Springer Spaniel Barks in the Car

He barks in the carFifteen month old Archie is a puzzle.

In most areas of his life he is the ideal dog, and his humans are the ideal owners. There may be a little bit of doing too much of what Archie wants – but then he asks so nicely! He is polite, gentle and endearing.

Normally when I go to a dog and look at the perceived problem, I find that the cause is elsewhere and many of the areas of the dogs life need a little adjustment.

In this case it really does seem to be mostly centred around the barking in the car.

He barks in the car. Why?

From when he was younger, Archie would bark with excitement as soon as the engine was turned off. He was eager to get out and on with the walk.

Then, a few months ago he started to bark continually during the journey as well.  Other things indicate that this is about something different – anxiety. Archie has developed a dislike for the moving car. I’m sure it’s because things outside moving past or approaching fast that he barks in the car during the journey. How is a dog to know that it’s the car moving and not the trees?

Non-stop barking in the car is dreadful. It hurts the ears, it’s very hard to keep calm and it’s difficult to concentrate on driving.

As the months have gone by, the more he barks in the car. The behaviour has become entrenched. It has become a habit. The car is the place to bark. He probably believes that when he barks in the car (which is always), it determines the outcome of the journey. this is either  a walk or the arrival home. That is what always happens whether the barking is through eager excitement or through anxiety.

Not barking should determine the outcome

He needs to learn that not barking determines the outcome – the walk. Quietness is what needs to be reinforced and rewarded. Archie needs to know what he should do rather than what he should not do.

A new habit has to be established – two new habits in fact. One is to address the anxiety while the car is moving, and the other to address the excitement about the end of the journey. They will try blocking his view of the cars and trees rushing by. That often quietens a dog.

Barking always is eventually rewarded by arriving at the destination and nice things happening. So they need to ensure that, once out of the car it’s not immediate fun and freedom, but starts with controlled walking. The same applies for getting back home.

Home needs to be boring for a while after they return home!

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