How To Teach A Boxer To Ride In The Car

Boxers generally love car travel.

One, it means they’re accompanying you somewhere. Two, they’re great observers and the car offers a fantastic vantage point for watching the world go by.

The main thing is to keep your Boxer safely restrained in the car so he doesn’t distract the driver or become a projectile if there’s an accident.

Beyond that, there are many other simple things you can do to make sure your dog is relaxed and happy during car trips, even long ones.

What You Need For Car Travel With A Boxer Dog

These things will make life easier:

  • a quality, purpose-designed clip for your dog’s harness that fastens into a car seat buckle
  • a body harness (no collars)
  • car seat covers (for the hair, oh the hair!)

Keep in mind your dog’s regular harness is not designed as a car safety harness. It will not take and safely distribute the forces of a crash. But some restraint is better than none and will help prevent your dog falling and hurting himself during sudden stops or turns.

Another option is a crate. It will need to be properly fitted or tied down so that there is no chance of it moving on impact.

Make sure the crate is large enough for comfort but small enough so that your dog is not able to be thrown around inside if there’s an accident. To serve its purpose in the car, a crate has to actually be confining your dog to a small space.

In order words, you don’t want your Boxer loose in the back section of the car, behind a grill. Every bit of confinement helps, but this won’t offer much protection in the event of a crash.

How To Introduce Your Boxer To Car Travel

Don’t introduce your Boxer to the car one day and expect him to go on a long drive to the country the very next weekend.

Take it in gradual steps:

  1. Have your Boxer get in the car. Praise him, give him a pat, give him a treat and then hop out. Session over
  2. Repeat this a few times on different days, hanging out for a bit longer in the car, until your dog is totally cool with it
  3. Get your dog in the car, treat, and this time, take him on an extremely short car ride. It might be as brief as a drive around the car park, or a drive around the block if your dog is more comfortable. Nothing longer than a few minutes. Talk reassuringly to your dog throughout, and give treats. Return home and get him out. Keep the whole outing short and sweet and stress free
  4. Now, take your dog on another extremely short car ride but, instead of returning straight home, park the car a few streets away and get out. It might be the park across the road. It might be just a street in the neighborhood. Have a tiny walk around for a few minutes, then hop back in the car, treat your dog, praise him and go home. This is about teaching your Boxer that car rides take him to good places.
  5. Do this a couple more times, gradually extending the length of the trip by a few minutes and the length of the walk at the other end. Work within your dog’s comfort zone.
  6. If it’s an option within a close enough radius to your home, have one of the early car trips end somewhere super fun, like the beach. This is probably all it will take to sell your dog 100 per cent on the car.

Should A Boxer Dog Ride In The Front Or Back Seat of the Car?

For short car rides, and when your dog is first learning, it can help to have him ride up front in the passenger seat.

This way he’s closer to you and you can keep a comforting hand on him throughout.

For longer trips, it’s best if you can allow your Boxer the back seat to stretch out on, lie down and go to sleep.

Getting In And Out Of The Car

Boxers will often not want to jump into the car.

Those powerful back legs will seem to desert your dog.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of practice. If you give your Boxer a run up and some encouragement, he’ll realize he can do it — easily.

But, if not, have your Boxer put his front paws onto the seat. Then you can lift his back quarters in without giving yourself a hernia.

If Your Dog Develops A Sudden Fear Of The Car

Sometimes Boxers that previously loved car rides can suddenly develop a fear of them.

Your Boxer might shy away from the car, not want to get in or even tremble during the trip. Panting can be a sign of stress.

Don’t let this kind of agitation persist. Don’t try to push through it.

If any of these things are happening, pay attention. You need to go back to square one and work on reestablishing the car as a desirable, comfortable place to be — rather than a stressful one.

Sudden onset fear of the car can happen if you’ve taken your dog on a car trip that ended in a visit to the vet where something unpleasant or possibly even painful happened. Maybe it was a car ride to the boarding kennel where he got left behind. Can you blame your dog for putting two and two together?

It will take some time for his memory to fade and his suspicion of car rides to subside.

Maybe give the car a rest for a little while.

When you’re ready, go back to the steps you used to first acclimate your dog to the car.

The aim is to replace your dog’s upsetting memory of the last car trip with a positive one. You’ll need to rebuild his trust in the car as something that will take him to places where good things unfold.

Don’t rush it. Go at your pup’s pace.

Chances are, after one or two rides that end somewhere he loves, he’ll be back on board.

Basic Dos and Don’ts When Your Boxer Is In The Car

Do:

  • keep the car well ventilated. Your dog will find it stuffy before you do. Remember that smashed face can make it tough to breathe sometimes
  • lock the doors when the vehicle is moving
  • keep the windows up far enough that your dog cannot jump out of the moving vehicle (it happens)
  • keep your dog restrained in an appropriate harness
  • take frequent potty breaks
  • travel on an empty stomach (this helps avoid motion sickness in Boxers)
  • gradually introduce your dog to short jaunts before doing longer journeys
  • make sure the first many times your dog goes in the car, the trip ends somewhere entirely pleasant i.e. not the vet
  • keep spare water and a dish in the car for when your Boxer needs to stop and have a drink
  • have zero tolerance for barking. This can startle the driver (and other drivers) and be dangerous at high speeds

Do not:

  • leave your Boxer in the car when it’s anything other than cool weather and for anything longer than 2-5 minutes (even that can go wrong)
  • use scented air fresheners in the vents — these chemicals and any other perfumes are toxins that your dog will inhale. Not good
  • let your dog move around unrestrained
  • attach your dog with a collar (this is a neck breaker if there’s an accident)
  • let your dog hang his head out the window

Leaving Your Boxer In A Parked Car

This is best avoided.

However, there are a small number of circumstances in which it MIGHT be low risk/necessary.

Like, if you can park right in front of the store, will be in sight the whole time and get out for only two minutes to buy one item. Or if you are click and collecting your groceries curbside.

If you’re planning on putting your dog in a situation where he’s left alone in the car for any amount of time, you need to prepare him.

Just because your dog is comfortable in the car when you’re there doesn’t mean he’ll be fine with being left inside as you walk off into the unknown for he-doesn’t-know-how-long.

You must teach your Boxer how to wait alone in the car, just as you taught him how to ride with you in the car: in increasingly challenging increments.

Follow these guidelines:

  • Start with tiny absences where your Boxer can see you, and you can see him, the whole time you’re out of the car
  • Use a command phrase like “Back in a minute” as you calmly leave, without making a fuss
  • Get back into the car without making a big deal of your return or revving him up. Reward him with a pat and a treat for having remained calm and quiet
  • Next time increase the absence by a minute or so
  • Gradually increase the distance you move from the car
  • Progress to being able to go out of sight, disappearing fully into a store or around a corner. This is a big step, so be sure to reward lavishly (but calmly) for achieving this milestone
  • Once he’s mastered this, gradually lengthen the amount of time you’re gone
Fern the Boxer, 18 months old, sends her chauffeur a message, loud and clear.

Barking

Do everything you can to avoid barking or whining occurring in the first place.

A particular danger point for barking is the first time you go out of sight.

Barking should not happen if you’re increasing the level of difficulty gradually enough.

You do not want to move through the steps so fast that you end up in a situation where your dog barks and, because you can’t afford for him to become a nuisance, you return to quiet him. This will inadvertently teach your dog a terrible lesson: that barking produces the result he wants i.e. if he barks, you come back.

Go so slowly that your dog never gets distressed or confused or impatient enough that he barks to express that frustration.

If your dog does bark, and it’s not a single bark but continuing.. you have no choice but to return to the car. Stand outside and issue a firm “Quiet” command and then move away again.

Disappear around the corner or do the action that prompted the barking in the first place. However, this time, return immediately — before he has a chance to bark. Say “Good quiet!”, open the door, get in and pat and reward him with a treat.

Maybe finish the training session there, so you can end on a high note. If your dog was starting to fail it may indicate he’s reached his concentration limit for today.

Dangers When Leaving Your Boxer In The Car

Things can go wrong anytime a dog is left alone in a car, especially if he gets worried and starts moving about.

Heat stress is the obvious hazard, but let’s take it as a given that you are only doing this in 100% cool (but not cold) weather.

Consider the other potential mishaps.

A Boxer jumping between seats could accidentally disengage the handbreak and the car could, worst case scenario, roll into traffic. Unlikely. But, just sayin’: whether it’s the car or any other situation, when it comes to your Boxer, think through all possible scenarios. Get into the habit of doing a thorough mental risk assessment, taking care to mitigate every danger you can.

Theft is a horrible thought but something to consider. The same goes double for leaving your Boxer tied to a post outside a store. Dogs can and do get stolen this way. Gorgeous, friendly Boxers make attractive targets. Don’t risk it.

There’s always the chance that something could happen to you while you’re away from your dog and he could get stuck in the car for much longer than intended. If you collapse, for instance, and are taken to hospital… who’s going to know to rescue your dog from the car? A more likely scenario is you run into a friend in the shops, get talking and lose track of time. Or there’s a line at the checkout and you have to wait forever.

Bottom line: be prepared to abort shopping expeditions for the sake of your dog if things don’t go to plan.

Final Thoughts On Travelling In Cars With Your Boxer Dog

Riding happily in a car is a skill you want your Boxer to have.

Even if your day to day lifestyle doesn’t involve driving, or you don’t own a car, you probably want to make sure you get your dog this experience early on.

You might live local and walk everywhere, right now. But, at some point, your dog will likely need to ride in a car. God forbid it will be for the purpose of getting veterinary treatment in an emergency. In that case, you don’t want the car ride itself to be an additional source of alarm for your dog.

Even if you hire a vehicle or use car share, do your Boxer a favor and teach him about riding safely in cars.

More Reading

Can Boxers Travel On A Plane?

Are White Boxers Less Healthy?

Do Boxer Dogs Like Water?