Chasers: cars, bicycles, joggers
While some dogs chase sticks, others prefer tennis balls. Still others will chase cars, motorcycles, bicycles, skateboards, joggers, cats etc. and they become problem dogs. Because the “prey” they are chasing runs away from them, these dogs get a feeling of success each time and are soon conditioned to continue.
Chasing is a totally natural behaviour for a dog, as a dog’s natural instinct is to chase anything that moves, be it a cat, rabbit, a jogger or bike riders. The problem usually starts with regular callers like the delivery man, the paperboy or the postman. Your dog will soon come to anticipate their arrival and lay in wait for them, chasing them off of the premises. This is a guarding instinct and one that they come to enjoy. But the fact that chasing is natural does not mean that it should be allowed to happen or even worse become a habit.
Car-chasing dogs are a serious problem; more serious than a lot of owners realise. Not only does car-chasing put the dog at risk, but it also puts the car’s driver and many other road users at risk. If left unattended, this could even become dangerous to playing children as they run around outdoors. Chronic car-chasing dogs often do not live to an old age especially if they can get outside the property or off the leash.
Trying to keep the dog off the street may prove to be difficult. Chasers are often able to scale high walls for the thrill of the chase. Some owners have had to add an electrified wire to the top of their walls to stop the dog jumping the boundary walls. If your dog has the car-chasing habit, he should never be allowed to run loose, where he would have the opportunity to chase cars, runners or bikers until he can be controlled by a command from you.
These dogs are triggered by the movement and in some case the sound. When a dog suddenly becomes alert at the sound of a car starting nearby, he can be on his way to becoming a chaser. Since it is also stress-related behaviour it can usually be detected at a very early age in puppy hood when it can easily be prevented with corrective training.
What can be done?
To prevent your dog from ever starting to chase cars, you need to catch the first moment he shows interest in the motion of the car and redirect his attention to you. When you’re walking him and you see that he shows any interest in the movement and sounds of cars, you want to teach him to associate moving traffic with good things from you. Before you go out on your next walk, prepare by bringing treats or a favorite toy. While you’re walking, as soon as you see your dog looking at a car, call his name. When he turns toward you, praise him and give him a treat or two or whip out the toy and play with him. If he doesn’t turn to you when you call his name, wiggle a treat or his toy in front of his nose and lure his head around toward you. When he turns toward the treat or toy, give it to him. Continue to do this until your dog automatically looks at you in anticipation of a game or reward whenever he sees a car moving.
Obedience Training is a good place to start because you need to get back the control you obviously have lost to your chasing dog. Your dog or pup must first be trained to walk on leash nicely and to obey and understand the sit and stay commands. These are essential in keeping your dog where you want it to be. Once these are mastered your dog can start learning not to chase.
When you shout, “Down” your dog must drop like a brick! He must also not break a “Stay” to chase a jogger or skateboard. Getting your dog to stay while you go out of sight for 5 or 10 minutes takes some training but is not too difficult to achieve. I often placed Coyote on the field near the shopping centre, close to passing traffic, ordered him to stay and then go to do my transactions on the ATM inside and return in about 10 minutes to find him waiting patiently for me.
Recall See also “Recall Come when called” and ”Fence runners.”
Dogs can hear the approach of the dirt and recycle vehicles when they are still a few blocks away and get themselves ready to chase after them. Now is the opportunity, with the help of a long line, if you do not yet have a good recall, to exercise control over the dog and take them indoors or to a place that will restrict the chase.
Aversion therapy is possibly the best way to deal with chasing dogs, no matter what they chase.
Gradually expose your dog to different staged situations
It is advisable to start with an active programme where the dog is deliberately put into a chase setup. Get a willing volunteer or “victim” (car, cyclist, jogger etc.) to assist you.
The goal is to expose your dog to staged situations that prompt chasing behaviour, such as cars, bicycles, skateboards etc. Place your dog or pup on a 6-foot leash (as a safety precaution should the dog bolt), and give the sit/stay command. Next, have the helper slowly ride a bicycle, drive a car, or jog past you. The moment the dog notices your helper, make an about-face and walk in the opposite direction while praising and offering treats.
Alternatively, get him to calmly wait or walk next to you on the sidewalk as you have arrange for your helper to drive, cycle, skate or jog by. You must have with you something that has previously frightened the dog and will make a loud noise such as a car alarm or a loud bang on a tin etc.
Since you know what is going to happen, your timing must be right. As the “prey” arrives and just as the dog reacts to the helper, the alarm/noise is set off which must startle the dog. The frightened dog now associates the car, cyclist, or jogger with the unpleasant noise and stops. He is immediately comforted by you, the owner and given a tidbit.
For sound sensitive dogs one or two experiences will be enough. Other dogs may respond better if the noise comes from the victim.
An alternative to making use of a loud noise is to shout, “Watch out!” (The moment the vehicle arouses the attention of the dog) and immediately run back a few yards taking the dog with you. Stop and treat the dog in order to teach the new acceptable behaviour. Repeat as often as needed until the dog instinctively begins to move away from moving vehicles.
All dogs should be taught to stop immediately on a command such as: “Wait, Sit, down” etc.
Reduce Opportunities for Chasing
Enforce appropriate boundaries for your dog: A fenced yard, closed gates or leash confinement when off your property teaches it the rules and prevents it from chasing livestock or other off-limits objects.
The owner of a dog that chases inappropriately is liable if the dog hurts someone or damages property. The chasing dog is also at risk of being injured or killed if it chases a car.