Chasing Behaviors in Dogs

Learn about causes and corrective actions for chasing behavior.

Chasing Behaviors in Dogs

Signs of Chasing Behaviors

  • Dog pulls on leash during walks trying to chase joggers, bicyclists or other moving people, animals or objects
  • Dog runs the fence line at home chasing passersby or cars
  • Chases children as they play
  • Chases rather than plays with friendly dogs
  • Obsessively chases own tail

Causes and Corrective Actions for Chasing Behavior

Herding Instinct (People)

Herding breeds, herding breed mixes and some other dogs possess an inherent drive to chase, move and herd animals into groups, a behavior that these dogs frequently transfer over to the human family, particularly children.

HERDING INSTINCT (PEOPLE) Corrective Actions: Begin positive obedience training right away to instill rapid response to commands including "Leave it" that tells dog to leave whatever he's interested in alone and divert his attention elsewhere. Do not allow your dog to chase children as this can lead to them being knocked down or nipped, if not sure whether your dog simply runs with the kids or chases them, seek professional advice. Always supervise children and dog to assure kids don't encourage dog's chasing behavior for a fun game. Provide dog a suitable outlet for this natural instinct through chasing and fetching a ball or flying disc.

Herding Instinct (Animals)

Herding breeds, herding breed mixes and some other dogs possess an inherent drive to chase, move and herd animals into groups, a behavior that sometimes extends to other dogs and cats within the household or horses and livestock pasturing nearby.

HERDING INSTINCT (ANIMALS) Corrective Actions: Use positive obedience training to instill rapid response to commands including “Leave it” that tells dog to ignore temptation and turn his attention elsewhere. Stop your herding dog circling, moving in and nipping other dogs before a fight ensues using a “Leave it” command, calling your dog away or otherwise diverting his attention the second you see his herding instinct surface around other dogs. In extreme cases, the herding dog may not be able to play with dogs beyond a single companion. For the dog that shows interest in chasing horses or other livestock, train absolutely solid obedience responses and supervise your dog outside his fenced area. For the earnest stock chaser, leash your dog or enlist a professional trainer’s help to prevent injury to dog or stock.

Obesessive Behavior

Frequent or prolonged tail chasing may indicate a physical, psychological or training problem.

OBSESSIVE BEHAVIOR Corrective Actions: Schedule a veterinary examination to rule out physical problem. If dog obsesses about other things, such as chasing shadows or staring at odd things for lengthy periods, enlist a professional behaviorist to help overcome obsessions. Increase exercise. Don't reward behavior by paying attention to dog, make a distracting sound, wait half a minute and then direct dog toward an acceptable pastime.

Prey Drive

Prey drive in dogs relates to the canine's instinctive desire to chase, catch and kill prey animals like they would in the wild, a drive that causes many dogs to key in on and chase moving figures, including joggers, bicyclists, skateboarders, cars, squirrels or other fast traveling entities.

PREY DRIVE Corrective Actions: Thoroughly socialize your puppy around small animals and in busy areas where joggers, runners and other possible temptations pass by regularly, praising and treating the puppy as they go past to avert "chase mode." Work positive obedience training to instill reliable response to commands, including "Leave it" that tells your dog to turn attention away from temptation. Provide suitable outlets for prey drive through chase games such as fetch. Never allow indirect chasing habits, such as letting your dog chase passersby as they move opposite the fence line. For adult dog that displays prey aggression toward small dogs and/or cats, enlist a professional trainer's help. For their safety, don't allow prey-driven dog around pet rabbits, gerbils or other small pets.

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