Why do dogs chase? It’s hardwired into many of them.
Some breeds have a strong herding instinct, and others have a strong prey drive. These dogs can’t resist chasing anything that walks, runs, or rolls, but it can be a dangerous habit. When dogs go after people walking, biking, skating, or jogging, it is frightening for the one being chased and embarrassing for the owner of the dog. With some training, these dogs can learn control.
First, dogs should never be off leash where they can directly encounter whatever they want to chase. It’s dangerous for dogs and people. A dog chasing after something is usually completely tuned out to everything else and is not looking out for cars or thinking of how to find the way home.
If your dog is a chaser, plan to walk when and where there is less traffic on the roads, and stay alert to the surroundings and traffic. If you have a fenced yard or room in your house, play a game of fetch or tug before heading out for the walk to take the edge off the dog’s energy level.
As soon as a car or other chase-worthy subject is in sight or earshot, immediately begin to redirect the dog’s attention to you, using high-value treats (like cheese, hot dogs, or chicken) and/or a favorite toy. Turn a corner or walk into a driveway, so there is more space between the dog and what he might want to chase. Engage your dog before the target of attention is too close; ask for a sit or other behavior. Praise lavishly and be generous with the treats when your dog looks at you instead of that jogger or parent pushing the stroller.
By doing this consistently, the dog will learn that passersby, cars, skaters, etc. mean that praise and goodies will be coming from his or her person and will automatically check in with you rather than give chase.
In a fenced yard, many dogs run the fence when they see people, bikes, or cars. A chasing instinct or fence reactivity can cause this behavior. The best option is to build a fence that the dog cannot see through. If the dog must be outside during the day, maybe a smaller kennel can be installed in a secluded part of the yard where the dog feels secure.
Dogs can get bored if left outside all day, and chasing passersby is one way they can alleviate their boredom. If you are home, go outside with the dog so you can redirect attention, just as you would while walking the dog on a leash. Practice calling the dog to you when there are no distractions and be generous with treats when the dog comes. For more tips on teaching your dog to come when called, click here.
Dogs want to be with their people, so bring yours with you when you go back inside. When you are not home, the safest place for the dog is inside the house in a crate or dog-proofed area.