One of the most serious, and unfortunately most common, problem behaviours among dogs is that of chasing cars. Dogs must be trained as early as possible that chasing cars is not acceptable. That is because dogs that chase cars eventually become dogs that catch cars and car plus dog always equals big trouble.
There are many reasons that dogs chase cars. For one thing, chasing moving objects is an ingrained, instinctual behavior that can never be completely removed. Chasing behaviours however can and should be controlled through a combination of good training and supervision.
Some dogs are more apt to chase cars, bikes, joggers, cats and other dogs than are others. Dogs that have a high prey drive, including breeds that have been bred for hunting, are particularly susceptible to the thrill of the chase. Herding breeds are also apt to chase cars, attempt to herd the neighbour’s children, or express other undesired traits of their breeding.
One reason that many dogs chase cars in particular is that they have learned to associate cars with good time and fun things. Most dogs love to ride in the car and when they see a car they may try to chase it down for a ride.
No matter what your dog’s motivation for chasing cars, however, it is important to curb this dangerous behaviour as quickly as possible. Training the dog not to chase cars starts with teaching the dog the meaning of the “Off” command. The “Off” command is one of the basic tenets of obedience and it must be mastered by every dog.
Teaching the dog to stay where he is, even if interesting, exciting things are happening elsewhere, is very important to all aspects of dog training. In the world of professional dog training, this is sometimes referred to as distraction training. Distraction training is very important and it is applicable to teaching the dog not to chase cars.
Teaching this important lesson is not something you will be able to do on your own. You will need at least one other person – a volunteer who will slowly drive by and tempt your car with his bright, shiny object. You will stand with your dog on his lead as the volunteer drives by. Having the volunteer drive your own car can provide an even greater temptation, since dogs are able to distinguish one car from another. If your car is the one that provides his rides, it is likely to be the most tempting object in the world.
When your friend drives by, either in your car or his, watch your dog’s reaction carefully. If he begins to jump up or move away, repeat the “Off” command and quickly return your dog to the sitting position. If he remains where he is, be sure to give him lavish amounts of praise and perhaps a treat or two.
Repeat this process many times over the course of a few days. Once your dog is reliably remaining seated when your friend drives by, start lengthening the distance between yourself and your dog. A long, retractable lead works great for this process. Slowly lengthen the distance between you and your dog, while still making sure you have control.
Even after your dog is trained to not chase cars, however, it is important to not leave him out off the lead unsupervised. Leaving a dog unattended, except for within a properly and securely fenced in garden, is simply asking for trouble. Dogs are unpredictable, and it is always possible that the chase instinct could kick in at exactly the wrong moment. The best strategy is to confine the dog when you cannot supervise him.