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Our friend Lindsay with Ace at ThatMutt.com wrote a wonderful article that we’ve found to be very helpful:

My 70-pound Lab mix Ace loves riding in the car because he associates it with fun places like the dog beach.

Ace the Great Dane Mix 2

“This really is my happy face.”

Ace the Great Dane Mix 3

“Where are we going? I bet it is somewhere fun.”

While I’m glad he’s eager to go places, one problem with his excitement is his tendency to barge right out of the car as soon as I open the back passenger door.

I’ve learned to anticipate and manage this problem by giving a firm “stay!” command or by physically blocking him. He always wears his leash in the car too, which I can easily grab.

Ace the Great Dane Mix 1

“My mom has me wear my leash in the car so that she can grab it in case I try to run out when she opens the door.”

But lately I’ve realized I need to step up my dog’s training (and safety) a bit more. I want my dog to automatically wait patiently in the car until I give him a command to jump out. (I plan to use “OK!”)

I don’t want to tell him “stay” first. I want “stay” to be implied. Even if the door is wide open and my back is turned, I want my dog to learn to wait for my command before jumping out.

There are just too many scenarios where barging out the door could be a small or serious problem.

For example:

-Ace could barge right into traffic, even if he’s on a leash. We live in a heavily populated area with a lot of cars.
He could push the door too hard, causing it to door ding another parked car.
He could knock or pull someone over, trip someone with his leash or give someone rope burn.
If we’re ever in a bad car accident, it may not be safe for him to bolt out as soon as a responder opens the door.
Every now and then, my husband and I will pick up a friend or family member who will ride in the back next to Ace. I can’t have Ace bolting out just because someone else opens the door! (One time he bolted out the door to follow my parents when we dropped them off at their hotel.)

So, you get the point. There are a lot of scenarios where it’s dangerous for a dog to automatically jump out of the car.

Dog seatbelts to safely keep the dog in the car

Before I get to some training tips, an obvious safety tool here would be a dog seat belt.

Not only is a dog seatbelt a safety tool for when the car is moving, but now you can see why a dog seatbelt will safely keep the dog in place even when the car is parked.

Of course, some dogs will still try to bolt out as soon as you unbuckle their seatbelts. But at least the belt will hold your dog in place while you get situated. Read more about dog seatbelts here.

How to train your dog not to jump out of the car as soon as you open the door

The following are my own training tips based on how I plan to train my treat-motivated dog. There are many ways to train a dog, so please share your own suggestions in the comments.

I am training my dog to automatically wait in the car until I say “OK.”

*I drive a four-door car. Ace always sits on the back seat directly behind the driver without a seatbelt.

Here’s what I plan to do:

When I stop the car, I will have a handful of small, highly valued treats ready such as pieces of hot dogs. I will get out, walk to the back door and open it part way, so Ace can’t jump out. Without saying anything, I will pop several yummy treats into Ace’s mouth, being careful to stand close so he won’t jump out. “Gooood boooy.”

If your dog is wearing a seatbelt, this is where I recommend you unclip it – after you have already given him some treats for remaining still. Then, unbuckle the seatbelt and pop some additional treats in his mouth. You want him to learn that the “click” sound of the belt does not signal it’s OK to jump out.

After 30 seconds or so, I will say “OK” and let Ace jump out. I will stop giving him treats at that point because the treats are to reward him when he’s waiting in the car. I will repeat this several times in all sorts of areas, every time we go somewhere.

If he happens to try to jump out before I give the “OK” I will calmly block him with my body and calmly say “no.”

Increasing the challenge

In safe areas that are not too “exciting” I will do the same as above, but I will gradually open the door wider and wider as Ace’s training progresses, over several days and weeks. I will also make a point to stand a bit further from Ace and to wait longer before giving the “OK” to jump out. Giving him treats while he waits in the car will still be important at this point.

With time, I will give the treats less often, especially in “easy” areas where he is not as excited. When we go to the most “exciting” areas like the dog beach I will still have to go back to standing closer to him while he’s still learning.

Other safety tips

-Obviously I’ll have to be aware of the temperature in the car. A parked car is hot, even for a few minutes, and even with the door open. Training sessions will have to be fairly short.
Once your dog jumps out of the car, you may want to also teach him to automatically sit at your side (rather than straining at the leash like a maniac).
If your dog does manage to jump out before you give permission, just calmly say “no” and put him back in. Stay a little closer the next time so he doesn’t have the chance to “fail” again.

Of course, there are many other ways you could train your dog to wait in the car, and we are lucky to have so many training tools to help us. For example, perhaps a kennel will make it easier for your dog to remain calm and safe until you’re ready to let him out.

And now I want to hear from you!

If your dog already knows to wait patiently in the car, how did you train him to do so?

Author Bio:

Lindsay Stordahl maintains the dog blog ThatMutt.com where she writes about dog training, dog exercise, adoption and more. Read some of her most popular training posts here and here.

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