By Karen A. Soukiasian
Dealing with a dog who loves to chase can be frustrating, but you can take steps to stop dog chasing.
Step 1 – Know your dog
Dogs are predators. Chasing is an instinctive behavior in most dogs. If it moves, some dogs will chase it.
Dogs love chasing cats, squirrels, joggers, bicycles, cars, other dogs, baby carriages, skateboards, roller-blades and almost anything else that moves.
Moving objects stimulate a dog’s need to chase. If your dog is a herding breed, then your dog’s nature to herd the moving object is even greater. Often, we innocently stimulate the dog’s predatory nature and cause our dog to chase.
Sometimes it is just the dog’s play response. As most dog owners know, dogs love to chase and be chased. It’s just plain fun.
Find a local trainer who applies Positive Reinforcement, Punishment-Free methods of training. You will need a reliable foundation in basic obedience before you can effectively control your dog.
The old cat, car, squirrel, chasing challenge: Chasing any of these objects can be great fun for your dog, but it is dangerous. They all “run away” so your dog is satisfied. They now think, “I won! I scared them off!”
That is self-rewarding behavior at its best. It only gives your dog the confidence to chase more often. The new cyclist, skateboard, jogger, roller-blade challenge: The sight of one of these “targets” arouses many a dog to chase them. They rarely stop, so, your dog considers it another notch in their collar, another enormously self-rewarding success.
Until you have learned to control your dog’s chasing instinct, do not let him off-leash. It’s dangerous for him and the person or animal he is chasing. To control chasing behavior, you must teach your dog 3 main commands: “COME”, “OFF or HALT!” and “LEAVE IT.” Your dog must respond immediately to each one of these commands. For this exercise, we will use the word “OFF!”
Before exposing your dog to a situation where he will want to chase, you must train him in a controlled setting. It is important that you set up a situation where your dog can concentrate and understand the behavior you want. He must have the opportunity to perform the correct behavior repeatedly, since up until now he has probably only had practice misbehaving.
Start the training inside your home. Put your dog on leash and stand with him at one end of a room or hallway. Wave a tennis ball or anything that motivates him; in front of him but DO NOT allow him to touch it. Now, roll or toss it across the room or down the hall and tell him ‘OFF!’ If he starts to go after it, command ‘OFF!’ and immediately give him a firm pop of the leash. It’s extremely important that you do not allow him to touch the ball/toy or he will think that the word ‘OFF’ means for him to chase and get the ball/toy. You are not trying to teach your dog to fetch. Practice this several times a day until he makes the association ‘OFF’ means: don’t go after the ball/toy, don’t chase.
When he gets it right, praise him generously and give him an extra special treat.
STEP 2 – Have confidence in your dog
When he seems to understand this new ‘game,’ repeat it in different rooms of your house. Slowly move it outside. Practice in the garage and in your back yard. When it’s clear to you that he really understands the meaning of ‘OFF,’ then try it without holding onto his leash.
Leave his leash on, dragging on the floor/ground so you can grab it or step on it quickly should he forget what ‘OFF’ means. When he has mastered this, try it completely off-leash, but still in your own home and yard.
Now it’s time to practice with a jogger/skateboarder. Enlist the help of a friend to pose as a jogger/skateboarder. Stand with your dog on leash and have your friend jog by repeatedly while you repeat the ‘OFF’ exercise as you did with the tennis ball. Be sure your dog performs perfectly on leash before you try this off-leash.
If your dog is chasing cars, ask your friend to meet you on a quiet, secluded street to help you train your dog. Again, repeat the ‘OFF’ exercise as your friend repeatedly drives by. Be sure your dog is perfect on-leash before you try it off-leash. It’s important that you practice this in a set-up situation. Have a friend help, as you must know the driver is aware of the training so he/she can stop the car should you lose control.
By now you should have some degree of confidence that your dog will obey because of the hours of practice and his level of performance in your staged situations.
Always use good judgment. If the real situation seems too tempting, too distracting or too stressful, don’t ask your dog to perform miracles. Always set your dog up so he learns what he is supposed to do. The objective of training is, to help your dog make the association that particular behavior is appropriate and pleases you. Practice with him daily and with every opportunity that arises. Praise him generously every time you say ‘OFF’ and he obeys. If he disobeys, give a strong pop of his leash, command ‘OFF!’ and realize he needs more practice.
Don’t wait until your dog is in full chase before doing something. Success is most likely when you use ‘OFF’ as a pre-emptive command. If your dog has a strong predisposition to chase, it is your responsibility to be alert for his safety and the safety of others. If you feel you cannot pay attention to the surroundings around you when you’re with the dog, simply do not let him off-leash. When he gets it right, praise him generously and give him an extra special treat.
STEP 3 – Keep training your dog
Ask a friend to pass in front of your dog on a bicycle/skateboard or roller-blades. When they pass slowly, command your dog to ‘SIT’ showing it the treat/toy in your hand.
Give your dog the prize when they pass. Repeat the exercise until your dog obeys all of the times, without trying to chase them once they speed up. After that, reward him or her with one of their favorite treats/toys.
Repeat steps one and two using a treat/toy as a distraction and with the cyclist/skateboarder/roller-blade passing faster. Now, throw a toy in the opposite direction of the cyclist, or skateboarder for your dog to bring it back, so you will distract your dog from the chasing.
When he gets it right, praise him or her generously and give them an extra special treat. Training your dog will always be a work in progress. Your dog is never too old to learn! Keep it short, keep it fun, and most importantly, keep it positive.
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