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Help! My Dog Whines Nonstop in the Car

Is there anything more annoying than a dog that won’t stop whining? Here’s what to do about it.

by Karen B. London, PhD
January 22, 2020
Boxer dog sits in back of car with head in the front
julia_shumenko / Adobe Stock

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The local dog park is a short drive from your house, and you usually take your dog there before doing other errands. Within a few minutes of leaving the house, they start whining in the backseat, which is not only distracting, but also incredibly annoying. Which makes you wonder: Can you train your dog to stop whining in the car on the way to the dog park? The short answer: Yes! Here are some ways to make the car ride better for both of you.

Why Your Dog Whines In the Car — And What to Do About It

The root of the problem is that they knows where you’re going and cannot contain their enthusiasm. The solution? Make it harder for them to figure out the destination and easier for them to remain calm in the car. To do that, it’s important to become less predictable — to reduce their expectation that a ride in the car means they’re going to the dog park.

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Take your dog on car rides regularly so that going out in the car isn’t so closely linked with a visit to their playground. Add to the unpredictability by varying the order of your stops; for example, errands might come before or after the dog park, or both. Sometimes a car ride may be just errands, and sometimes it may just be a joy ride without any stops at all. Your dog may still get revved up when you get close to the dog park on the days you actually go there, but hopefully, it will be for a couple of minutes rather than the entire ride.

More ways to change it up: To make arrivals at the dog park less exciting for your pup, park at a distance and walk to the park from your parking spot. Once in a while, park in that spot and go for a walk without visiting the dog park. That way, in a sense, you’re never actually driving to the dog park — you’re driving to a parking spot, which may mean a walk or may mean some off-leash fun. If your dog is never sure when they’re in the car that you’re going to the dog park, the annoying behavior associated with their anticipation will be less likely to happen. (To be honest, your walk may be filled with her excitement, but that's not as problematic as whining in the car.)

No matter where you’re headed, help your dog be their best self in the car by giving them something to keep them occupied. Whether it’s a stuffed Kong, a food puzzle, or a chew toy, if your dog likes it and it holds their attention, they’re less likely to whine and drive you crazy.

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karen london

Karen B. London, PhD

Karen B. London, Ph.D., is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression. She writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about canine training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life.