You can understand your dog’s excitement to stretch his legs after being cooped up in a car — but a pooch who hares out of your vehicle before the tailgate is even open can be a danger to himself and others. Ben Randall talks about how to deal with this problem.
Let’s be honest — we’ve all witnessed this particular issue or, at times, struggled with it ourselves. I certainly see it on a daily basis: often, when clients arrive at our kennels for dog-training lessons, they stand at the back corner of their car, with a lead in their hand, and open the boot really slowly, an inch at a time, all the while sticking their hand into it, as though it’s a letter box, repeatedly saying: ‘Sit, sitttttt! Stay, stayyyy, wait! And inevitably, as soon as the tailgate is open just wide enough, the dog darts out.
This is precisely the problem A.E. from Norfolk is having, who shared her concerns via our email@example.com email address:
Dear Ben, I have a boisterous and quite wilful springer spaniel who refuses to sit and wait while I open the back of the car. It doesn’t matter how slowly I open it, he always rushes out and I’m worried about him jumping out when we’re in a layby on a busy road or in a car park and potentially causing an accident. What can I do to stop him doing this, please?
Firstly, we have to look at why your dog is not patient enough to sit and wait for you to give the command to exit the car in a safe and orderly way — because believe me, he can definitely hear and understand the command. It’s just that he’s impatient to get out on his walk or wherever he is going and he does not want to wait.
But he’s going to have to. For his safety, we urgently need to teach your dog to be calm and patient around all manner of distractions and excitement — whether that be other dogs, people, children, food, visitors at the door, or you opening the car boot.
Recommended videos for you
I’ve been perfecting my BG (Beggarbush) foundation methods for nearly 20 years and can assure you that the best way to do this is to teach steadiness and restraint at meal times. You can learn more via @beggarbush on Instagram and my dog-training app (this link will let you get a free trial) or ask me your own question by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
So to begin, we should remind ourselves that we own our car and we therefore have the right to open and close the boot as often as we want — when or how we do this should have nothing to do with our dog or dogs agitating to get out and have fun. Therefore, to achieve some restraint and composure, to the benefit of all concerned, we need to open and close the boot and simulate this scenario as often as we can to attain perfection.
Starting them young will help when it comes to learning patience.
Firstly, park your car in a safe place, well away from a road or other distractions, and teach your dog to sit calmly in the boot even while it’s open. Ask them to sit, then stand at the back of the car with either a bowl of food or some kibble in your hand. Once the dog has waited for 5 to 10 seconds, reward them with some food from the bowl or a piece of kibble.
As the dog continues to sit, show them a second piece of kibble, reiterate the sit command, and slowly close the boot. Then, lift it up again straight away, ask them to wait a few seconds more, and then reward your dog.
Repeat this a few times so that your dog starts to learn and thinks to itself: ‘The more I listen and the more I watch, my reward will potentially come after a period of good behaviour.’
If your dog is too overexcited and keeps jumping out, despite the promise of a reward, you’re going to have to use a restraint, at least while they’re getting the hang of it. Make sure they are strapped in via a harness and a dog safety belt, so that they physically cannot jump out. Then repeat the exercise above, until they are prepared to wait for a while, before quietly unclipping them (almost so they don’t notice) and continuing to practise the exercise.
After repeating this exercise three or four times a day, most dogs will be steady when you open the boot, but then dive out when they see the lead. This is because so many of us have taught them that the lead is a cue for jumping out of a vehicle and we tend to reward them once we have put the lead on.
Ask yourself this: have you ever opened the boot, put the lead on and only then asked the dog to come out? The answer is usually no. We don’t give them the command, we just let them jump out — and in doing so we are reinforcing this behaviour.
To correct this, open the boot, give the sit command, place the lead on the dog whilst showing him the kibble — and ask him to wait for 5, 10, or even more seconds, until he’s shown his calm and patience. Then reward the dog with the kibble.
Repeat this again, continue to pause, then say the dog’s name and the ‘heel’ command as he jumps out.
Simulate this a few times a day and within a few weeks you’ll have repeated it a few hundred times, while always rewarding your dog for sitting patiently in the back of the car with his lead on.
As well as training them to stay put, I would also recommend teaching your dog to wait before it jumps into the car. To do this, show them some kibble, point at the back of the car and say ‘in’, take the lead off, wait a while — perhaps rearrange the boot or something as you do so — and then finally give them the reward.
For more detailed advice about Ben Randall’s positive, reward-based and proven BG training methods, one-to-one training sessions, residential training or five-star dog-boarding at his BGHQ in Herefordshire, telephone 01531 670960 or visit www.ledburylodgekennels.co.uk. For a free seven-day trial of the Gundog app, which costs £24.99 a month or £249.99 a year, visit www.gundog.app/trial
A retired greyhound with an unknown past is the subject of this week’s advice article from our resident dog whisperer
With hot summer weather here it can be a challenge keeping your four-legged friend cool and happy. Ben Randall shares
Fed up with Fido leaping onto the furniture — whether it’s your sofa, armchair, or your bed — whenever he
Enjoying a drink in a lovely country pub with your dog snoozing quietly at your feet is one of the
Adopting a dog in need of a new home can be a fabulous experience that will transform your life for