Bark! Bark! Bark! Not only is barking annoying, it’s potentially unsafe. Your dog could create a distraction for you or other drivers, and you may miss the sounds of emergency vehicles approaching. When dogs bark in the car, they get worked up and are less likely to be calm and cooperative once you reach your destination.
A dog who is worked up isn’t going to give an accurate baseline of health at the vet clinic, and this same dog is not as likely to listen to you during your walk at the park.
Barking out the window at others
Some dogs may be nervous about other people or dogs near their space. If your dog barks and the person or dog continues on his way, your dog may find that barking is a way to keep his personal space. This can result in your dog using barking as a strategy to feel safer.
It is not safe to train your dog while driving! Instead, you need to find ways to prevent your dog from being able to bark while you drive during necessary trips or while you are going to an appropriate area to train.
The best way to keep yourself safe and to keep your dog from physically interfering with your driving is to use a crate.
A crate in the car can be covered with a sheet to give your dog privacy and not let him notice others. While this isn’t practical for dogs and vehicles of all sizes—a great dane in a small car is not workable—it does work for many families. This also is a great way to keep your dog safe in the event of an emergency, or to allow first responders to safely remove your dog from his crate during an emergency. Many dogs who do not feel safe crated in the house can or will quickly adjust to being crated in a car, as the dogs know they won’t be left alone.
You can work with a trainer on personalized activities to help your dog be less nervous about people and other dogs. Once your dog is comfortable with these games at a distance, you can then find opportunities to do this from the car—just make sure you aren’t driving! In the meantime, using a crate may prevent the behavior from getting worse.
Barking from excitement
Some dogs are eager to get to a destination. This might be because all your trips are to the park, to see friends, or to go hiking. Many dogs express their feelings through noise. While you want your dog to have ways to express himself, you don’t need excessive barking.
There are three activities that can work towards reducing excitement in the car.
Read a book: Take your dog into the car and without driving anywhere, sit and read a book. You might use a hollow rubber toy such as a kong, filled with canned dog food and frozen.
Trips to nowhere: Increase the frequency of trips that don’t result in excitement. You might be running errands with another person who can go into the store while you wait with your dog in the car. You might take a drive just around the block.
Relax before fun: Once you get to your destination, have your dog get out of the car and do calm activities before the exciting activity. This might be doing training games before playing at the beach, a calm walk on the leash before going into the dog park with his friends, or calmly chewing a stuffed kong before going in to see friends.
The one thing you don’t want to do is get out of the car and move towards the fun activity when your dog makes noise. This can take some patience, but can also make life much easier in the long term.
Barking in the car may seem hopeless, but there are many things you can do to change your dog’s emotional response to car rides and to help your dog better enjoy trips with you. Every family is different, and working with a trainer on personalized activities can be a great way to work towards your training goals.