The Old Trainer: Aussie shepherd barks a lot in car

March 29, 2013 

Dear Old Trainer: Buster, my Australian Shepherd, is always well behaved. I just started taking him for rides in the car and as soon as we take off he starts barking. When we stop, he stops barking. He doesn't bark like that any other time. What is going on and what do I do?

-- Fran, Santa Barbara

Answer: Riding in the car triggers Buster's "pursuit reflex," Fran. All dogs have it to some extent, but it is dominant in Aussies and other herding breeds. When a herd dog sees something move, even out of the corner of the eye, the genetic impulse is to pursue it and bring it under control.

When Buster is in a moving automobile, it appears to him everything he sees is moving.

It annoys him and he barks the same way he would if some pushy goat ran around ignoring orders. Herding breeds love to run wild themselves, but get testy if they see any thing else running without their permission.

Joker, my youngest Border Collie, is easy going and doesn't let anything bother him, but I have to watch him if we meet a runner on the trail.

It disturbs his sense of order and his instinct is to round them up and make them join our pack. He spends the entire run circling our pack to keep us in what he considers a proper grouping.

Buster is barking because he desires order but sees chaos all around him -- people and objects moving in all directions at any speed they want. He doesn't like it and is giving everyone a warning bark.

It is easy to put a stop to the barking. Have someone else drive the car while you sit next to Buster.

As soon as he starts to bark, reach out and touch his neck and tell him "no barking." If he persists, place your hand gently around his muzzle and repeat the command.

As soon as he refrains from barking, pet him and praise him. Explain that herding houses is not his job and barking is not allowed in the car.

Once he obeys the command take over the driving yourself and give the no barking command. If he barks, pull over to the curb and give him a lecture. He will follow orders as soon as he understands what you want him to do.

Dear Old Trainer: Fritz, our 4-year-old Dachshund, has slept with us since we got him as a puppy. I just read a report that said it was not a good idea because the dog will not respect you as the pack leader. Is that true?

-- Douglas, Auburn

A: No. Just another crackpot theory from the folks who are unaware canine psychology even exists and have no idea how a dog thinks.

Sleeping together has worked fine for four years for you and Fritz, so don't worry about it. His mind is on stretching out next to the people he loves and dreaming of chasing rabbits, not challenging you for leadership of the pack.

Jack Haskins writes as The Old Trainer. A trainer for more than 30 years, he has rescued, trained, and placed more than 2,000 dogs. Send questions to

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