Chasers: cars, bicycles, joggers..

By admin Posted in Problems /

Place a puppy at your feet, run backwards and it will instinctively follow/chase you. Dogs are predators and therefore it is a very natural, basic instinct for dogs to chase prey, to herd or run after anything in its territory. While some dogs like to chase sticks, others prefer tennis balls and 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. They are a danger to themselves and others. The problem does not seem to be breed specific. However, herding dogs (Border Collies), hunting hounds and some of the terriers (Staffordshire, Jack Russell) are the most likely candidates. 

These dogs are triggered by the movement and in some case the sound. 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.

Chasing cars can end in injury or death. These dangerous habits must, if possible, be broken as soon as they start because once this has become a deep-rooted problem, it is very difficult to correct through extinction (removing the reward or pleasure) or counter-conditioning (Teaching a different task or behaviour).

 Belting the dog on his return from the chase, when he is pleased to see you, is possibly the worst way to handle the problem. He is being punished for coming home!!!         Trying to keep him 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.

Car chasers are often untrained dogs that lack leadership, are bored, allowed to roam and are confused about their role in the family. 

Obedience Training is a good place to start because you need to get back the control you obviously have lost to your chasing dog. 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, 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.

With the help of a long line a dog can also be taught to stay within his boundaries. 

Aversion therapy is possibly the best way to deal with chasing dogs, no matter what they chase.

An active programme where the dog is deliberately put into a chase setup must be followed. Get a willing volunteer, victim (car, cyclist, jogger etc.) to assist you.

Attach a strong choke collar and a long leash to the dog. Get him to calmly wait or walk next to you on the pavement and 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, a trumpet or a rape alarm or dog training disks.

Since you know what is going to happen, your timing must be right. As the “prey” arrives and just as the dog reacts, the alarm 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.

 Instead of using a loud noise, fill some balloons with water and have someone take them along in the car etc. Then, just as the dog reacts to their passing, they stop and throw the water balloons at the dog. Repeat as necessary. It may work for some dogs. This may not work too well for cyclists because the dog can see the person attacking him and may be inclined to respond in a similar manner.

 All dogs should be taught to stop immediately on a command such as: “Wait, Sit, down” etc.

While walking with your dog on a lead, have someone following at a distance behind you holding a long lead attached to the dog. On your command, “Wait” or “Sit,” the helper stops abruptly and stops all forward motion of the dog and brings him into a sitting position. Repeat until sits immediately and the long lead stays loose. This method can soon be used to stop any form of chasing,

 When walking your dog off lead in a safe area, away from traffic or distractions, practice giving your dog a “Wait” or “Sit” command. (At first you may have to repeat the command a few times because the dog is keen to go “walkies.”) As soon as he sits or downs, say, “OK”  so that the reward for obeying the “Sit” command is “walkies,” which is what the dog wants to do in the first place. Very soon the dog catches on and responds almost immediately. This becomes a good way of catching up to your dog walking ahead of you. Say, “Sit” and “OK” only when near the dog. Next the dog can be taken to areas where there are cars, bicycles, joggers etc. Order the dog to “Sit” when cars approach and delay the “OK” until the coast is clear. 

If you cannot stop the dog chasing, ask your dog trainer or an animal behaviourist for help. 


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