and climb in.
Step 3: After six days, you should be able to walk out and sit in the car with your dog. If she is still unwilling to climb in, gently pick her up and help her in. Attach a seatbelt to the dog if you plan to use one for rides. Sit next to her, pet and praise her, and use the toy or food as a reward. Then, teach her a release word, such as “OK,” and climb out together (you first) and go for a short walk — another reward. Practice three times in one day.
Step 4: On another day, repeat step 3 but this time have your dog eat her whole meal out in the car. Sit in the car with her next to you and let her eat. After she has finished, release her with an “OK” and take a walk.
Step 5: Dinner out again! This time, put the dog in the car with her food and start the engine. Don’t go anywhere; just start the car. If she is willing to eat with the motor running, let it run. If not, shut it off and let her finish her dinner. Then, release her and take your walk together.
Step 6: If the dog stopped eating with the motor on, try a higher-value food the next day. Repeat the previous day’s activity: Give a yummy dinner with the motor running and take a walk afterward. Practice daily or nightly until your dog is relaxed, climbs in and out of the car, and enjoys dinner with the motor running.
Step 7: You have reached the big event — the car ride! Just like every other day, go out together, get in the car and start the motor. Have the dog’s dinner with you, but don’t serve it yet. Attach her seatbelt and give her a toy for the short journey. As you leave the driveway, talk to her, and praise her. Drive no more than five minutes and when you get back, serve her dinner in your driveway with the motor still running. Then release her, take a walk together, and tell her how great she is.
Make the next day’s drive a little shorter or take a route with fewer curves and bumps if you suspect that might make a difference.