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Ask a Dog Trainer: How Do I Teach My Dog To Load Into The Car?

| Published on June 12, 2015
Image source: @TarotheShibaInu via Flickr
Image source: @TarotheShibaInu via Flickr

Some dogs love going on a car ride. Others do not. If you happen to have a dog that doesn’t like the car, or doesn’t like to jump into it on their own, going anywhere can suddenly become a big hassle. Before you start training your dog to load on cue, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

Is My Dog Not Willing to Jump in the Car out of Fear?

If your dog is afraid of the car and/or car rides, then you have to deal with this before you teach them to jump in on their own. Some dogs get car sick and therefore dread going for a car ride (wouldn’t you?). If you dog gets car sick, try one or more of the following:

  • Thundershirt
  • Ginger (ask your vet before using)
  • Dramamine (ask your vet before using)
If your dog reacts like this when they see the car, you need to address their FEAR before you can teach them to get into the car. Image source:
If your dog reacts like this when they see the car, you need to address their FEAR before you can teach them to get into the car. Image source:

Car sickness can be caused by fear/anxiety (one of those chicken or the egg circumstances). If you think your dog is getting car sick because he is afraid or stressed (instead of being afraid because he is getting car sick), you will need to work on that first.

To get your dog over his fear of the car, you can help him by:

  • Feeding him his meals in or around the car (turned off)
  • Play tug or another favorite game in the car (turned off)
You need to get them used the car with it turned OFF first. Image source:
You need to get them used the car with it turned OFF first. Image source:

When your dog is comfortable with the car turned off, repeat these with the car turned on. The help of a certified professional dog trainer is useful in this situation, as they can tailor the training to your unique dog’s needs.

Does My Dog Have Physical Issues That Cause Him to Not Want to Jump in the Car?

Another thing to check is to make sure your dog is medically sound enough to jump in a car. If it’s a small dog, be sure he can jump that high without hurting himself (remember, if he misses, he is going to land on concrete). If he is older, he may have arthritis that causes him pain when jumping.

A trip the vet can rule out this cause before you proceed with training.

If neither of these are the issues, then chances are your dog just doesn’t know how to jump in the car or has never had incentive too. (For example, you picked him up and put him in the car when he was a puppy or he hasn’t had a lot of experience with cars)

Teaching the “Load” Cue

This just may be the simplest thing you ever teach your dog.

While there are many ways you go about this, the easiest way is to lure your dog into the car. Start with a low spot, such as the floor of the car.

Step 1

Have something your dog really loves, a favorite treat or a toy for those non-food motivated pups.

Image source:
Image source:

Put the treat or toy right near your dog’s nose and start to lure them into the car. Don’t move the lure so fast that your hand ends up ahead of the dog’s nose – most dog’s will stop following the lure if it get’s too far out.

Image source:
Image source:


TIP: If you are using toys and your dog won’t lure, try tossing the toy where you want your dog to go.

As soon as your dog is in the car, mark it with a click or word such as “yes,” or “good” and give them the lure as a reward.

Image source:
Image source:

Step 2

After you have repeated this a few times and then try to get your dog to follow your hand into the car without a lure.

Image source:
Image source:


TIP: IF you use the lure too many times, it can be hard to get rid of it. Only have your dog lure a few times before “testing” to see if he will get in the car without it.

  • If he jumps in, use your marker (click/yes/good) and give him a reward.
  • If he won’t jump in, use the lure couple more times and try again.

Once your dog is following just your hand you have a choice. You can feel it at that – your dog is loading on a hand signal! – or, you can add a verbal cue.

Adding a Verbal Cue

To add a verbal cue, starting saying your chosen word (load, up, car–whatever it is you choose), right before you lure your dog with your hand.

Eventually, if your dog is getting it, he will start to move toward the car as you say the verbal, but before you have started the lure.

At this point, depending on your dog, you may be able to just drop the hand signal completely, or start fading it by luring him three-fourths of the way, and then half way and then a quarter, and so on, until you are no longer using your hand signal. This will depend on your dog’s learning preferences and how familiar he is with this method of training.

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