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Ask a Trainer Question Answered

Author: Andrea Miller | Date: February 9, 2012

Here’s the next round of answers for our Ask a Trainer feature on our new website. It’s your chance to get dog training advice from the pros at AnimalSense. Stay tuned for more questions & answers, and if you have a burning dog training question, just “Ask a Trainer”!

What’s a good way to drive alone in the car with a small dog? My Silky Terrier, Dexter is a menace so I don’t take him in the car unless my husband goes with me. Dexter is so excited he jumps around the car from front to back, side to side to look at all the action going on outside. I bought a pet carrier and since he’s not crated ever at home, he wiggled and thrashed around so much he flipped the carrier over behind the drivers seat. I put his blanket, chew toy and a kong in there with him but he just wanted out of the carrier. I just took him out and left him at home. So, what’s the best way to travel with a little dog that jumps around to look out the window but won’t sit still in a car carrier?

Ah, the vision of a dog with its head out of the car window taking in all of the sniffs of the world. It’s what we envision when we take our dogs for a ride, right? Wrong! Loose animals can interfere with and distract the driver and become projectiles in the case of an accident or stopping short. Plus, a restrained animal will not be able to run out of the car and possibly away the second the door is opened. Safety should always be your top priority.

It sounds like Dexter can be a handful in the car, but it’s still possible to set up good habits that can save a lot of frustration. The first step in ensuring your pet’s well-being in the car is to train him to ride in the car. For safety reasons, pets should be confined to the back seat, either in a carrier or a harness attached to the car’s seat belt. Since you’ve already tried the carrier, you may want to consider a harness, which is basically a pet seat belt.  That may seem crazy at first, but it sets them up for success so they can’t practice behaviors that don’t work in the car.

Acclimate your dog to their crate/harness by letting them sniff it before you leave. Let them explore the car while it’s not moving. Use food rewards when your dog is in the quiet and still in the crate/harness. Go for very short rides at first. If Dexter remains calm, gradually increase the length of the ride Remember, getting your dog used to riding in a car will be a journey!

For additional resources, AnimalSense loves this article from The Whole Dog Journal’s Pat Miller, who says safety gear and calm behavior is a must for all canine passengers.









    1. Sara says:

      No kidding about the journey! I tried the short rides and treats with my Havanese puppy every day when I first brought her home a year ago and have taken her on city-burbs rides frequently. However, she still drools, shakes, and vomits almost every ride. I now use an elevated car seat with harness, which helps a little. We tried the Thundershirt last week with little improvement.

    2. Dana says:

      Are you guys familiar with Zerimax? The owner is from the Chicago area, and the video on her site is really convincing. I’ve spoken with her a couple times, and I am now a seatbelt believer.

      • AnimalSense says:

        We haven’t used it personally, but we looked at the website and this looks like a great product. We are fans of anything that harnesses dogs safely!

Their trainers go to many seminars and retreats for behavioral training in order to offer the best techniques for their clients.

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