Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
Getting Your Dog to Jump Into the Car
Some dogs don't need to learn how to jump into a car because they learn it naturally, but others may need a little extra help. If your dog loves to go on car rides, most likely his big enthusiasm will give him the necessary sprint to hop into the car and enjoy his ride.
If he puts on the brakes before hopping into the car, however, it doesn't necessarily mean he doesn't like the car ride altogether, rather, it could just mean that he is a tad bit intimidated by the height of the jump.
It could also be that he once jumped or tried to jump in the past and missed or slipped. Some may have tried but panicked once they realized they didn't gain enough momentum to make it, so perhaps they ended up sliding off.
As in humans, getting out of an unpleasant situation can feel rewarding in dogs since even they get that "sigh of relief" feeling when they avoid stuff. Many dogs don't like the sensation associated with unstable footing, and if they're sensitive, they may give up altogether.
How can you remedy this? You certainly cannot be stuck with a dog who needs to be lifted up in the car each time you go somewhere, especially when the dog starts to weigh 50 pounds or more!
Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to make jumping up fun and rewarding. It's very important to go at your dog's pace and never put him in a situation he's not ready for.
Going too fast and forcing him to do something he's not ready for will only increase his insecurity, making things worse. Doing a little bit at a time will help attain more durable and positive results. All you will need are some high-value treats, a blanket, a clicker (optional) and various surfaces for your dog to jump on.
*Note: It's always a good idea to have your dog checked for any orthopedic problems or pain before coaxing him to jump up in your truck. At times, a reluctance to jump can be due to an underlying medical condition. If that's the case, your dog may appreciate the help of a dog ramp.
This step-by-step guide uses a training method known as "shaping." Basically, your dog will learn to jump up through small, gradual increments that are lavishly rewarded.
A clicker can be used to mark wanted behaviors, but a "yes" will do too. High-value treats work well as rewards for food-motivated dogs, but if your dog is toy-motivated, you can use a toy as well.
Use the blanket as a target. Place the blanket on the floor and click and treat your dog for interacting with it.
It's best if the blanket is made salient by placing it in an empty or boring room where nothing else can grab the dog's attention. Initially, click and treat for just looking at the blanket, sniffing it and then walking on it.
Place the blanket on top of some books, click and treat for walking over the blanket.
Place the blanket on some large pillows and click and treat for walking on it.
Raise criteria, place the blanket on the couch (if your dog is not allowed on the couch, use something else) and click and treat for jumping on the couch. Reward when ON the couch at first, then once on and off.
Place a long, sturdy box in front of the couch where the blanket is. This will mimic the step on your truck, if you have one. This box will encourage the dog to sprint more and make a slightly longer jump.
Put the act of jumping on cue. Say a command such as "come up" or just "up" as you pat the couch, and practice, practice, practice.
Use the same blanket you used for training, "come up" and place it in your truck. The goal here is to help the dog generalize by using something familiar; in this case, we are using two things familiar to the dog: the blanket and the command "come up."
Sit inside the truck and say, " come up." If your dog jumps up, make sure you make a great deal out of it! Party, praise and give a longer-lasting treat such as a cookie. Most dogs jump down on their own once they see their owner gets out of the truck.
*Insider Tip: Some dogs learn first to jump on the floor of the truck rather than the actual seat. You can take advantage of the space in front of the seat to let your dog jump here first if your dog fits in this space. Afterward, once on the floor, your dog will find jumping onto the seat much easier and less intimidating.
Why Can't I Just Pull My Dog Up?
Many people ask this question. The answer is that this can be risky and doesn't do much in changing the dog's emotions.
First off, forcing a dog into a situation he is not ready for is not desired nor ideal. If you are scared of swimming, would you like to have an instructor that will push you into a pool?
More likely than not, you would rather have a nice instructor who will make sure you are comfortable with water first, perhaps by giving you a life jacket so you can enjoy staying afloat without worrying about drowning.
Most dogs who dislike a situation will want to avoid it. If you pull, he'll likely resist and pull away. He may even try to get his way out of the collar. Not to mention that some people may feel compelled to pull even harder as the dog resists, which can cause potential injuries.
What does a dog learn by pulling him up? He may possibly learn that the only way to escape the unpleasant pressure on the collar is by moving forward, but this is negative reinforcement and involves making the dog uncomfortable.
Isn't it far better to teach your dog to love jumping in the car because great things happen? This will instill enthusiasm, and most importantly, there are no negative feelings involved.
And just because you use food initially to lure your dog up, doesn't mean you'll need to be stuck on waving treats all the time. Luring will be prevented from becoming bribery if you follow some steps in fading the lure.
As seen, with patience, persistence, and reward-based training, you can help your dog get into your vehicle so he can enjoy pleasant trips with you.
And while it's true that slow and steady wins the race, you'll be surprised at how fast dogs can be trained with reward-based methods. Best of all, with reward-based training, you'll change your dog's emotions and instill enthusiasm towards jumping up into the car.
Watch my video on how this dog (with the help of my assistant Kaiser) learned to jump up in just a day and is so proud of herself!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2013 Adrienne Farricelli
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 13, 2019:
Fran, for the mouthing problem, you may find this helpful: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/German-Shepherd-Puppy-...
Fran Detweiler on August 11, 2019:
I have been perusing other sites and really like yours. Our sweet rescue is a German Shepard mix and loves other dogs. We do not know too much of his very early life in Texas but he ended up in a kill shelter and was rescued into foster care remaining there until we adopted him.He is very SWEET and we LOVE HIM. Hoping to hear more about getting him to be less fearful of new things like taking a walk, getting into a car and meeting new folks in our home. Finally the ZOOMIES include his mouthing of both toys and of US! We realize he needs more exercise but there lies the catch as we are told that as soon as tail goes down to take him inside
TERRY MILLER on April 22, 2019:
I wish this would work for me and my rescue
Golden Retriever. She was obviously abused in he past life as a brood bitch. She is afraid of most everything. She likes treats but not as rewards.
I drive a classic Corvette so getting in should be no big deal. It's pretty low to the ground.
Moosy on February 01, 2019:
I have 2 dogs, a small older afenpincher and an adopted young street dog about 40.bs. The older dog loves to ride and jumps right into the car, but the pup will not get in no matter what I do to entice her. We have missed a vet. appt. as well as a grooming appt. It's been suggested that I get a groomer come to the house, but they all do the grooming in a van and I'm pretty sure she won't go near it. I'm at my wits end. I have a trainer who comes once a week and she too is having a hard time.Today I put food near an open car door, and she wouldn't go near it. This is a very loving gentle creature and I intend to keep her. unfortunately I am not strong enough to lift her. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 26, 2018:
It may take some time, be patient. Make it extra rewarding and make it easy to get up in the car. Try practicing jumping up and make it extra rewarding. Try sitting in the car and coaxing her up. If you keep on picking her up she'll learn that that's the only way to get in and will always expect that.
Cathy LaCasse on April 28, 2018:
My 5 month old German Shepard is afraid of going in car. Have tried your suggestion. Still pick her up. Fine once she's in car? What to do please?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 16, 2016:
Good to hear Katherine! Kudos to you for helping her add and all the encouragement!
Katherine on July 25, 2016:
My dog never had a problem getting in the cab of my truck but she was too scared to get in the bed of my truck. I followed these tips and not even 20 minuets she was getting in the bed. My mind was blow! Thank so much!!!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 07, 2015:
My dogs are that way too, they can't wait to come with us and they don't think twice of jumping up. I wrote this hub for one of my clients who had a dog that loved car rides but was very tentative in jumping up. She learned very fast through shaping and positive reinforcement.
Tori Leumas on July 07, 2015:
My dogs have always loved going for rides in the car, so I've never had this problem. I've always had the problem of them not wanting to get out of the car once we reach our destination. But, these are pretty good tips. Great hub!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 05, 2013:
I have never had this issue as well, my dogs sometimes are so eager to come along for the ride they are shaking in anticipation, but I can see how some dogs may be intimidated by it and need some help.
Elizabeth Parker from Las Vegas, NV on November 05, 2013:
I've never had an issue with my dogs going in the car, but this is good advice for those who have. Mine are all too willing to jump in our car (one even jumped in the trunk)!!!