How to train your dog to not bark at cars

by | Dog Care |

Going on walks with your dog is a great form of exercise, mental stimulation, and an opportunity to bond with them. Walks can become less of a positive experience, however, if your dog barks at cars and chases them each time you’re out.

If your dog has a habit of barking at cars and chasing after them, it’s important to understand why it happens, so you can learn how to prevent it.

Why does my dog bark at cars and chase them?

While the act of barking at cars and chasing them may seem abnormal to you, it’s actually common self-reinforcing behaviour for your dog.

Think about when a dog barks at someone delivering mail or a parcel to your home. Eventually, that person leaves once they have delivered their package, and the dog believes their bark was what caused them to leave.

When a dog barks at a car and the car drives away, it reinforces that their barking and chasing behaviour worked. Another reason your dog may bark at cars and chase them is out of sheer boredom – what better entertainment than using their prey instinct to chase after a loud, fast car?

How do I prevent this from happening?

The good news is there are many things you can do to prevent this behaviour.

  • Start by making sure your dog always has their leash on for safety.
  • Redirect their attention from a passing car with a distraction technique. Walk with treats and toys so you can teach your dog a “watch me” cue to focus on until the car passes, and then provide a reward.
  • If “watch me” doesn’t work for your dog, redirect their focus by calling their name, squeaking a toy, or offering treats.
  • When your dog is looking away and not barking at a car, reward them with a treat that motivates them.
  • Stay consistent, and use training methods every time a car passes to change your dog’s association of a car being a threat, to knowing they’ll get a treat instead.
  • If your dog’s behaviour is simply due to boredom, you can increase exercise and mental stimulation with enrichment throughout the day.

Learn the “watch me” technique in this video.

What do I do if prevention isn’t working right away?

It’s not unusual for prevention methods to take time to work. If you’re implementing distraction techniques and they aren’t working, try the following:

  • Walking in the opposite direction to the passing car with your dog on leash, and reward them with a treat when they turn and walk with you.
  • Ask for a “sit” or “watch me” so your dog focuses on you, not the car, and reward them again.
  • If your dog isn’t specifically motivated by treats, find out what does motivate them (i.e. toys) and offer that instead.

It’s important to remember that training takes patience, and consistency is key before you see complete results. Give your dog – and yourself – time to work through this together.

For more training tips, such as loose leash walking, calm kennel behavior, and more, visit our Shelter Health Pro website!