You’re taking your dog for a walk. You pass near a road. A car drives by, and your dog suddenly chases it…
Before you know it the lead is out of your hand. And your dog is on the road!
Your heart stops for a second.
What if they get hit?
You go after them although it could cost you your life. You yell. You panic. And luckily, nothing bad happens.
Still, in shock you wonder:
“Why does my dog suddenly chasing cars?”
And most important: “How can I prevent this from happening in the future?”
Continue reading to discover:
- 5 reasons why your dog chases cars all of a sudden.
- 7 tips to stop your dog from chasing cars and save their life.
- Why chasing after your dog and luring them using treats do not work.
- 3 simple commands that would take your dog’s attention off car-chasing.
- And so much more…
Table of contents
- Why does my dog chase cars all of a sudden?
- 5 reasons why your dog is suddenly chasing cars
- 7 tips on how to stop your dog from chasing cars all of a sudden
- 3 real-life stories of dog parents
Why does my dog chase cars all of a sudden?
Your dog chases cars all of a sudden due to their predatory and territorial instincts. Dogs sometimes see moving objects as prey. In some cases, they want to protect their turf, so they chase away intruders. Other factors include playfulness, boredom, and bad habits.
5 reasons why your dog is suddenly chasing cars
#1: The predatory instinct is strong
Dogs don’t have a death wish. They just love to chase things.
Starting with your neighbor’s cat.
But of course, any moving object is a target. Even moving cars.
This is quite dangerous. But dogs don’t know this. Especially if their predatory instinct takes over.
Our furry friends have very strong predatory instincts. These were passed down from their ancestors. They chased prey to bring back to their pack as a meal.
But times have changed. Your dog no longer has to chase prey to feed themselves.
And as dangerous as it is, sometimes, dogs can’t tell the difference between a moving car and a prey. For some, cars are “prey” intruding on their property.
What’s more, a car’s engine sounds like the growl of a prey. It awakens the instinct to chase.
Fun fact: Some dogs chase big prey. Take the African Wild Dogs, for example.
They chase warthogs and antelopes, which are bigger than them.
Some dogs are aloof, and others are feisty as a cat.
There are pooches that will constantly argue with you, like this Siberian Husky:
And there are those that are playful. This playfulness might explain why your dog chases cars suddenly.
This study looked into the behavior of 89,352 dogs belonging to 132 breeds. The authors wanted to find out which dogs are the most playful.
The findings showed that hunting and herding dogs are at the top of the list. Toy dogs, on the other hand, are the least playful.
Note: This is not to say that a Chihuahua, being a toy dog, won’t chase a car. They can be playful as well.
This playful nature comes into play when dogs see a moving car.
#3: Territorial instinct
Many dogs will protect their territories at all costs. Even if it means chasing cars at every opportunity.
When this is unchecked, it will give you a headache. Because it will progress to chasing everything that moves.
They will not only chase the squirrel to a tree. They will also chase the postman, the delivery guy, even people walking by.
See this dog here?
That’s what I’m talking about.
When a dog chases an intruder, their territorial instinct is on. They’re like, “Hey, this is my turf. Keep off!”
When dogs chase cars, chances are their territorial instincts are strongly developed.
#4: Boredom strikes
Boredom can make a dog chase cars all of a sudden.
You know how it feels when boredom strikes. You desperately look for interesting things to do.
It’s the same with dogs. Boredom can make them do a Mission Impossible stunt.
When does a dog get bored? Let’s look at what happens when they’re alone.
Dogs are social animals. They long to interact with their favorite humans. And with some furry friends of theirs, too.
When they’re alone, they get bored. Particularly if there are no dogs for company.
But sometimes, even when you’re around, dogs still get bored. This happens when you don’t interact or play with them.
For instance, you’re busy working from home. Or sick.
Although they don’t mean it, dogs get into trouble when bored. The instinct is to find something exciting.
And this leads us to the next reason…
#5: Chasing is exciting
Some dogs easily get excited and engage in dangerous behaviors as a result.
For instance, there are young dogs that jump on people when excited. Or dogs bark excessively and bite.
Chasing cars is also an excitable dog behavior.
As shown in this research. The authors observed dog parents’ experiences with their dogs’ excitable behavior. They gathered data from 175 dog parents of excitable dogs.
Interestingly, 17 (9.7%) of the respondents reported their dogs’ chasing behavior.
In particular, dogs chase children, animals, and moving objects (cars, bikes, joggers, etc).
One dog parent said that their dog chases a car when off leash.
Bonus: Bad habits
You have them. I have them. And dogs have them too.
A habit is reinforced the more a dog does it.
In your dog’s case, the car-chasing must have become a routine.
Let’s say you live near a road. And every time, your dog waits for a car to drive by.
Slowly, this becomes a routine. And dogs thrive on it. It becomes a habit that is a part of their daily life.
And what happens when you’re out and about with your dog?
If they’re off-leash, they can take off without warning. You run after your dog hoping to get their attention. And praying that you can retrieve them before anything bad happens.
Even if your dog is leashed, you get pulled when they suddenly run away. Or you accidentally let go of the leash out of surprise.
This is dangerous for everyone involved.
What if your dog ends up in the middle of traffic? It puts you and your dog in the path of oncoming cars.
A driver will be surprised when a dog appears in front out of nowhere. He/she might swerve to avoid your dog and crash in another car.
Or, heavens forbid, the driver might not be able to break in time and hit your dog. Or you.
But… it doesn’t have to end this way. You can stop your dog’s car-chasing behavior now.
7 tips on how to stop your dog from chasing cars all of a sudden
#1: Don’t chase after your dog (while they’re chasing a car)
I’m sure this is the first thing that comes to your mind:
“How to stop my dog from chasing cars?”
Should you run after your dog? This is the instinct of many dog parents. They want to catch their dog before they can get any farther.
But this is actually the worst thing you can do.
Because if your dog sees you running after them, they will run more.
Because they think it’s a game. And you’re joining in on the fun.
Since they have four legs, they can easily cover a lot of distance. If they turn a corner and you’re far behind, you might not know where they go.
Your dog can get lost. Or find themselves in the middle of traffic.
#2: Don’t lure your dog with a treat
The answer: it doesn’t always work.
I mean, yeah, there might be times when your dog will come to you to get the treat.
But some dogs find car-chasing far more exciting.
What’s more, some dogs are cunning. They will snatch the treat right off your hand.
And before you can hold on to them, they’ll be after the car.
#3: Get their attention quickly
Stop your dog from chasing cars by drawing their attention to you.
One way to do this is using a reliable recall.
If your dog has nicknames, use the one that they recognize immediately.
Call your dog’s name in a firm voice. Don’t use a playful tone, or they will ignore you.
But a firm voice will get their attention. At least long enough to forget about the car they’re trying to chase.
This will be more effective if you have trained your dog the right way.
Read on because I’ll be discussing it next.
#4: Teach your dog these simple commands
As with all behaviors, training plays a vital role.
You train a dog to ingrain a behavior.
I have a few reminders before starting the training. First, train your dog from puppyhood. They’ll have more time to learn and re-learn commands.
If you missed training your dog from puppyhood, it’s not too late to start now.
Second, animal behaviorist Patricia McConnell suggests training your dog at appropriate places.
In the beginning, train them in places with no distractions. This enables them to focus on the benefits of what you’re training them.
McConnell adds that a dog parent must train the command until the dog masters it. What it means is that a dog should follow you even when distracted.
When your dog is at this point, then it’s time to train them in areas with strong distractions.
Third, use a 15-foot (4.6-meter) long leash. This ensures they’re safe if they try to get away.
Before your dog learns to leave cars alone, train them using toys.
- Throw toys for your dog.
- Immediately follow with “Leave it.”
- Practice until your dog responds correctly.
If they follow – reward them every time they obey.
If they don’t follow – give the leash a firm tug to get their attention.
- Throw a toy for your dog to get.
- Say their name and a firm “Come.”
Again, if your dog doesn’t respond, tug at the leash. If they come to you, give them treats and praises.
This command’s main purpose is to focus your dog’s attention on you.
If you see a car coming, say “Watch me, watch me” to get your dog’s attention. If they look at you, reward them with a treat.
#5: Practice, practice, practice
Get your dog’s training to work.
First, enlist the help of a friend. Someone who doesn’t live with you. Much better if it’s someone your dog doesn’t know.
Ask your friend to either jog, run or drive past your dog.
The moment your dog is about to chase, command them to “Leave it.”
Keep practicing until your dog no longer chases your friend.
Make sure you reward your dog every time they obey.
Rewards can be high-value treats. Something that you give your dog only on special occasions.
And don’t forget to give them praises for their obedience.
If that is going well, it’s time to up the training.
When you think your dog is reliable, take them for a walk. This will be the moment of truth.
Keep them on a leash and monitor how they react when cars pass by. If they don’t give a fuss about cars, congratulations!
If they attempt to chase cars, don’t worry. You can re-train them.
#6: Tire your dog out – physically and mentally
Sometimes a dog has pent up energy, and they channel this through car-chasing.
Provide enough exercise and enrichment. These will steer your dog’s attention from chasing cars.
So grab all opportunities to exercise your dog. Here are just some activities to do with them:
- Go hiking, running, or bike joring when you have more free time.
- Give your dog a job. Train them to clean up after their toys or retrieve things.
- Take your dog walking for an hour early in the morning. And another before bedtime.
- Give them puzzle toys that can be stuffed with treats. Thinking hard is a mentally tiring activity.
- Play with your dog whenever possible. If there’s a yard, play frisbee or catch. If you live in an apartment, play tug-of-war. Or anything that’s allowed in a limited space.
If you don’t have a lot of time, you can:
- Hire a professional walker to tire your dog thoroughly.
- Leave your dog in a daycare during the day while you work.
#7: Prevention is key
Take your dog for a walk. This is the perfect moment that your dog is exposed to moving cars.
And this is also the perfect moment to prevent car-chasing.
The trick is this:
Catch that exact moment when your dog shows interest in chasing a car.
Now, this can be tricky. It’s either you can’t monitor your dog all the time. Or maybe you’re distracted.
But when you’re in that moment, quickly redirect your dog’s attention. That’s why it’s important to bring something with you.
Yummy and smelly treats, for example. Or your dog’s favorite toy.
When a car catches your dog’s fancy, call their name. Ask them to come to you.
When they obey, give them a treat. Make sure to lavish them with praises. Or give them their toy.
Do this whenever a car drives by. Your dog will soon associate a passing car with the good stuff from you.
At home, use some management tools to help your dog stop car-chasing. Use baby gates or leashes.
If you have a yard, consider putting up a stockade-style fence. Or place tarps over your fence to prevent your dog from seeing the traffic.
3 real-life stories of dog parents
Dog parent #1:
A dog parent shares her frustrations on a forum about her rescue dog. The dog had just been with her for a month.
According to her, her dog had been nothing but a good boy.
That is until he suddenly started chasing cars.
It wasn’t just chasing cars. The dog would lunge or bark like a banshee when he saw cars.
The dog parent said that she takes her dog on long walks twice a day. And some shorter walks sometimes.
She had also trained the dog using treats and a clicker. To no avail.
Her dog wasn’t interested in treats during walks. Even before his car-chasing behavior began.
Also, saying a firm “No” did not affect lunging and barking.
One explanation for the dog’s behavior could be that he’s still adjusting. Or he might have past experiences with chasing cars. And these manifested when he was with his new dog parent.
Dog parent #2:
A dog parent had this car-chasing problem with her dog. Her pooch had been chasing cars since he was 8 weeks old.
The dog parent was able to reduce the behavior significantly. Though it took a long time.
These are the suggestions she can recommend from personal experience:
- Keep training your dog.
- Do counter conditioning.
- Avoid high traffic areas when walking.
- Take a walk when the streets are not busy.
- Do more shorter walks than a few longer ones.
- Get your dog’s attention even before a car comes close.
Dog parent #3:
This dog parent’s problems began after her dog got spayed. The dog was suddenly chasing everything. From joggers to cars.
The parent wanted to know if spaying had to do with the behavior.
To put her mind at ease, she brought her dog to the vet. After the checkup, the vet said nothing was wrong with the dog.
The dog parent might benefit from teaching her dog the “Watch me” and “Leave it” commands. But remember, dogs are not the same. What works for one dog might not work for another.
But it’s worth trying.