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Car Chasing: How to Break Your Dog’s Habit


Prevention continued...

Not all dogs who chase cars from inside a fenced yard will also chase cars when they’re loose. But some will as the thrill of the chase becomes too strong to ignore. In addition, some dogs get so excited running the fence that they can hurt themselves or jump the fence. Chasing cars from inside a fence can also develop into chasing other things, like joggers or skateboarders, when they pass the yard. If there is virtually no chance that your dog can get out of the yard and your dog doesn’t show any interest in chasing other moving things, car chasing from inside a fenced area is relatively “safe” and good exercise for an understimulated (bored or underexercised) dog. But if your dog is barking a lot or his fence running is otherwise causing problems, or if you think he might be able to escape the yard, you need to interrupt him and bring him inside whenever he starts chasing. Just like when you’re walking, the best time to interrupt the behavior is the moment your dog sees the car. This of course means that to stop chasing, you would have to watch your dog every second he is outside. An alternative is to put up a stockade-style fence (solid wood privacy fence) or attach tarps to the existing fence so that your dog can’t see the traffic and won’t be motivated to chase. If you choose to leave your dog in a fenced-in yard, please keep these two points in mind:

  • Never leave your dog in the yard unattended for longer than 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Provide plenty of enrichment and exercise so that your dog is less motivated to chase cars. (Please see our articles, Enriching Your Dog’s Life and Exercise for Dogs, to learn more about keeping your dog busy, healthy and happy.)


How to Manage a Dog Who Already Chases Cars

How to Manage a Dog Who Already Chases Cars

  • Keep your dog contained in a secure kennel or fenced yard so that he can’t chase vehicles on the road.
  • If you walk your dog off leash, do so only in places where he isn’t able to see or access roads.
  • Teach your dog a really reliable recall so that you can call your dog whenever you need to. Please see our article, Teaching Your Dog to Come When Called, for help. To be successful, you’ll need to start your dog’s training away from traffic areas so that your dog can focus on learning about the benefits of coming to you. Only when your dog is extremely reliable at coming when called should you “test” him around traffic. Even so, be sure to take him by roads only on a long line (a 15-foot or longer training leash) in case he doesn’t respond to you.
    • Please note: When dogs learn to come when called under relatively calm and quiet circumstances, they often don’t know that your cue “Come!” means the same thing when they’re in very exciting and distracting circumstances. They’ll chase the car, and then come to you. Because of this, it’s nearly impossible to call a dog off once he’s in pursuit of a car. Be prepared to devote a great deal of training time and effort to teaching the recall. Even when your dog does come when you call, realize that he’ll still be motivated to chase cars. It will be your responsibility to make sure that you detect a situation early enough to call him back before he takes off.
  • One last resort option is to teach your dog to associate chasing cars with an unpleasant or punishing experience, such as an obnoxious noise, repulsive spray or something painful. Although devices that deliver punishing experiences to dogs are available online or in pet stores, it’s crucial that you work with an experienced CPDT trainer or certified behaviorist to ensure that the treatment is humane and effective. (Please see our article, Finding Professional Help, for help locating a qualified expert in your area.) The behaviorist or trainer must work with your dog over many sessions, in a variety of circumstances with different cars on different roads, in order for the procedure to make a difference in his behavior. Some dogs are so highly aroused by the anticipation of a chase that even associating cars with very strong or painful punishment won’t keep them from chasing. This is why it’s so important to work with an experienced professional. She or he should be able to determine in the first few sessions if this procedure is likely to work for your dog.


WebMD Veterinary Reference from ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist

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