Question: “My dog gets excited and barks in the car. She cues into direction signals and the car slowing down in certain areas. She has been doing this for several years. What can I do to stop this behavior?” GSRNE Member
Answer: “As soon as your dog hops in the car, she’s excited and happy about her new adventure. She starts out with her signature whining. It escalates as triggers happen, such as a particular stop sign or a left-hand directional being turned on. She’s starting to whine and whine with the urgency of a seagull at Kelly’s in Revere. She jumps up and starts her high-pitched barking. You feel as though your head is going to explode.” Does this scenario sound familiar? This behavior may have been going on for as long as you can remember, or maybe it’s just started. Either way, we can help change it by teaching her to settle. A good place to start is teaching them a solid down command. Once this is established, we can transfer her new behavior into the car. It does help if you have someone with you to help her out.
You get into your car to start your trip. Your dog and another person is in the back seat holding your dog’s leash. You are approaching that dreaded stop sign, you see her attentive pose with her ears forward, and you know what’s going to happen – the whine is about to start. “Down” Her. If she complies with the first command, you’ve done your homework. If not, your friend in the back seat can help by placing downward pressure on her collar with the leash to help you back up your command, “Down”. The downward pressure helps her go down as you gently and unexcitedly praise her, “Good”. You will remind her when you stop at the stop sign that she is doing a great job by telling her “Good Down”. This reinforces the command and helps to remind her of her new job. You’ll do the same when you turn on your left directional signal and when you arrive at your destination. When you have arrived, praise her again and give her a little pat.
You will find that this sounds a lot easier than it really is. Keep on practicing and help her understand what it is that she should be doing while in the car. A foolproof down command and patience is the key. After all, she has developed a habit that needs to be replaced by another behavior. Keep up the good work, and remember that she is willing to learn if you are willing to show her what you want her to do.
Mary Farren, GSRNE Foster Home Training Director