If your dog is car-reactive, you might want to try this trainer’s advice

Labrador in car
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Some dogs are totally cool with cars. Others, however, can be rather reactive when it comes to cars. It makes sense, as cars are big, loud, and fast – it’s not surprising that some dogs may not like them, particularly as a dog’s instinct is to follow something that’s moving. 

But, what can you do if your pup is car-reactive, and all the best dog treats in the world fail to stop your pup barking and lunging? Well, the team at Happy Dogs Training, founded by certified trainer and animal behavior expert Piper M Novick, has offered some advice in a recent Instagram post. 

In the video, trainer Benah Stiewing begins the training session with Stella by allowing Stella to settle into her surroundings, exploring and sniffing away from triggers. She starts off slowly, careful to ease Stella in.

“Once Stella is showing relaxation, we start work,” she says. “We start with the up/down game, capturing and reinforcing attention in a distracting environment. Once I am getting reliable engagement from Stella, we start work on her trigger.”

They move to an environment where cars will appear. When Stella notices the trigger but doesn’t react to it, Stiewing reinforces her, and Stella moves away from the trigger to take space and get food. Here’s how to calm a reactive dog for more advice.

Stiewing finishes, “As Stella progresses, we gradually decrease distance.” Over time, Stella will be able to move closer to cars without reacting – she’ll notice them, but won’t do anything.

If your pup is car reactive, it can make things like walks and trips out much more difficult than they would be otherwise, and what if your dog needs to go to the vet but you have to drive there in your own car?

Don’t expect your dog to stop being car-reactive overnight. It’s the sort of thing that can take time, so it’s important to be patient and understanding. Even though living around cars might be second nature for most of us, they can be scary for dogs, or they might want to chase after them.

You might want to find out more information about what causes reactivity in dogs. And, while the dog in this article was more reactive to people and other dogs than cars, you might find it useful: My reactive dog impacted my entire household, here's what I did about it.

American Journey Peanut Butter Recipe Grain-Free Oven Baked Crunchy Biscuit Dog Treats 
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American Journey Peanut Butter Recipe Grain-Free Oven Baked Crunchy Biscuit Dog Treats
$4.19 at Chewy
These grain-free, crunchy snacks are sure to please your pup. Small in size and packed full of flavour, they're made with wholesome ingredients that will keep your dog motivated and energized. 

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle, health, culture, and pets, and he has five years' experience in journalism. He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' Golden Retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.