Dogs can chase things for many reasons but at the heart of most chasing behavior is the prey drive. Whether your dog is chasing a rabbit, a jogger, a car, or a tennis ball, it’s usually because the object has triggered your dog’s prey drive. All dogs and wolves have this drive, which is instinctive and helps dogs hunt and find food, but some dogs have a stronger prey drive than others due to millennia of selective breeding. Many hunting dogs, for example, have a strong prey drive so they can find rabbits or other prey for the hunter. Dogs who have a strong prey drive have a great sense of pleasure and fulfillment when they can exercise this drive. Herding dogs also have a strong impulse to chase things that move.

 

If your dog is chasing things then he’s probably seizing the opportunity to try to satisfy this drive any way he can. It can be hard to break this habit in some dogs, especially if they have a strong prey drive, because they are getting a physical rush when they chase things.

 

Ordinary training does not usually work for teaching a dog not to chase things. If you offer your dog a cookie, he will ignore you because it is so much more fun to chase something. If you command your dog to Come, he will likely ignore you because he is caught up in the excitement and  pleasure of doing something that gives him a rush.

 

The first thing you have to do is try to eliminate the dog’s exposure to the things that he chases, whether it is joggers, cats, rabbits, or cars. If he continues to have opportunities to chase these things, the habit will only become more ingrained as he continues to be internally rewarded when he chases. So, take temptation out of his path.

 

The second thing you can do is set up a training session indoors in your home. You need to use a confined space for the training. With your dog on leash, use a hallway or other small area so you can roll a tennis ball for your dog. Your dog will probably start to chase after the ball. When he does, you should tug on the leash and say, “OFF!” Do not release your dog. You are trying to teach him not to chase after moving objects. Repeat this exercise several times per day. Remember to praise and reward your dog for relaxing and not chasing the ball.

 

When your dog understands this lesson, start practicing it in other places in your home, and then in a fenced yard. You can gradually start trying it with your dog wearing his leash but with you not holding onto it. Be ready to step on the leash to stop your dog from chasing. Keep using the “OFF!” command to tell your dog not to chase the ball you are rolling.

 

Keep practicing the Off command every day with your dog. You can eventually work up to having someone pose as a jogger, or a cyclist, or whatever your dog has been chasing. Start by having your dog on leash and giving the Off command. Later you can try it with your dog off leash. Remember that these are practice sessions so have your friend go very slowly and try to control all aspects of the situation so you can keep your dog and your friend safe. Keep practicing with your dog so you can go back and correct anything that needs to be changed in your dog’s training.

 

If you continue to work on the Off command, you can get your dog’s chasing under control but remember that this is a very hard behavior to curb. It will take a lot of practice, praise, and reward. Be patient with your dog and work on this problem before your dog is excited by chasing.

 

Article by Nancy Cope, owner of the online pet boutique Pampered Dog Gifts, where dogs rule.

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