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5 Easy Steps to Train a Dog to Avoid Cars

Updated on October 20, 2016
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr Mark is a veterinarian in Brazil. He has been working with dogs more than 40 years.

Many street dogs have road sense.
Many street dogs have road sense. | Source

Is it even possible to teach road sense?

There is a lot of disagreement on this issue. The argument is similar to that of “snakes and guns”. Most people are afraid of snakes, even to the point of where a phobia of snakes is not uncommon, but few people have an irrational fear or phobia about guns, despite guns being a lot more dangerous than snakes.

Why is that? Snakes have been around people for millions of years, and our distant ancestors have learned that snakes are dangerous and something to be afraid of. Guns, however, have only been around a short time, and we have to learn to be afraid of them.

Guns might be likely to kill you, but we have no instinctual fear of them, or maybe they have not made it into our DNA.

Dogs are afraid of a lot of things, but most of them are not afraid of cars.

It just isn’t an instinctual fear, and hasn’t made it into their DNA. Training a dog to be afraid around cars is very difficult, but there are a few things you can try.

Dogs with no road sense end up hit by a car.
Dogs with no road sense end up hit by a car. | Source

Have you ever had a dog hit by a car?

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This video shows one method of teaching your dog to sit and wait before crossing the road. If a dog is around a busy street, and becomes distracted, the dog may fail to respond, which is why so many people recommend a leash be attached at all times.

Why should you teach your dog to avoid cars?

Is it better to teach road sense or keep your dog on leash at all times?

In my own situation, I keep my dogs on a leash when there are other people around but I want to walk my dogs off leash every night. Walking dogs on a leash all the time is obviously safer. In fact, most writers will recommend that you never run your dogs off leash in an area where there are cars.

However, you need to consider what happens if something goes wrong. What about a broken leash? A broken collar? What if you fall and drop the leash? Will the dog run off and dash into traffic, or stand next to you and wait to have his leash put on again?

Maybe you do not see the reason to teach a dog road sense, but you should anyway.

Your dog may benefit someday.

Methods to Teach a Dog to Avoid Cars

1. Each time you reach a road, whether or not there is traffic, have your dog sit at your side and only release him to cross after giving him the okay.
2. Teach your dog basic obedience, including the ability to obey the “down” command from a distance.
3. Train your dog to respond to the “touch” command.
4. Allow your dog to walk around traffic and learn by himself. Some dogs learn, some dogs never will, and might die.
5. Have someone hit your dog with a slow moving bicycle or car.

Which method is best?

The first method, that of teaching a dog to sit and wait before crossing, is easiest to teach and usually works fine. All dogs should be walked around traffic during their sensitive socialization period, before 16 weeks of age.

If the dog is going to be off leash at times, be sure to work on the second method, that of teaching your dog to go “down” from a distance. If a vehicle is approaching, and I cannot call my dog to my side, I can tell her “down” even if she is chasing a bird in the water or running through a field. By using this command I am sure my dog is not going to run in front of the vehicle in order to get back next to me.

The third method is also important for all dogs that might be off leash. You can expect your dog to come when called over 90% of the time, but is he always going to respond? If you teach the “touch” command, the dog receives a treat every single time he comes to you. He must touch his nose to your hand, and when the command is taught you should not use it as casually as you do the recall (come when called).

My dog is trained to respond to the safety word “touch”, runs over next to me and sits if a vehicle is approaching, and always stops and sits when we reach a street. She does not cross until I give her the okay. The other night, however, we were returning from a short walk in the middle of the night and she wandered into the street. I was walking down on the beach and did not see her, nor did I see the motorcycle moving rapidly along the road.

She was hit, despite all of her training. Fortunately no bones were broken, but she is now nervous when we walk along that area at night, and does seem to be more nervous around vehicles at night.

So, despite being well trained in the first three methods, and it is obvious that there is no good road training for a dog. To be safe, dogs should be on a leash at all times when outside.

But what about street people that walk around with their dogs? When I tried to discuss this problem with some street people, some of them just suggested that some dogs learn, some dogs get hit. The consensus among them seemed to be that the fifth method was best: puppies are best trained by being hit with a slow bicycle while still young. After that, I was told, the dogs learned to stay close to their master and were not even inclined to go out into traffic.

Sorry, street people, your dogs are obedient but this is not the method I want to use to train my puppies. No matter how carefully this method is applied, some dogs are going to be injured, perhaps seriously.

The first three methods seem best, but no method is as safe as walking your dog on a leash.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Some dogs will always be distracted.This dog leaned road sense the hard way and was okay after his first incidence as a puppy.
Some dogs will always be distracted.
Some dogs will always be distracted.
This dog leaned road sense the hard way and was okay after his first incidence as a puppy.
This dog leaned road sense the hard way and was okay after his first incidence as a puppy.

© 2014 DrMark1961


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    • DrMark1961 profile image

      DrMark1961 2 months ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Hi Karen I wish I could be more help with your Springer but I think you have already hit on the solution. You really need to teach to not go outside the gate until he is given a release word. I would try to teach him to wait, like training a dog to wait at the door, and then when you give the release, he can run outside. I think it would be almost impossible to train him to never go out the gate, since at times you might want him to go outside and after that he would lose his discretionary abilites. (Like telling a dog that they cannot jump up on you when wearing nice clothes, but okay when you wear old clothes. How can they tell? They end up just jumping up randomly.)

      There are a lot of good articles on the internet on training your dog to wait at the door (or gate, in this case).

      Best of luck with him.

    • Karen Treharne 2 months ago

      In addition to not having a fear of automobiles in general, our Springer Spaniel will eagerly jump into ANY car if the driver or passenger opens a door wide enough - even without an invitation. We live in a retired community and everyone knows our Max, but I am concerned for his safety if the gate is open and he runs toward the street and a stranger with an open door who may wish to steal him. I can train him to the "touch" command, but I do not see him in time, it may be too late. Maybe I need to teach him never to go outside the gate.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      DrMark1961 2 months ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Char, are you pulling into an enclosed yard or is she loose out in the street? If it is a yard, it is going to take a while, but for now everytime you are pulling in to the yard stop the car, call her to you, and "down-wait" her at the same spot. With time, she will get into the habit of going to that spot every time your car comes in. She will lie down and wait at that spot until you relase her (I just tell my dogs "okay" to release.)

      If you do not know how to teach a dog to wait, I have an article on my blog or you can find many other instructive articles if you search on Google.

      Let me know if I can help any more with this.

    • Char 2 months ago

      My dog always walks in front of my car when I'm pulling into the driveway. How do I train her to not do that?

    • rex jackson 20 months ago

      Hi, just a thought that was told to me about road sense for my dog, was to us a wheelbarrow, I haven't tried it yet but it did make sense at th time cheers Rex

    • MarieLB profile image

      Marie L B 2 years ago from Yamba

      That was a great article DrMark. As always full of truly important information for dog-owners. Thanks.

      That beach looks so similar to our 'Off-Leash' beach that I take my Goldie [and sometimes others] to.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      DrMark1961 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      I have trained my dog with hand signals too, as I worried about the noise from a dune buggy coming down the beach. It doesn´t help much at night, of course.

      You are doing the best thing of all. I see some of my neighbors Min Pins running free on the beach, and I know that they are such frail things that they could never take a motorcycle blow like my dog did.

      Keep him close to you!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      As always Dr. Mark, great suggestions. When I had my dog in a training school our instructor used her hand up in the air to make a dog lay down. She explained that if your dog ran away and could not hear you or see a small hand gesture the dog could see your hand in the air and would lay down.

      I always keep mine on a leash because, well, he's a Min Pin and though trained pretty well he is easily distracted (ADHD).

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • bac2basics 2 years ago

      Great hub and the video was really useful and sweet too :)

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      DrMark1961 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      It makes me care more and more about my Tegus--of course they never come over and snuggle when you are down, but other than that...

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      That's a good point. I guess the $64,000 dollar question is: how do you teach fear without making them feel the consequences of the thing to be feared? I guess that's why people get goldfish :)

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      DrMark1961 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      I worry that "not fearing" may not be enough. Service dogs, for example, that are trained to sit at a crosswalk until they hear the "beep, beep" sound, do not fear. If they hear the "beep" they will go ahead and cross unless they are afraid of the oncoming cars.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      You brought up an interesting concept; one that I had really never considered: teaching a dog to fear something. Owners spend so much time training to accept, without fear, aspects of living with humans, that it has to be difficult to teach them to fear something.

      I would think that teaching a dog to sit until released , when approaching a road, whether cars were present or not, would be the easiest way to do it. You're not really teaching her to fear cars, I suppose, but if you can get her conditioned to stop at any road, it would keep her from going into the road until you say so.

      In Ajej's case, I wonder if she'll ever get over the fear. When dogs associate something with a bad experience, they often fear it forever. A lot of dog owners talk of how their dogs recognize landmarks and get fidgety approaching the vet clinic in a car. Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      DrMark1961 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Hi Rachel! I have the same problem with one of my rescue dogs--she only seems to obey when she wants to, but fortunately she has great road sense. (She is the dog running in the middle of the pack in the beach photo above.)

      I´m glad you´re going to start contributing again. I am trying to buy a small place too, mostly so that I can raise some goats and cow/calves, but the paperwork is still giving me problems. Hopefully your 40 will work out quicker than mine does!

    • Farmer Rachel profile image

      Rachel Koski 2 years ago from Minnesota

      Great hub DrMark :) My ACD always comes, but the pit/lab mix I inherited, well he doesn't recall quite as well! I'm going to try the touch technique with him, as he's very food-motivated.

      By the way, I did get your email a couple weeks ago. Thanks for checking in on me! I do plan to start "Hubbing" again, and in fact I'm in the process of buying a house on 40 acres - getting my own farm, like I've been talking about for years! It's very exciting, but has taken a while and cost me at least a year's worth of inspiration. Hope you are doing well!!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      DrMark1961 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Eddy--thanks for taking the time to read.

      Victoria--I have read several trainers suggesting leather leashes, since you can see the stress long before it breaks, but with Gizmo a nylon leash would be fine too since he is not going to tug hard.

      I worry about that recommendation to bump a puppy with a car. Not only is it dangerous, but, like with Faith´s dog, if the dog has high prey drive it is not going to work anyway. I would rather count on a leash.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Vicki L Hodges 2 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      I always use a leash. I try to teach my dog to sit and wait before we cross a street, but sometimes he tugs. He's so exciteable. I just pray he never gets off the leash. Like you, I can't imagine hitting a puppy with a slow moving car. How dangerous!

      Great hub. Very thorough.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 2 years ago from Wales

      A great hub which I am sure will benefit many dog owners. Voted up and shared.


    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

      Oh, yes, the first time we saw him take off like lightening, we were just stunned! We called him and called him, but he just hated cars and tried to bite their tires! But he never was run over when he came to live with us, so we only assume, as he appeared to be grown when he just arrived at our home. I am the oldest of three siblings, and we were blessed that he chose us to be his family. He never left our home once he arrived. He was a special dog, our sweet Brownie boy!

      We just now have gotten a new puppy, a chocolate lab, so adorable, so I will be reading a lot of your hubs!

      Have a great weekend,

      Faith Reaper

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      DrMark1961 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      I think dogs that are loose like that have a lot more road sense, but, like with your Lab, sometimes things go wrong.

      Did he chase cars even with three legs? He sounds really headstrong, so I doubt even the fifth method would have helped him. Brownie sounds very lucky that your family took care of him all of those years.

      Thanks for you comment.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

      What an excellent hub full of great information for the benefit of dogs and their owners! As I may have shared with you before, as a child, my siblings and I were blessed with a three-legged yellow lab who adopted our family as his. I was only in first grade when he came to our home to visit and we literally grew up with him, way into our high school years. We realized how he came to only have three legs, as he loved to chase cars and he could run lightening fast while nipping at their tires! Back in the day, we did not have a fence and people allowed their dogs to roam free so long as they were not apt to bite someone, which Brownie was not. He would walk with my brother and I to school when I was in first grade and lay under a tree on the playground all day and wait for us to get out of school, and then walk us home! He was the best childhood pet anyone could have ever wished for indeed. Your advice here, could have helped him to not wind up with three legs, but we are really just assuming that is what happened to him. I remember his three other legs being so very muscular. Having just the three legs, certainly did not hinder him from getting around.

      Up and more and sharing.


      Faith Reaper

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