5 Reasons Your Dog Hesitates to Get in the Car

By Sarah Hinds Friedl on May 27th, 2021

If you’ve ever struggled to get your dog to hop in the car, you know just how frustrating it can be. A dog who refuses to load up can make you late to work or their appointment at the groomers. And, it can make you feel like your otherwise well-mannered dog is just trying to push your buttons.

As it turns out, you’re not the only dog owner who has stood for five minutes in the dog park parking lot begging your dog to just, please, get in the car. It’s actually a quite common behavior with some, thankfully, straightforward solutions. 

Let’s review the top reasons why dogs don’t want to get in the car!

#1: Your dog is having too much fun
If you find that your dog refuses to get in the car after a fun trip to the lake, they could be telling you that they’re just not ready to go. Maybe your pup is running laps around the car in an attempt to get you to stay a little longer.

While this behavior is common, it’s also quite dangerous. A dog that is energetic and not responsive to commands may run away from you and right into traffic.

The good news is, there are a few ways to correct the behavior. One of the most effective solutions is with rewards. Every time your dog gets in the car, they should get some kind of treat or special toy. This will show them that although they’re sad that the adventure is over, something equally exciting is waiting for them in the car.

You might also take this as a sign to consider how much mental stimulation and exercise your dog is getting. If they’re glued to the dog park because they only get to go every once in a while, it might be time to work in some extra playtime throughout the week.

#2: Cars are untrustworthy! To your dog, that is.
If you were to look at a car from a dog’s perspective, you also might be a little afraid to get in that thing! Cars are loud and unpredictable, and it’s understandable that your dog might hesitate to get in.

Here are a few ways to make your car more approachable for your doggo:

  • Turn on the engine after they’ve climbed inside. It might be tempting to turn the car on remotely as you walk back to the car, but the roaring engine could be scary to your pooch. Wait until everyone is safely inside before turning on the engine to see if that makes your dog more comfortable.
  • Keep the windows down. Dogs enjoy being able to see and smell the outside world; it gives them a sense of comfort. That said, you don’t want them to hang out of the window, as they might try to escape. Instead, install dog-safe window coverings like BreezeGuard Screens so that your dog can feel connected to the outside world.

#3: Your dog remembers that time you brought them to the vet!
Negative experiences can have a huge impact on how our dogs move through the world. You’ll be quite familiar with this fact if your dog refuses to go into the bathroom because you once gave them a bath.

And with a car, there are a number of reasons for Fido to hold a grudge. Maybe they remember the time that you took them to the vet. Or perhaps a patch of their fur once got caught in the door as you were closing it.

Whatever the defining moment was that made the car your dog’s number one enemy, building back a sense of trust can be tough.

For one, you can start with some simple exposure therapy. Here too, treats and other rewards can be helpful in showing your dog that the car isn’t so bad. And, you’ll want your dog to get used to being in the car for reasons other than the bad ones. For instance, if you tend to exercise your dog close to home, you might switch up the routine and drive somewhere new. That way, your dog will start to associate the car with adventures instead of catastrophes.

#4: Your other dog isn’t being welcoming
If you have a multi-dog household, you might notice that one pup races to get in the car first while the other refuses to get in at all. The problem might be that the first dog blocks the entrance or becomes territorial about the back seat. Typical sibling behavior!

Simply having the slower dog get in the car first is often enough to fix the problem. But, if you notice continued bickering over territory, it might be appropriate to get your doggos into a socialisation class to work out their tension.

#5: Your dog is trying to tell you something about their health
For older doggos and dogs suffering from a medical condition, getting in and out of the car can be painful and uncomfortable.

Aside from getting them the medical attention they need, you can address this problem with doggy ramps or steps. And make sure to give these doggos as much time as they need. Rushing your dog could reinforce negative feelings about the car.

Once you know why your dog is giving your car the side-eye, you’re one step closer to getting them in the back seat!

As frustrating as it can be to try to wrangle your dog into the car, your pup usually has some pretty good reasons for the hesitancy. Once you’ve pinpointed why your dog doesn’t want to get in, you’re one step closer to being back on the road!

Learn more about how to keep your dog from pushing your buttons by reading the BreezeGuard Blog!

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