How to keep my dog in the back of the car

It is disrespectful when a dog bounds all over my car assuming he has the right to sit shotgun, in my lap and anywhere else he pleases.

Most people don’t seem to mind where their dogs sit in the car. If you are one of those people, I encourage you to change your mind.

My dog is never allowed in the front seat. Here’s why:

1. I’d like to keep at least the front half of my car fairly clean and less smelly.

2. Setting rules in the car is an easy way to show my dog I’m the leader.

3. It’s dangerous to have a dog moving around in the car.

4. Teaching my dog to sit and stay in the back seat teaches him to be calm in the car.

If your dog barks in the car, pants heavily, paces or cries, then teaching him to stay in the back is especially important.

How to keep your dog on the back seat

The answer to this problem is actually very easy:

Never allow your dog to enter or exit through the front doors or the car.

Ace in car

If you are a dog, you get in and out of my car through the back doors. No exceptions.

With this rule in place, the dog learns that the back doors of the car are his access to getting out and enjoying somewhere fun.

The dog will learn to wait at the back door of the car if he wants to get out and come along. Therefore he will have no reason to climb into the front seat while I am driving or while he waits in the car.

Teaching the dog to stay in the back seat takes consistency and many repetitions over a matter of days, weeks or months, but it is possible to train any dog to stay in the back.

When I go into a restaurant or to run errands, I can leave Ace in the car and he takes a nap on the back seat.

Here are some additional tips for teaching the dog to stay on the back seat:

1. Reward your dog with treats or rawhide chews when he’s staying in the back.

2. When you get somewhere “fun,” park so the back of your car is facing the direction you will be walking. That way the dog will stay in the back and look out the back window. There will be no reason to climb into the front.

3. If the dog tries to climb into the front while you are in the car, don’t allow it. Push him back.

4. If your dog climbs into the front seat when you get out of the car, walk to the back door, open it and call your dog. Reward him when he’s in the back. Never let him out the front door even if it’s to return him to the back.

5. Don’t get into the car until your dog is on the back seat. This teaches the dog that the door will not open unless he is in the back. If he wants your attention, he must get on the back seat and wait there.

6. Work on the sit stay command so your dog respects it in all situations.

Dog car barrier

An easy way to keep the dog in the back of the car is to buy a special barrier. There are dozens of varieties of dog car gates to choose from. Some are metal. Some are mesh. They all serve the same purpose.

If you are having trouble keeping your dog in the back of the car, then I recommend a dog car barrier. You could always use this until your dog understands the rules and then give it to someone else or sell it.

It’s much easier to train a puppy to stay in the back compared to an adult dog used to riding shotgun. It’s also harder to keep a dog in the back if you drive a small car with only two doors. In these cases, a dog car barrier might be the answer.

Where does your dog sit in the car?

17 Readers Commented

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  1. Jan on October 9, 2009

    All good suggestions as always. I wish i could figure out a way to seatbelt four happy dogs. Or how I could keep nose prints off the windows.

  2. Lindsay Stordahl Author on October 9, 2009

    Yes. Or how to get rid of all that hair no matter how often I vacuum. Maybe you don’t have that problem with poodles, though!

  3. Abbey + the girls on October 9, 2009

    Chels was in the backseat till I had two and they were just physically too big, now both are in the tray of the ute. Shy never even found out what a back seat was.. With Shy ill ive been taking Chels in the back seat again… big mistake, now she thinks she has a choice. It will be easy to get her used to the back again given her nature but with another dog it may have caused a long term problem…

    Lucy, well shes in the passenger seat with Bella;)

  4. Apryl DeLancey on October 10, 2009

    Gus is pretty good about staying in back as long as you don’t have food and he doesn’t have to go potty.

  5. Lindsay Stordahl Author on October 10, 2009

    One of my friends had to get a bigger car to make room for her great dane! My cat Scout sits, um, in my lap while I drive. Don’t tell.

    Gus is probably too lazy to climb into the front unless there is food! Actually, I think it’s harder for bigger dogs to move around in the car. At least if you have a fairly small car like mine.

  6. Ariel "Cats" Dumas on October 11, 2009

    The best way to keep your cat in the back seat is to put him in a box.

  7. Lindsay Stordahl Author on October 11, 2009

    The box may or may not have air holes.

  8. Apryl DeLancey on October 11, 2009

    Freako, the leash-trained wonder, sits quietly in the back seat when we go places. I car trained him right off because I am not much of a box person.

    I’m lucky that he’s such a clever kitty.

    Oh, and Gus doesn’t care if we are in the 4Runner or Camry, he’ll try to get in the front if he wants to. I had the sunroof open on the 4Runner once and the dippy guy decided to stand up between the front seats and stick his head out of it. It was pretty amusing.

  9. Lindsay Stordahl Author on October 12, 2009

    I try to put Scout in the back seat with Ace and he refuses to stay back there. If he were a dog I would not tolerate this, but since he’s a cat I let him get away with it. My cats pretty much have complete control over me.

  10. AnimatedPet on October 12, 2009

    Fortunately, Nelly stays in the back seat while the car is in motion. We’ve only had problems with the front/back seat shuffle when we load/unload the car and she’s anxious to get in/out.

  11. Lindsay Stordahl Author on October 12, 2009

    That’s great that you’ve had success for the most part.

  12. Valerie from PetFoodDirect on October 22, 2009

    Hello folks! Great topic. It drives me crazy to see people in cars with their dog bouncing all over. So dangerous! I don’t have a dog presently, just cats but I did have a wonderful Golden for 14 years and I think the best thing you can do is first have a good “down stay” command with your dog. It’s invaluable in every-day life to begin with but if you have a good “down stay”, just move that into the car. Large dogs feel more stable if lying down when the car is in motion anyway and you don’t have to worry about them falling if you have to suddenly hit the breaks. There’s enough to worry about on the road in front of you, you don’t need to worry about the dog too if they are lying down safely. And a “wait” command is so important for both getting into and out of the car. There’s nothing worse than opening the door and forgetting you have something breakable on the seat as your 80lb dog leaps in on it! 🙂
    Take care!

  13. Lindsay Stordahl Author on October 22, 2009

    All great points! Down-stay is so important, yet so few dogs will respond to it reliably. Train your dog to do that and your life will be much easier!

  14. Dave @ The Dog Blog on October 25, 2009


    No seat belt? That is absolutely the easiest and safest way to keep them in the back. It also seems to keep them a lot calmer as well.

  15. Lindsay Stordahl Author on October 25, 2009

    Great point. I have never tried a dog seatbelt.

  16. Biggie-Z on October 25, 2009

    I never take Biggie anywhere without a seat belt. Even a small fender bender could be fatal for your dog if he’s not strapped in, and in a bigger accident, an unbelted dog could hurt the people in the car.

    I have to agree with Dave – a kennel/crate or a seat belt is essential.

  17. Lindsay Stordahl Author on October 26, 2009

    I’ll have to look into seatbelts for dogs. What kind do you use?