Most dogs love car rides, their whole bodies go into full-out wiggle and excitement when they see their owners reach for their keys and call them to come along for the ride. Rides mean they get to go on adventures around town and spend some quality time with their owner. Some dogs can be scared of cars if they are on the nervous/cautious side and there are some dogs that do enjoy going for rides but refuse to jump in and out of the car. This in turn, turns you into their picker-upper as they glance over their shoulder with the expression “hey pick me up”. This is not only a burden to your back, but also to your dog. By training your dog to jump in the car on their own it will increase their confidence and be a much more enjoyable experience for you both.
It is important to note that you should not be over jumping your puppy when they continue to develop as this can be detrimental on their joints. When your dog is under 6 months we do recommend you assisting with getting them in and out of the car, and up to a year old do not over jump them.
To begin with training your hesitate dog to jump in the car on their own you want to go back to the fundamentals of your training of making your body a target like you would for recall work. So you yourself should jump in the car, face your dog with an open and inviting body target along with having the leash on and food rewards ready. By having a leash attached to your dog this will ensure that they will not run back to the house or try to avoid going in the car. The leash should not be used to force your dog in the car through excessive pulling, just to manage their space and give guidance in the direction you want them to head (into the car with you!). Make sure that your collar is snug enough that if your dog does slam on the breaks they will not be able to slip out of their collar.
Encourage your dog by calling their name, using a food lure in front of their nose and guiding with the leash. Reward heavily when they do jump in with both praise and food. Most dogs will work for kibble, however if this is something that has become a big stressor for your dog then bust out a high value reward such as chicken.
Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Continue this exercise over and over until your dog is easily jumping up with you in the car. Then you can move to being outside of the car again or ask a friend to stand on the other side of the car with the door open and call your dog through that way. Have the leash on in case you need to assist your dog slightly, and remember to praise your dog!
As long as you stay consistent, keep your training session short and vow to not cave if they give you that “I can’t do this without you” look, you will have a dog eager to jump in and out of the car before you know it! Watch out tutorial video with Khumbu, one of The Waggle Company mascot dogs, a 2 year-old Goldendoodle who picked this up within 10 minutes after not jumping in the car for the last 2 years.
Katrina Kensington, owner KeenDog