5 Easy Steps to Train a Dog to Avoid Cars - PetHelpful - By fellow animal lovers and experts
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5 Easy Steps to Train a Dog to Avoid Cars

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

Train Your Dog to Fear Cars

Train Your Dog to Fear Cars

Can You Teach a Dog to Avoid Streets and Traffic?

Yes, you can teach your dog to avoid streets, traffic, and cars. Dogs are afraid of a lot of things, however, most of them are not afraid of cars initially—it simply isn't an instinctual fear for them and hasn’t made it into their DNA. Training a dog to be fearful of cars is very difficult, but there are a few things you can do to get the sense of "danger" to stick.

Why You Should Teach Your Dog to Avoid Cars

Is it better to teach road-sense or keep your dog on a leash at all times? I keep my dogs on a leash when there are other people around, but I walk my dogs off-leash every night. Walking dogs on a leash all the time is obviously safer. In fact, most owners will recommend that you never run your dogs off-leash in an area where there are cars.

The Importance of Teaching Road-Sense

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? You might not see the immediate reason to teach a dog road-sense, but you should teach it to them anyway. Your dog may benefit someday.

Scared Dog on a Leash Running Through Traffic

How to Teach a Dog to Avoid Cars

The following five methods will be explained in detail further down in the article:

  1. The Sit-and-Wait Method: Each time you reach a road, whether or not there is traffic, have your dog sit by your side and only release him to cross after giving him the "okay" command.
  2. "Down" From a Distance Method: Teach your dog basic obedience—this includes the ability to obey the “down” command from a distance.
  3. The "Touch-and-Treat" Command: Train your dog to respond to the “touch” command.
  4. The Free-Roam Method: Allow your dog to walk around traffic and expose them to just how scary car-filled streets can be. (In the unsupervised dog's lifetime, some learn to fear cars, some never learn, and some might die—so be proactive about training them.)
  5. Learning by Exposure: Have someone drive by your dog with a slow-moving bicycle or car and carefully bump them—enough for them to know that the moving vehicle or bike is threatening. (See my thoughts on this technique below.)
Would Your Dog Be Safe If They Broke Loose?

Would Your Dog Be Safe If They Broke Loose?

Which Training Method Is Best?

1. The Sit-and-Wait

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 exposed to and walked around traffic during their sensitive socialization period before 16 weeks of age.

2. "Down" From a Distance

If your dog is going to be off-leash at times, be sure to teach them to go “down” from a distance. For instance, 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 certain that my dog is not going to run in front of the vehicle in order to get back next to me.

3. The "Touch-and-Treat"

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

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

4. Allow Your Dog to Free-Roam

When I stopped to ask people on the street about what methods they use, some said they believe in letting their dogs simply roam free. When I tried to discuss this problem with them, many simply stated that some dogs learn and some dogs get hit.

5. Learning by Exposure

The consensus among people on the street was that puppies are best trained by being bumped with a slow bicycle while still young. After that, I was told, these dogs learned to stay close to their master and were not even inclined to go out into traffic.

My opinion on this method: 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.

Initial Road-Sense Training for Puppies

Does Initial Road-Sense Training Work?

The above video demonstrates one effective method of teaching your dog to sit and wait before crossing the road. However, if a dog is around a busy street and becomes distracted, the dog may fail to respond, which is why so many people recommend that a leash be attached at all times.

On-Leash Walks Keep Your Dog Safe

On-Leash Walks Keep Your Dog Safe

Why I Advocate for On-Leash Walks

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" command.

A Message About Safety

The other night, however, we were returning from a short walk 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, it is obvious that there is no fool-proof method of training for a dog. To be safe, dogs should be on a leash at all times when outside.

More Reading on Dogs and Cars . . .

  • My Dog was Hit by a Car : What Happens Next?
    Stay calm, if you have made it to the clinic the worst is over. This article will tell you what will happen to your friend when she is taken in after being hit by a car, and maybe how you can avoid it.

Questions & Answers

Question: We taught our 5-month-old pug to use the cat door. When we come home, she runs out in front of the car. What can we do to stop that?

Answer: You need to move the cat door around to the back. Having that cat door at the front is a very dangerous situation for your dog since she can get out at any time, and not just when you are there. Move it around to the back of the house so that she will only go out to a fenced in yard.

© 2014 Dr Mark

Comments

UnluckyLeo on September 06, 2019:

Carly, you should probably just find another home for your dog if it is not allowed in the house. Dogs are social animals, they need to be a part of your pack (family) to thrive. Which they can not do if they're not allowed in the house. I was told long ago that there is no such thing as a good outside dog.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 20, 2019:

Hannah, I cannot tell you how many dogs I have seen over the years who have been severely damaged and died because of being hit by a car. So is the method you described mean?

Not compared to the alternative. I think you would have to have a place you could drive really slow, like the beach or maybe a big flat field, but it might work. I would worry that the dog was only worried about the parking lot (or whatever location you used) and not the car itself.

Hannah on July 16, 2019:

Well! I definitely agree that pretending to actually "hit" a dog (especially a puppy!) with a vehicle is a recipie for disaster.

But what if you tried something like using a prong/citrus spray collar when close to cars, and having a car drive up to the dog whilst honking the horn?

That way, youre not literally touching your dog with a vehicle, but more like scaring him whenever they're nearby...

This way is still kinda mean though, haha

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 14, 2019:

To Jorah, or whatever your real name is, although you seem afraid to use it: Did you read the article? Here is a qoute from the article that you can read, in case you did not bother to read the first time:

"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."

Is that clear enough for you? Do you need me to use smaller words?

Jorah Mormont on April 13, 2019:

Allow your dog to walk around traffic by himself, or get hit by a slow moving car. People actually take your advice?

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on August 15, 2018:

Carly,the only safe thing to do is invest in a fence for your property. If you live in the country and this is not possible consider building a kennel where he can be confined at nights and in the early morning when the bus comes.

Carly McKeehan on August 15, 2018:

We have recently taken in a Lab/Pit mix who runs to our family whenever we’re around and I’m afraid that he’ll run out to the bus when my child goes to school or get in an accident. He has to sleep outside because my husband doesn’t allow animals inside. What do you think we should do?

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on December 12, 2017:

John, did you even take the time to read? I guess not. What is the matter with you?

John on September 02, 2017:

Hit your dog with a slow moving car? What's the matter with you? Some idiot reading this is going to run over their goddamn puppy because of this bizarre list.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 12, 2017:

Not sure how much you are going to be able to teach stray dogs. Most of the stray dogs in my village are good around cars, sort of have a natural road sense, but if I were to train them I would need to adopt each one, bond and then obedience train. I am still not convinced they would be that much better off.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on October 28, 2016:

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 on October 28, 2016:

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.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on October 22, 2016:

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.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on October 22, 2016:

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 on October 22, 2016:

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 on May 21, 2015:

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 from YAMBA NSW on October 17, 2014:

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.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 09, 2014:

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!

Mary Craig from New York on February 09, 2014:

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 on February 09, 2014:

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

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 08, 2014:

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 on February 08, 2014:

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 :)

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 08, 2014:

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 on February 08, 2014:

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.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 08, 2014:

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!

Rachel Koski Nielsen from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota on February 08, 2014:

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!!

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 08, 2014:

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 from Arkansas, USA on February 08, 2014:

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 from Wales on February 08, 2014:

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

Eddy.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on February 07, 2014:

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

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 07, 2014:

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 from southern USA on February 07, 2014:

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.

Blessings,

Faith Reaper