How to Calm an Excited Dog in the Car

February 2, 2023 / Dog Training / By: Lilianna Parker

An excited, hyper German Shepherd Dog in the back of the Car

It is normal for dogs to get excited from time to time. However, overexcitability in dogs can sometimes become a hazard, especially if you are in the car.

If you have an excitable dog then knowing how to calm them down is very important. Luckily, it is fairly easy to do this when you have some basic obedience commands under your belt.

Here we will be explaining exactly how you calm down an excited dog in the car. This will include explaining how to teach your dog the settle command along with some other tips and tricks that can keep your dog calm in exciting situations

The Dangers of an Excitable Dog When on the Road

An excited dog in the car can quickly become a danger to yourselves and other people on the road. This is because a dog can be very distracting to the driver when they are excited. Unfortunately, these kinds of distractions could easily lead to accidents.

Why do Dogs Get Overexcited?

There are several possible reasons why a dog might become overexcited. Most of the time overexcitement is the result of stress or overstimulation. For example, seeing another dog may cause a dog to become stressed in a car because they cannot go see them.

This stress or overstimulation is caused by the feeling of being confined in the car.

Of course, we cannot just let the dog out of the car whenever they see something that stimulates or excites them. However, having the tools to redirect a dog’s attention can help prevent them from getting too amped up. It can sometimes help to block your dog’s view of the outside as well.

What Triggers Should You Try to Avoid With an Excitable Dog?

Most of the time a dog in the car is responding to visual triggers such as the sight of another moving car, a dog, or a bicycle. Oftentimes dogs will also become very excited when they see landmarks that signify that you are going somewhere fun like the park.

Blocking their view of the outside through things like a window shade can help with keeping your dog’s composure while in the car. Keeping your dog crated while in the car can also keep them from becoming overexcited by visual stimuli.

It is also important to mention that being understimulated can often make a dog more susceptible to becoming overexcited. Keeping up with your dog’s daily exercise schedule and keeping them mentally stimulated can help keep them calm

How Calm An Excited Dog in the Car

Knowing how to teach your dog the settle command can help to keep them calm during stressful, exciting, and stimulating situations.

In addition to this, rewarding calm behavior while in the car and teaching your dog some other basic obedience commands will teach your dog how to behave well while in the car.

Here we will be explaining how you do just that

1. Teach Your Dog the Settle Command

Teach your dog the settle command

Dogs love traveling with their humans. However, when traveling by car dogs should always be strapped in or crated so they can't distract the driver and cause an accident.

Teaching your dog the settle command is a tool that will make such a difference for an anxious or excitable dog. The good news is that it is also pretty easy to teach your dog how to do it!

Here is how to teach your dog the settle command, and we even broke it down into a few simple steps.

What is the Settle Command Anyway?

The settle command is essentially teaching your dog to lay down and relax on command. As you can probably imagine, this skill will be pretty useful for owners of excitable dogs.

Step 1: Teach Your Dog to Lay Down

The settle command is different from lay down because settle involves your dog laying down for an extended amount of time. Still, your dog will need to know how to lie down before the two of you can tackle the settle cue.

You can teach your dog how to lie down by luring them into the lie-down position and putting it on cue. Pretty soon your dog will associate the words lie down with the action.

Step 2: Practice Lay Down in the Car

The next step is to find your dog’s settle spot. For in the car, most dog owners will choose the backseat or their dog’s crate to be their settle spot. To establish this settle spot you will essentially practice lying down in the car. 

Practice the lie-down command in the car a few times. This will help warm both of you up, especially if your dog is not used to laying down in the car yet. Then, when your dog is laying down and appearing relaxed, say “settle”.

Next, release your dog with a release word like “ok” or “all done” to signify that they can get up and then reward them. This helps to prevent bad habits and confusion in your dog. You will likely need to practice this around ten times for your dog to fully grasp the new command

Step 3: Increase the Amount of Time Your Dog Lies Down in the Car

Once your dog knows what the settle command means, then you will need to increase the amount of time that your dog spends lying down after hearing it. To start off, give your dog the settle command and then release them as you have been. 

The next time you give them the settle command, wait a few extra seconds before releasing and rewarding them. This will start extending the amount of time that your dog holds this settle command. 

From here you should slowly extend this amount of time a few seconds at a time.

Once your dog has settled for as long as you would like them to, then you can stop increasing the amount of time in between the command and release.

Remember, the goal of this command is to redirect your dog’s attention and get them to calm down. 

Step 4: Practice it on the Road

Once you have the settle command where you want it at home, you can start practicing on the road. It is a good idea to start off in a location where your dog will not get too excited

This is introducing them to practicing the settle command in a moving vehicle, so you do not want to make the process too difficult for them just yet.

Step 5: Progressively Make it More Difficult

jumOnce your dog is reacting reliably to the settle command in low distraction areas, you can start progressively making the task more difficult for them. This means practicing in areas that are more likely to make your dog overexcited.

It is best to do this process slowly. This means that you may not want to jump to a busy city street straight away.

2. Reward Calm Behavior

Throughout this process, it is always important to reward calm behavior. Doing this will show your dog that this is the kind of behavior that you want to see in the car.

You can reward calm behavior by doing things like giving your dog extra treats when he settles for a long time or in a situation that would normally excite him

3. Some Other Basic Obedience Commands That Could Help Calm a Dog Down

Having your dog know some other basic obedience commands can also help with calming them down in the car. For example, teaching your dog the sit and stay command can be very helpful. Similarly, teaching your dog the quiet cue can help with dogs that bark a lot when they get excited

How to Keep a Dog From Jumping Into Your Lap While Driving

Owner securing a dog in the car with a safety belt in seat booster

Sometimes dogs will jump into their owner's lap when they are excited or frightened. While this behavior can be cute at home, it can be very dangerous in the car. The best way to stop this is by containing your dog while in the car.

In addition to crates for the car, you can also humanely contain your dog with dog car seats and harnesses that are built to be strapped in with a seat belt. These kinds of products are great because they will usually also provide your dog with some protection in case of an accident

Does CBD Help Calm a Dog Down?

Many people claim that CBD pills and oils made for pets help to calm their excitable and anxious dogs down.

While this may or may not be true, there is very little third-party research on this subject, and most positive claims are coming from the CBD companies themselves. 

As a result, it is best to take these claims with a grain of salt until more research has been conducted

Final Takeaway on Combating Excessive Excitement in Dogs on Car Rides

The best way to calm an overexcited dog in the car is to teach them the settle cue.

This will provide the owner with hands-off control over the situation, making driving safer. Similarly, it is also a good idea for dog owners of excitable dogs to contain their dogs using a travel crate, crash-tested car harness, or dog car seat.

This will prevent excitable dogs from causing a distraction and moving into the front seat.

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Lilianna Parker

Lilianna Parker is a certified dog trainer through the Animal Behavior College, and has been involved in training dogs in the New York State community for several years. Lilianna has also written numerous works on dog training using positive reinforcement. She believes that every dog owner should have the tools that they need to see their dogs succeed. Her articles and blog posts about dog training are excellent ways for dog owners to get started with force-free training. She owns Simply Positive Dog Training and when she’s not writing or training, she enjoys going for hikes with her Shiba Inu called Cleo!

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