For most, getting your dog to jump into the car is something you rarely ever think about. There are a few instances when dogs struggle with this important skill.
How do you train a dog to jump into a car? The best thing to do is to teach them how to jump onto a familiar surface at various heights. Once they have mastered each height, increase the distance they are jumping until it is equal with the height of your car. As with any skill, practice makes perfect!
Sometimes the reason for their inability to jump into the car is as simple as a fear of heights. Regardless of the reason for their inability to jump into the car, this article will show you each step of the process to teach your dog how to safely get into your vehicle. We have also answered some frequently asked questions to help you along this journey with your animal.
If you are hesitant about whether or not these steps work, we are here to tell you that these steps in this particular method were very effective with our own pet. Understanding the way a dog thinks and learns is the only way to break bad habits and teach new ones. We have done research in addition to our personal experiences to find the best way to get this process done effectively and quickly, so grab your materials and let’s get started!
8 Steps to Train Your Dog to Jump into the Car
Assisting your dog to jump into the car is not usually a problem for smaller animals, but for those with pets that are over 45-50 pounds, it can become difficult and often impossible for you to physically help them.
As a dog owner, you probably know that staying calm and not getting stressed out is a great way to minimize stress from your animal when training in other areas. Training one to jump into a car is no different. The calmer you are, the easier it will be for them to perform the desired task, and in this situation, it is to jump into a vehicle.
When you rush the process it can lead to more anxiety for your pet, so be sure to take your time and relax as you help your dog learn or relearn this very crucial skill. Rewarding your animal is a great way to let them know that you are pleased with their behavior and it will hopefully encourage them to repeat the desired skill they are demonstrating.
Prior to any training, always check with your veterinarian to make sure that there are not any underlying health issues with your dog that might prevent them from jumping into the car. There are other solutions if your dog is physically unable to jump, so don’t fret!
Step 1 - Gather Materials
The materials necessary for training a dog to jump into your vehicle are things you more than likely have laying around your house, but in some instances they will cost you a few dollars at the pet store. Here are the things you need to gather before you can begin:
When purchasing treats for your dog, make sure you always get the highest end treats possible to ensure that they are a healthy option for your animal. Sometimes the cheapest option at the grocery store might have dangerous ingredients that will hurt your pet over time. When you get the more expensive option, you are choosing the highest quality for your four-legged friend.
Some people like to use a clicker to help congratulate their animal for a job well done. For others, it works great to simply use an excited voice and tone to let them know you are proud of what they just did.
Blanket or Towel
The blanket will serve as a tool to help your dog get used to jumping at different heights. When the same blanket is used, it helps create a pattern of success for them and allows them to notice a familiar surface as they increase height for their jumping practice.
Step 2 - Jump on Blanket
Once you have your materials gathered, it is time to get to work. The very first thing your pet needs to master is simply getting used to the blanket. In order to do this, you need to find a room of your home and lay the blanket in the middle of the floor.
Once your animal comes close to the blanket or has any contact with it at all, reward their behavior or use your clicker to let them know that they have done a great thing. When they are used to laying or stepping on the blanket and getting a treat, it is time to add some height to the situation.
Step 3 - Jump on Books
Adding a few books underneath your blanket will allow them to experience the same familiar feelings as when they stepped on just the blanket alone. The short height added might not seem like much, but it will allow your pet to know that being a slight distance off of the ground is not a big deal at all.
When they can step over the books or onto the blanket with the books, be sure to reward them with a treat, click or some extra scratches behind the ears. The more you encourage them, the more likely they will be to repeat these behaviors.
Step 4 - Jump on Pillows
After they can easily handle the books, you can increase the height by allowing them to step on or over spare pillows you have laying around your house. Starting with a small pillow first, allow your animal to walk over or step onto the blanket that has pillows stacked underneath.
As they gain confidence, you can add more pillows until it is the height of the couch in your home. At this point, you can transition to the furniture for jumping practice. Always remember with each step of the way to congratulate and encourage your dog by praising them with your words, treats or the clicker.
Step 5 - Jump on Couch
Jumping onto the couch is the next step in the process for you and your dog’s journey to being able to jump into the car safely and confidently. The familiarity of the jumping onto the blanket is key in this entire equation, so be sure to always use the same blanket for training purposes.
Simply lay the blanket onto the couch and sit on the cushion next to the blanket. Tap on the blanket and tell your pet to jump up onto the blanket. At first they might be intimidated, but with your support and encouragement, they should be able to jump in no time.
Step 6 - Distance Jump on Couch
After they can easily jump onto the couch, you need to create some distance between the base of the couch and your pet. To do so, add a box or tote to the ground in front of your couch. Keeping everything else the same, ask your dog to jump onto the couch, over the box or tote.
In most instances, the dog is going to need to get a running start in order to make it on the couch in one jump. Making this longer jump allows them the confidence they will need when it comes time to jump into your vehicle.
If your pet seems to struggle, stay calm and back up a step before going onto the next big step in the process. The more practice you do, the quicker they will master each step in the process.
Step 7 - Jump on Blanket in Car
Once jumping over the box and onto the couch becomes a breeze for your four-legged friend, it’s time to move outside. Take the same blanket you have used on this entire journey and simply place it over the area of the car where you want them to jump.
With the use of the same blanket you have been practicing with inside the house, it should be relatively simple for your dog to jump into the car without a problem. If they do hesitate, always remember to use the same commands as you did inside and encourage them along the way.
At any point in the process, it is best to go back a step or two instead of allowing your pet to know you are frustrated. When you are worked up, they are going to sense that and not perform as well as if you were simply there to be their personal encourager.
Step 8 - Jump in Car Without Blanket
Jumping into the car without the blanket will look identical to the previous step. The only thing that is going to change here is the removal of the blanket. While it has been a constant tool in the entire process, your pet might hesitate when the blanket is no longer in the picture.
When teaching your dog to jump into the car, make sure you are always practicing in the same area. Switching from the trunk to the passenger seat to the driver’s side will confuse your animal and prevent them from recognizing the specifics of where they are jumping. It will be easier to teach them to jump into the floorboard first, before adding the height of jumping up into the seat.
Why Is My Dog Struggling?
Before beginning this process, you might be asking yourself why your pet is struggling so much to jump into the car. If you have had a previous pet that had no problem jumping into a car, it might be frustrating and very stressful for you with this new dog in the picture.
Staying calm and analyzing the situation is the best way to get the results you want and need. Perhaps your dog has tried this jump before only to not make it into the car and fall on his or her back on the ground. This was probably painful for them and quite traumatic, so it is your job to help them through this stress and relearn the skills.
If your dog does not want to jump into the car, it might make him pull back and resist the activity. When you push a dog to do something they don’t want to do, it can only result in you getting more discouraged, and even a bite from your dog. To avoid this, it is important to follow all of the previously stated steps to help your dog regain their confidence.
Can I Just Pull Him Into the Car?
If you want to, sure, but if you want your dog to learn how to handle this on his or her own, you are going to need to spend some time with them to help them conquer this (quite literal) mountain.
Pulling the dog into the car can hurt him or her in the process and can also strain your back. Neither of these are good solutions for anyone involved, so taking the time to train them is the best way to get the results you want.
If your pet has an injury or another issue diagnosed by your vet, then purchasing a dog ramp might be the best and only option for you. This will allow your dog to walk up into the vehicle slowly and steadily without the pressure on any joints of jumping.
Why Do I Have to Be So Happy While Training?
Happiness from an owner helps a dog to know they are loved and doing the right thing. Just as a child responds well when you reward them, so do animals. Dogs know that when you give them a yummy treat, you are proud of what they accomplished and want them to repeat this behavior.
We understand that training a dog is not usually something that people look forward to doing because it can be time consuming and stressful when the desired behavior doesn’t happen right away. If you find yourself in this category of people, know that you aren’t alone and that in due time your pet will be able to jump just fine, all with your dedication and support.
Will They Need Treats For Every Car Jump In The Future?
Luckily, no. As soon as this process of jumping into the car becomes more of a habit for your dog, they will no longer require a treat. If you want to make this a time where you reward your dog or praise them, then go for it. At some point, however, they will be able to jump into the car without the use of treats or rewards, or the familiar blanket.
How Long Will This Process Take?
Jumping into the car will vary from dog to dog and from person to person. Your patience is going to be different than someone else’s, and your dog’s ability will not be the same as any other dog.
When using a reward-based method for training a dog, however, usually it will only take about a week or two before the skill is set in stone and they are completely confident in their new learned behavior.
The key in this entire process is to get them excited and not scared of the skill you are trying to master. Once you have changed their emotions regarding this “massive leap” into the car, they will be able to have the confidence they were once lacking and jump up without any problems at all.
Why Teach My Dog to Jump Into A Car?
At some point in your dog-owning life, you are going to need your pet to be able to get up into the car. When you make this a regular activity for your pup, it will improve their skills and allow them to make this jump confidently and safely every time.
What If My Dog Is Scared of the Car?
If your dog doesn’t like the closed in nature of your vehicle, try opening the doors or windows to allow them to feel the fresh air around them. This will help them feel like they can get out if necessary and not feel trapped. When the car is a “safe space” for them, just like the couch in your living room, they will be much happier and able to ride with you without a problem.
If your pet is still hesitant to jump into your car, it might be that the car itself is a scary or unfamiliar place for him or her. When you get the dog into the car, try to spend some extra time playing with your pet or giving extra treats to let them know that it is safe and ok for them to be there.
While you are driving it is not the ideal time to do this, so when you are operating a vehicle make sure both you and your pet are safe at all times. If you want the extra playtime with your pup, consider doing this when the vehicle is completely parked and no longer in motion.
Regardless of the reason for your dog’s hesitancy to jump into a car, following the steps above will hopefully lead to success for you and your animal as you move forward.
About THE AUTHOR
I have had dogs my whole life and have always trained my own dogs with patience and positive reinforcement. My dogs are my life. My family always had dogs growing up. I've trained dogs for clients while working at a local dog daycare. I hope that my research and experiences are helpful to you as I share them here.Read More About Russell Wright