Travelling with your canine companion doesn’t need to be stressful — it’s all about making it a positive experience for everyone. Expert dog trainer Ben Randall explains how to teach your dog to happily hop in and out of the car on command.
With so many great walks often only a short drive away, and with dog-friendly restaurants and holidays growing evermore popular, getting your dog to jump in the car to head off on an adventure is a big part of dog ownership.
But what do you do if your canine friend isn’t keen on getting in the car? Perhaps anxious of jumping up and in to the boot, or maybe they just prefer to get one of their helpers — yes, that’s you — to save them the bother of doing it themselves? It’s important to encourage your dog to become comfortable with jumping in the car so that you can hit the road without the hassle of having to coax them in and out, or the physical act of lifting them in and out — which can ruin your clothes, or worse, potentially hurting your back. That’s the issue faced by today’s reader.
‘I have a cockapoo who refuses to jump up into the back of the car,’ [writes L.C., via email]. ‘It’s fine lifting him in when the weather is nice and dry, but when it’s muddy, it’s a real pain as I end up with dirt all over me. Please can you help?’
When we teach the BG foundations, one command that proves to be particularly helpful in so many situations is the ‘in’ command, which I use while pointing to an area to tell the dogs to go anywhere, whether that be into a crate, into a car, from one room into another or into the garden — it can be used for anything.
You have to teach the ‘in’ command in a positive and rewarding way for your dog, so that he or she is happy to act on the instruction. It’s vital for you both and one of the keys to dog training, along with things such as stopping your dog pulling on the lead, teaching your dog the leave command or stopping a dog from jumping up on people. You can catch up on my previous dog training articles for Country Life here, see more at @beggarbush on Instagram, or ask me your own question by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Five steps to teach your dog to jump into the car
1. Reward your dog for going into a familiar spot
Start by teaching your dog to go into an area that he or she likes and wants to go into often, such as their bed or crate. Point to the bed, say your dog’s name and then say, ‘in’, and, if they go into their bed, praise them and give them a piece of kibble. Once you’ve repeated this a few times, your dog will realise that if they go into that area, they will get praise or a kibble reward.
2. Use the ‘in’ command wherever you are in the house
I start putting the command to use in all areas in and around the house, rather than restricting it to one area. Your dog will quickly understand the command and once they’ve got the hang of it, all you need to reward them for listening to it is to give them plenty of praise (you don’t need to always have some kibble in your pocket!).
3. Move things up a gear
Once your dog is responding well in the house, you can progress to trying the ‘in’ command with the car. However, depending on how high your car is, it can be helpful to park it at the bottom of a slope to make it easier for the dog to jump in and out.
4. Take the leap
Start this process on the lead and ask your dog to ‘sit’ outside the boot of the car — I usually reward them with one piece of kibble for sitting. Then, show them the next piece of kibble in your right hand and, with the lead in your left, point into the boot of the car and give the ‘in’ command, with — if necessary — a slight encouragement via the lead in your left hand if necessary. Usually, the dog responds fairly quickly, especially if he or she already understands the ‘in’ command. Practice this several times a day and your dog will soon get the hang of jumping into the car on instruction and, as mentioned before, you won’t always need to give kibble as a reward, because lots of verbal and physical praise is enough.
5. Make the car a comfortable and familiar space
One final top tip is, if your dog is really happy at home in their crate or in their bed and they see that place as a positive space, to put that crate or bed in the boot of the car, so it smells and looks familiar, which will encourage them to jump in. At first, it’s also wise to try to keep all the journeys short — and to make the moments before they get in the car and as soon as they get out as happy as possible — so your dog gets used to associating the car with positive experiences. If you put all this advice into action, they’ll soon be happy to go anywhere with you.
For more detailed advice about Ben Randall’s positive, reward-based and proven BG training methods, one-to-one training sessions, residential training or five-star dog-boarding at his BGHQ in Herefordshire, telephone 01531 670960 or visit www.ledburylodgekennels.co.uk. For a free seven-day trial of the Gundog app, which costs £24.99 a month or £249.99 a year, visit www.gundog.app/trial.
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