Chasing Children, Cars, Bikes, Joggers, Cats, Sheep etc.

Most dogs love to chase anything that moves, whether it's a ball or a rabbit. This is useful when you're teaching a dog to retrieve, but the desire to chase can get out of hand if a dog develops bad habits, like chasing cars. Dogs may also start chasing children, sheep, or cats as play, and this can have serious consequences, because chasing is part of dogs' predatory behaviour. Problem chasing is common among young dogs, and may be difficult to extinguish, because it makes the dog feel good. Prevention is better than cure - ensuring that youngsters don't have a chance to chase anything they shouldn't, while working on recall, stop at a distance, and channeling the desire to chase into retrieving. Whistle recalls tend to work better than shouting if your dog does start to chase something he shouldn't. A whistle is more likely to get through to a dog which has gone partly deaf with the thrill of the chase. 



Some dogs can become obsessed with car chasing. Though cars may spook dogs, chasing them and having the car disappear may make the dog feel he controls the car. Some books recommend throwing buckets of water from moving cars, or other forms of punishment, but the desire to chase is so strong in many dogs that this may not be effective, and may make the problem worse. Punishment coming from the car may convince the dog that cars are dangerous and out to get him, so should be chased, and will tend to make him tense when they approach, whereas you want him to be calm.

Dogs that have been allowed out on their own before they understand the human world may fear cars, cringing when they go past. Teaching pups that cars are predictable and that they are safe if they stay beside their owners, is part of their education. That's one reason why regular walks are so important. Confident, calm dogs just walk along the pavement without flinching, and have worked out that cars don't attack them if they are beside their owners.

Owners of dogs that are chasers need to anticipate trouble. Try to spot temptation before your dog does, and call him if he's off the lead, before he goes into a mad dash. Keep him on the lead if temptation is likely to be near. Train him to be able to handle as many triggers as possible when he's on a long lead, and reward him for paying attention to you. As with barking at moving objects, this is a case of gradually building up his self-control. If a road is always busy, it may help to have short regular walks by traffic, building up the time as he develops more self control.

Some chasing is location or vehicle specific. Dogs may behave well by busy roads, but chase bicycles crossing playing fields, for example. Here, you could enlist help from friendly cyclists. Ask them to cycle past first at a distance, then when your dog can handle that and still focus on you, your ally can gradually get closer. Diesel cars and motor cycles often trigger lunges towards traffic, as do cars on wet roads at night. Again, get your dog used to these stimuli. These sounds may trigger lunging because dogs find them overwhelming and horrible, not just because the dogs want to chase, but you can get your dog used to them with a little regular effort.

Children's play areas are risky if you have a young dog, because children can be a great temptation when they run and scream. It's a good investment to spend time getting your dog used to strange children nearby, and paying attention to you. Dogs may be safe with children they know, but chase strange children, so it's not enough that your dog plays with kids in the garden. Children sometimes try to wind up dogs for fun, without realising how dangerous this can be, and strange kids are unpredictable, so it's better to think safety first if you're near a play area. Sheep can be very exciting if they run away when approached by a dog. It's usually best to have young dogs on a lead when there are children or sheep nearby, only allowing a dog off leash when there's a safe distance between the dog and temptation, and you're certain he has enough self control.

Wanting to chase sheep, cats or other animals is not so much aggression as a natural reaction. You can train a dog that some animals are prey, and others not prey, and this is much easier if done from puppyhood. Teaching your dog to respect livestock is essential if you live in the country, and advisable even if you don't. Some people believe that sheepdogs are safe around sheep, because they've been bred with an inbuilt desire not to harm them. This is a dangerous belief! Untrained sheepdogs may have a strong interest in sheep, which can spill over into actual predation, in other words, chasing, attacking and killing sheep. If you want your dog to work sheep, have the dog assessed by a professional who raises sheep, and who can advise on the best way to train the dog. Sheepdogs vary, even from the same litter. Some are too rough, and others too timid to make good sheepdogs, so just being from working lines isn't enough. 

Dogs from certain breeds may be riskier than others when it comes to chasing small animals. This applies especially to adult sighthounds and huskies which have got into the habit of chasing cats, or which have never learnt that cats are not prey. Most dogs can be trained not to chase cats if you start young, even though chasing cats is very rewarding for many dogs, because dogs have a built-in tendency to chase small animals. The best cats to train your dog are those that stand their ground, and hiss if the dog comes anywhere near. The dog should always be leashed, until you know he'll behave. It's easier to get dogs used to cats when they are pups, and even so, you may find the dog respects cats he lives with, but sees others as fair game. 

Retrieving can help a lot with some chasers, because you're channeling the desire to chase into a controlled activity, and developing the dog's self-control. The retrieve should include a sit-stay, with the dog only allowed to fetch once you've given permission. This means that the dog learns to control himself rather than running automatically after a moving object. A solid recall can bring your dog back to you before he starts chasing. You can also teach a 'stop right there' command. An experienced trainer can help you to develop a programme to improve your control of a chaser.