Some dogs love car rides a bit *too much.* While it might seem cute at first to have a yodeling bundle of furry excitement riding shotgun, it can actually be a bit dangerous (or just plain annoying)! Luckily, you don’t have to live with this problem forever. Rather than simply never taking your dog on a car ride again, we’ve got some solutions to help your over-excited dog learn to calm down on car rides.
- Consider your car setup. A covered crate will make your drives safer because they can’t climb all over you and cause a crash. In a smaller car, you can use a barrier to keep your pup safely in the backseat. A covered crate will be especially helpful if your dog is excited by visual stimuli, like passing cars or other dogs. We use a wire crate in my car currently, until I save up enough money for a crash-proof crate.
- Ensure your dog’s life is adequately enriched elsewhere. In many cases, your dog is SO EXCITED about the car ride because it’s the most exciting part of their day (or week, or month). One of the simplest ways to reduce their excitement in the car is to add more enrichment during the rest of their day. Try reversing your morning routine (this article explains how that’s helpful) and giving lots of different puzzle toys and stuffed Kongs. You can also play daily at-home training games. That’s all part of dealing with a high-energy dog! If your dog has lots of fun hobbies to look forward to, they’re less likely to go crazy in the car.
- Practice calm behaviors elsewhere. Honestly, none of this is going to work if your dog has no self-control. You’re going to have to teach your dog to calm down and regulate themself around the house first. Try Karen Overall’s Relaxation Protocol and these impulse control games. Until your dog is good at these AND you’re enriching their life elsewhere, you’re unlikely to succeed.
- Take lots of short, boring car rides. Once you’ve implemented all of the steps above, it’s time to actually take your newly enriched and trained dog on a few car rides. One of the most common reasons that your dog loses their mind on car rides is because car rides always go somewhere AMAZING. Once your dog is enriched elsewhere and has learned to be calmer around the house or around other exciting stimuli, you can start going for VERY SHORT car rides. Simply get your dog in the car, turn the car on, then turn it off and get out. Do that a few times until your dog is bored by that exercise – yes, we want boredom. Then pull out of your parking spot, go around the block, and come back. Repeat until your dog is bored. Slowly add in distance and excitement to your car ride, but always be prepared to take steps back in your training plan if your dog gets overly excited again.
It’s important to remember that there’s a chance your dog appears excited in the car but is actually anxious. If the steps above aren’t helping, check out our article on dogs who are scared of the car for extra support. If none of this is working, book a 15-minute call with our team and we’ll help you out!
Kayla is from Ashland, Wisconsin but lives in Missoula Montana. She holds a degree in biology from Colorado College and has spent years working in zoos, animal shelters, as a private dog trainer, and with working detection K9s. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant. She shares her life with her border collie Barley.