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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 carIf 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?

Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 26th of October 2009

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


Sunday 25th of October 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.

Lindsay Stordahl

Sunday 25th of October 2009

Great point. I have never tried a dog seatbelt.

Dave @ The Dog Blog

Sunday 25th of October 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.

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 22nd of October 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!