Taking your dog for a walk around the block is one of the best ways to bond with your pup and help them expel excess energy. But it can quickly become a dangerous, frustrating scenario when your dog decides to chase after a moving car. While chasing is a somewhat normal trait for a dog, it’s important to understand why your dog is chasing cars to fix the behavior.
Every dog breed is different when it comes to car-chasing. Some might not have any interest at all. For those dogs that are prone to car-chasing, the reasons are fairly straightforward. The following are the seven most prominent reasons why a dog may chase a car will be discussed and how to stop it.
The Dog is Protecting Their Territory
Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, Bull Mastiffs, and German Shepherds are all extremely territorial dog breeds. These are the types of dogs that will bark at anyone who passes by their home and be less accepting of strangers entering their territory. But it doesn’t stop at barking at everyone and urinating on everything they are marking as their own.
Territorial instincts can be the driving force behind car chasing. When a car enters the dog’s territory, they can become protective – just as they would with a newcomer entering the home. This can result in the dog taking off after a car to run them off their territory.
The Dog’s Prey Drive Has Kicked in
The Rhodesian Ridgeback, Airedale Terrier, and Siberian Husky are a few dog breeds known for their high prey drive. For the most part, this instinct results in chasing after smaller animals and creatures in the proximity; however, it doesn’t always stop there.
Dogs with high prey drives are more likely to chase after moving cars. Since a car is a moving object emitting noise and light, it becomes an instant target for the preying canine. This is even more common with older cars or modified vehicles that let out strong sounds. These can be misinterpreted as a growl, which causes instant fear and anger in the dog. (Source: AKC)
Some canines will have an incredibly strong prey drive that results in stalking behavior. When this occurs, the dog is likely to wait in hiding for a car to come by with the sole purpose of attacking it.
The Dog is Trying to Herd
There is a large percentage of dog breeds that were specifically bred for herding. Some of these breeds include the Border Collie, Australian Shepherd, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, and Old English Sheepdog. While an owner’s herding dog may have never herded anything, the instinct is still strong within the dog.
A dog’s herding instinct can trigger when a car drives by because the dog may feel that the car is leaving the pack, and they are trying to help the car get back home. To “guide” the car, the herder will try to nip at the tires as they would a sheep.
The Dog Thinks it is a Game
Chasing is a favorite activity when it comes to doggy playtime. This is true whether the dog is big, small, energetic, or not. If you toss a ball or throw a Frisbee in the air, a dog will chase after it. This is a beloved game that has been played with dogs and their owners for centuries. Unfortunately, it also sets the stage for dogs to think chasing a car is another fun game.
The Dog is Bored
Every dog was bred for a purpose. Whether it was herding, preying, or pulling sleds, they had a job that kept them busy. In today’s world, it’s a lot harder for a dog to meet their needs that come from their breeding. Most families don’t need their family pet to herd sheep or pull their sled across the ice, causing the canine to become bored.
A bored dog can resort to many behaviors that aren’t ideal. Some dogs may begin destroying the furniture or the yard. Others can become aggressive. Many will start chasing cars to get rid of their boredom because they can’t find anything else to do.
The Dog is Scared
Fear is a less common cause of car chasing, but it is still a possible cause. The loud, rumbling sounds of a vehicle can be frightening for a jittery pup. Another concern is the odd smell a car may emit. This sudden new smell can make a nervous canine instantly unsettled. When the dog feels scared of a vehicle, they may chase after it to get it away from them.
The Dog is Lonely
Loneliness in a dog can show itself in many ways. A dog may start to sleep excessively, lose hair, and play less. Loneliness is a serious problem that can eventually result in the dog chasing cars. Since the dog feels alone, they will stop at nothing to find consolation from someone or something.
Why Does Your Dog Chase Cars All of a Sudden?
Although it’s an instinct for most breeds, it’s not typical for a calm, well-trained dog to suddenly chase cars. A sudden change in behavior can be related to several issues. If it is solely a car chasing problem, it is likely something minor that can be fixed. They are likely bored, wanting to play a game, or suffering from fear or anxiety.
However, it could be something more serious if the car chasing happens in conjunction with other problems. Pay attention to how the dog is behaving in other areas of life. If they are acting more aggressively, they may be in pain. If they are suddenly not eating or losing weight and fur, it could be a health-related problem.
If the dog shows other behavioral problems, your first step should be to have him checked by a veterinarian. Rule out any medical problem before moving forward. If a medical issue is not causing it, you can move on to other possibilities such as fear or lack of exercise.
How to Prevent Car Chasing Before it Happens
Proper training and behavioral courses are a great way to prevent car chasing. But if this has not been completed yet, you can prevent car chasing with redirection. When a dog is starting to show interest in moving vehicles, they should be redirected immediately.
Here are some ways to redirect your dog:
- Bring treats and toys during walks. A dog is more likely to notice cars during a walk. When they start to show interest in moving vehicles, call their name and toss them a treat or toy.
- Praise them for listening. Positive praise goes a long way when it comes to canines. Continue to praise your dog when they turn their head away from a car to retrieve their treat or toy.
- Be consistent. It will likely take several walks and redirection attempts before the dog learns to leave the cars alone. The key is to remain consistent. Any breaks from the training will only add more time and effort on the owner’s behalf.
How to Stop Your Dog from Car Chasing
Car chasing is indeed an instinct most dogs have, but it is a serious problem that needs to be fixed. Injuries and even death can occur when a dog chases a car. Car chasing also puts the driver at risk. They will need to swerve to miss the dog, leading to an accident.
A dog owner must be able to tell when their dog is planning to chase a car and how to put an end to the chasing entirely. Here are some top tips for handling the problem:
Learn the Signs that Your Dog is About to Chase
A dog will show certain signs when he is ready to chase a car. This is called being “over the threshold.”
Some of the signs that your dog is about to chase a vehicle include:
- Staring intently at the vehicle
- An obvious wrinkle in their forehead
- Stiffening and quivering of their body
- Sitting in a stalking position
It’s important to act fast when the dog shows these signs.
Be Firm and Use Your Dog’s Nickname
When trying to stop a dog’s interest in chasing a car, it’s important to firmly call them by their nickname instead of their actual name. Your dog will know they are in trouble if they are called name in a stern voice. This may cause them to not listen out of fear. Always use your dog’s nickname to get their attention.
Train Your Dog to “Leave”
One great way to put a stop to car chasing is to train your dog in the “leave” command.
To train your dog in the “leave” command, follow these steps:
- Place the dog on the leash and throw a toy.
- Command them to leave it.
- If they listen, praise them with rewards.
- If they do not, give a slight tug on their leash.
Training a dog the “leave” command so that they do not chase may take several days or weeks, depending on the dog and their personality. It is important to remain consistent and don’t let up. Once the dog can leave the tossed toy away, you can move onto more advanced training.
Here is a great video showing how to perform the “leave” training properly.
Pro Tip: The dog should be trained with simple commands like “sit” and “stay” before trying to learn the “leave” command. They should also be able to walk on a leash properly. These are basic skills that will work as the stepping stones for the “leave” training method.
Consider More Advanced Training
Leaving a toy alone is one thing; leaving a moving object alone is another. With advanced training, you can have a friend will ride a bicycle or drive past your dog. When they do this, do the same training as you did with the “leave” command. Have your dog on the leash, and if they attempt to chase the friend, tug on the leash. If they listen to the “leave” command, reward and praise them immediately.
Provide Enough Exercise and Attention to Your Dog
A major cause of car chasing is strictly boredom. The simple solution is to provide more exercise and activity for your dog. This could mean more walks (on a leash at all times), going for hikes, or playing games like fetch and tug-of-war.
The important thing to remember is that every dog has different exercise and activity needs. Some need 2 hours or more per day, while others are fine with 30 minutes.
Another thing to ensure is that the dog is getting enough attention. Loneliness can be a cause of car chasing, so spending more time with them can help stop them from chasing cars. This can be done through activities and playing games, but some dogs may prefer more cuddling and relaxation.
Limit Your Dog’s Chasing Opportunities
It can be hard to enforce anti-chasing rules when the dog is left alone in a half-fenced yard. Owners need to be responsible and reduce their dog’s opportunity to chase. This can be done by placing a fence around their entire yard. Check the yard often to ensure there are no escape routes. This is especially important for chase-happy, prey-driven pups like Huskies.
Offer Outlets for Your Dog’s Instincts
Herders and preyers have strong instincts that can’t be “trained away.” They have undeniable urges that will always be a part of their personalities. The best thing an owner can do is offer safe outlets for their pup to act on their urges and desires. This can be done at home with simple games such as fetch Frisbee.
Herdings dogs will enjoy agility training. Agility training courses can be built with materials around the home, or they can be purchased online. The Better Sporting Dogs Complete Starter Agility Set for Dogs, for instance, comes with everything an owner needs to create a top-notch obstacle course for your dog right in the backyard.
A great idea for high prey dogs is to play hide and seek using scent. Purchase treats with a prominent smell, like The Real Meat Company Dog Jerky Fish/Venison Treat. Hide the treats around the backyard or home and allow your dog to sniff them out. This will allow them to indulge in their prey drive in a safe and fun way.
Train Your Dog to “Look at That”
A dog that is scared of cars won’t hide from them. Most of the time, they will end up chasing the car to get rid of it. This is just as dangerous as a dog that does it because of their instincts or wanting to play. The best solution for a fearful canine is the “look at that” training method.
The “look at that” training method allows the dog to be comfortable with a car without the urge to chase it:
- Have the dog stand at a distance on a leash.
- When a car comes by, tell them to “look at that.”
- If they try to chase after it, tug on the leash.
- If they sit and look quietly, call their name and give them a treat.
If your dog starts to show signs of being “over the threshold,” increase the distance between them and the car and try again. Remember to stay consistent with training for optimal results.
What Not to Do When Your Dog Chases Cars
Just as there are many positive, helpful ways to end car chasing, there are also some things to avoid.
The top four things a dog owner should never do are:
- Physically harm the dog. Physical harm can be extremely detrimental to your dog’s well-being. Not only does physical harm not work, but it can injure your dog and cause more fear and aggressive behavior.
- Laugh at the car chasing and brush it off. Some dog owners think that their dog chasing cars is amusing. They brush it off as if it doesn’t matter, but it does. Car chasing is very serious and must be dealt with appropriately.
- Chase the dog. Chasing a dog that is chasing a car does more harm than good. The dog will likely see it as a game and won’t want to be caught. Therefore, they will run much faster.
- Let the dog run to the end of the leash’s line. A dog should never be allowed to chase after a car until they have reached the end of their leash line. The leash can cause a strong pull on your dog’s neck, causing severe damage to their neck and spine.
Chasing a car is an instinct for most dogs. Some breeds are more susceptible than others, such as those with high prey drives and herding instincts. Knowing why your dog is chasing cars is the first step to finding a solution to the issue. From there, owners can stop the problem by training, offering more exercise, and providing safe outlets to their furry friends.
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