Some of your dog’s behaviors are simply annoying, like barking at the neighbors or slobbering all over your face. Others, however, can be downright dangerous, and chasing cars certainly falls into the latter category.
Running after a car is a great way for a dog to get run over, and even if they manage to avoid the vehicle’s tires, they could easily get lost once they give up the pursuit. As a result, you should do everything in your power to keep your mutt from running after vehicles.
That’s often easier said than done, of course. If you’re struggling to stop your dog from chasing cars, the steps below can help you finally nip this troublesome behavior in the bud.
1. An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure
The best and easiest way to stop your dog from chasing cars, of course, is to never give them the opportunity in the first place.
Keep them fenced up or on a leash whenever there are cars present. This will ensure that they don’t run after anything, whether it’s a car or a stray cat, and you can rest assured that your dog will be right where you left them.
You should realize that many of the steps on this list require teaching your dog to ignore and overcome their natural instincts. That’s difficult to do, and you’re not guaranteed to have a 100% success rate even if you can pull it off.
Keeping them contained doesn’t ask them to do the impossible. It takes all the responsibility off their shoulders, which will dramatically increase your odds of success.
2. Redirect Their Attention
If you can, take their attention off the car and onto something else fun. This can be a treat, a toy, or a game that they particularly enjoy.
The idea is to provide them with an alternative entertainment source that’s more compelling than running after the car. That way, they’ll naturally choose the option that’s more fun — and that just happens to be safer.
If you do this frequently enough, your dog may just start to look for that alternative entertainment source every time a car drives by. If you can get to that point, you’ll have a much better chance of breaking the habit completely.
3. Let Them Know That This Isn’t Fun
If you call your dog in a sing-song fashion or chase after them, they’ll think that you’re playing with them. In their minds, you’re both having fun chasing this car.
That’s obviously a bad outcome. You need to let them know, in no uncertain terms, that this isn’t a game and that you’re not happy.
When you call them, use a firm-but-not-angry voice. If they think that they’re going to be punished if they come back to you, they won’t have much of an incentive to return. If you have a name that you call them when they’re in trouble, don’t use that name when calling them off the car.
Don’t punish or scold them when they come back to you; instead, praise them in a calm manner. You don’t want to be too effusive, though, or else they’ll think that this is all a game.
Also, you want to make sure they know that you’re rewarding them for coming back, not for chasing the car in the first place. When rewarding them, make sure you repeat the command — for example, say “good come.”
4. Teach Recall Commands
Of course, calling your dog back to you won’t work if you never teach your dog any recall commands to begin with. Spend the time teaching them commands like “come,” which can be helpful for calling your dog off a chase.
To teach the come command, put distance between you and your dog. Get their attention by showing them a favorite toy or a treat, then tell them to come. When they run to you, give them the reward and repeat the command so it’s ingrained in their brains.
Over time, you can gradually increase the distance between you, as well as add other distractions. The idea is to always make running to you more attractive than anything else that’s going on at the time, so only use extremely high-value treats and toys.
Another useful command is, “leave it.” This tells your dog to stop messing with whatever it is that they’re messing with. To teach this, set a treat on the floor; once your dog comes to eat it, stand in their way and say, “leave it,” in a firm voice.
Once they stop trying to eat the treat, give them several other different treats. It’s important to use different treats so they know not to eat the bait treat. Eventually, your dog will immediately back away from any objection you tell them to leave — just be sure to reward them every time.
5. Burn Off Excess Energy Ahead of Time
Some dogs chase cars simply because they have an abundance of excess energy. If you suspect that’s the case for your pooch, spend more time burning off all that pent-up energy.
If you know that you’ll have guests driving up later in the day, spend the time beforehand playing with your dog or taking them for a long hike. If they’re completely tuckered out, they’ll be less likely to want to run after the cars as they leave.
Even if this step doesn’t work, it will still give your dog much-needed exercise and provide both of you with bonding opportunities.
6. If All Else Fails, Consult a Behavioralist
Your dog might have deep-seated emotional or behavioral issues that are causing them to run after cars. If that’s the case, you’re unlikely to break the habit using conventional methods; instead, you’ll need to call in professional help.
A qualified behavioralist can evaluate your dog in order to determine the cause of the issue and can then come up with a treatment plan that targets their specific needs. They may also prescribe medication if they feel that anxiety is an underlying cause.
Sometimes there are environmental factors that contribute to bad behavior, so the doctor can look around your home to determine if anything is setting your dog off. The answer to your problem may be as simple as removing a few triggers from your home.
What NOT to Do
There are a few techniques that you should never use when trying to break your dog of chasing cars.
One of the biggest is using physical punishment to deter them. This is unlikely to work and may only teach the dog to associate the car with feeling pain. As a result, they may show more aggression toward vehicles, causing them to chase them even more.
Also, don’t put your dog on a long lead and let them run to the end of it while chasing cars. Hitting the end of the lead and being snapped back can cause serious damage to their necks and may even kill them.
Don’t try to scare them off by using a car either. Some owners think that bumping the dog with the car will teach them to fear vehicles, making them less likely to run after them. Instead, you’re only increasing your risk of running over your dog accidentally.
Don’t Give Up
If your dog is chasing cars, it’s important to put a stop to the behavior as soon as possible. The first thing you try may not work, so don’t give up — keep trying until you’re successful. Your dog’s life may well depend on it.
Ultimately, though, you’re much more likely to find success by not allowing your dog the opportunity to chase the cars in the first place rather than convincing them it’s a bad idea. In that case, a tall fence and a short leash are your two best friends.
Featured Image Credit: Richard van der Spuy, Shutterstock