Why Do Dogs Chase Cars (and How to Stop Them)
It certainly can be a scary moment when your dog barks at cars, bolts off after the vehicle and starts chasing it up the road, putting themselves in harm’s way, as well as other road users too. But why is it that dogs engage in this behavior in the first place? And what can we do to stop them? Well, these are the questions we are going to answer in this blog post.
Why Does My Dog Chase Cars All of a Sudden?
While it may seem strange, dog chasing cars is a natural instinct for many canines. There are several reasons why this may be the case.
- Predatory instincts
When your dog chases a car, it may come from the hunting days of their ancestors, when they would become attuned to moving objects as they would associate them with prey that they could catch. Your dog may want to dart off after a car in the same way that they would have done a rabbit. Some breeds have naturally heightened prey drives, and these are the ones that can prove the most difficult to control when cars pass by.
Even if your dog doesn’t chase a car because they are a predator, there is every chance that they are doing so out of simple playfulness and the joy of running after things. After all, your games of fetch involve your throwing a ball or a frisbee for them to chase and retrieve. Of course, a car is an awful lot bigger and more dangerous!
- Territorial instincts
Another possible reason for your dog’s car chasing is down to their territorial instincts being activated. This can often happen when there is a regular caller at the house such as a delivery man. Your dog will often bark and then will want to chase their car or van off the premises to keep their home safe.
How Can You Stop a Dog from Chasing Cars?
If your dog has a bad car chasing habit, you want to do everything that you can to keep it under control. Here are a few top tips that can help out with this.
- Keep your dog on a leash when possible
The most obvious situation when your dog is likely to chase after cars is when they are walking beside a busy road. This is the time that you need to keep them on a leash, keeping a firm grip on it to ensure they don’t run off with the lead too. This is going to present more of a challenge when you have a larger hound to deal with. However, keeping your dog is only a preventative step and will not train your dog out of the behavior of running after cars entirely.
- Get your dog to respond to their name
Calling your dog back again is an important step to take in keeping control of your pooch. When you are calling them, you need to do so in a firm and serious voice. Otherwise, there is the likelihood that they won’t take it seriously and may even think you are yelling out of encouragement. This is something that takes sustained effort and is not going to be possible overnight.
- Teach the ‘leave’ command
Training your dog to ‘leave it’ is a useful command that can help in a range of situations including when they have the temptation to run after cars. Again, this is behavior that needs to be trained into them. You can put your dog on a leash at home and then throw some toys while firmly saying ‘leave’ or ‘leave it’. If your dog tries to go after them, you can then give a firm tug on the lead. Remember, patience and consistency are absolutely vital when training your dog to do anything. Next, you can take the training up a level by going outside and getting a friend to cycle past. Eventually, your dog should stop chasing.
- Redirect your dog’s attention
A simple distraction technique can help to get your dog’s mind of chasing cars. When they show any interest in a passing car, call their name and offer some love and praise. You can use toys or treats as positive reinforcers. If your pooch doesn’t turn their head naturally when you say their name, waggle the treats or toys right in front of their face and get them to turn around to you. Soon, your dog may start to associate moving cars with good things, and the desire for chasing will naturally start to reduce.
- Hire a behavioral expert/trainer
If nothing else seems to work, you may have to enlist the help of a dog behavioral expert or trainer. They are skilled in various aspects of altering your pooch’s behavior and may have some techniques that prove to be effective in dealing with this issue. Of course, you need to be prepared for the cost investment, but if nothing else works, this may be the only path that you can go down.
What Not to Do
There are some techniques that you shouldn’t use to stop your dog from chasing cars – either because they are not effective, or they are cruel. For example, you shouldn’t inflict any physical punishments on your furry friend as you could injure them and damage the trust that you have built up. It could also lead to other problems such as anxiety or aggression. Positive reinforcement techniques are always the best route to go down.
To keep your dog out of harm’s way and to help prevent accidents on the road, chasing cars is not a behavior that should be ignored. Instead, you should take steps to prevent it in any way that you can. We have given you some possible options in this blog post, so you can try a combination of one or several of these to help deal with the problem head on.