Why Do Dogs Chase Cars?

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Our neighbors recently got a new dog, an Australian Shepherd. Seems like a nice enough dog, but these folks let their dog run free. We leave in a fairly secluded spot – at the end of a dead-end street and it backs up to what is called “open space” in California. They previously had an old black shepherd mix that roamed the neighborhood. He was harmless and usually went out of his way to avoid you rather than interact with you.
But their new dog is young and is more interested in interacting. Whenever Jack is in the front yard, he sits at the fence and barks at him. Jack, as per his normal behavior, ignores him…so he barks louder. Kind of annoying, but that’s not what this post is about. It’s about dogs chasing cars.
Yesterday, I looked out my front window and I saw the dog running down the street after it’s owner’s car. My first thought was anger at the owner for letting the dog run free like that and putting him in danger and then I was concerned that the dog was going to get hit by the car.
It got me thinking about how infrequently you see dogs roaming free anymore and when you do it’s cause for concern. When I was younger, it was just the opposite, dogs were rarely fenced or chained or even kept on leashes. I’m not advocating a return to that behavior, I’m glad dogs are controlled both for their own sake and for the neighborhood’s. I’ve had enough run-ins with aggressive untended dogs in my day to appreciate this now.
Dog chasing car
I also realized that you don’t really see dogs chasing cars anymore because they don’t have that freedom – is it still even a problem? Tino used to run along the fence line barking at the mail truck but other than that, I never had a dog that chased cars. I did have a dog chase my car a couple of times – It’s pretty scary because you can’t really see them, so you don’t know where they are, you just hear the bark.
Most dogs are naturally hunters and seeking prey is second nature. That’s why they chase squirrels and rabbits and even cats. A car is just a bigger prey! If you DO have a dog with the tendency to chase cars (or anything) here’s some tips for breaking the habit:

  • Keep your dog well-exercised. A tired dog, both physically and mentally tired, is less likely to crave the excitement of a race.
  • When on a walk, learn how to read your dog’s behavior and how to distract the moment he shows interest in the chase. If he learns to ignore the cars in favor of a treat or attention from you, you can wean the behavior out of him. We slowly weaned Tino from chasing the mail truck by sitting with him and distracting him with treats and praise while the truck pulled up.
  • Improve your dog’s recall. Recall is one of the most critical commands to master with your dog. If you can recall him from chasing an animal or a car – you get a training gold star!
  • Keep your dog confined – probably the easiest way to prevent the behavior is not allow your dog access in the first place.

If none of these options work, we recommend enlisting the services of a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. They have a wealth of knowledge about dog behavior and will be able to provide insight into why your dog might be doing it and your best options for getting them to stop.
Please share any useful tips that you have in our comments.

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  1. My dogs don’t chase cars, but this is interesting anyway!
    Earl Lover recently posted…Dog Vegas Days 3 & 4 And OverallMy Profile

  2. I have zero tolerance for people that allow their dogs to run loose. It only takes one fast car or distracted driver to kill your pet. I agree that it is not a big of a problem as it used to be, but I still see dogs wandering around with no owners. #1 pet peeve!
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…BFTB NETWoof News August 31 2015 #DogNewsMy Profile

  3. Luckily I’ve never had a car chasing dog. But we’re at a marina in rural Virginia now where all the dogs run loose. I’m terrified of hitting one without realizing it.

    There’s even a yellow caution sign mounted to a “slow” sign that warns drivers that dogs run in front of cars. Ugh.

    I have no tips for training dogs out of their instincts. But I’d love to see tips for training humans out of their unwise decisions.
    Pamela recently posted…My Dog Sails Better Than MeMy Profile

  4. Mom remembers the dogs roaming around when she was growing up too. A whole different time for pets back then. I like to chase trailers and snow plows, but Mom knows about it, and I’m on leash, so we have it in check.
    Emma recently posted…Shopping for Healthy Food And Treats! My #PetSmartStoryMy Profile

  5. Stupid cars, if they didn’t run away dogs wouldn’t chase them.
    jan recently posted…Just when we think Michael Vick has gone away for good…My Profile

  6. Thankfully my huskies don’t have the chance to chase cars!! Scary!!!!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…It’s Still Summer – Don’t Leave Your Dogs In The CarMy Profile

  7. Waiting for your future post on how to improve upon the recall! LOL Cash has a few AKC titles in Obedience however………

  8. great tips, I must confess I live in the county and my dogs get free roam usually they are good but I tell you Nellie will be hanging out with us outside and I hear a car coming, she hears the car coming and she gets this look in her eyes and she bolts and then I bolt after her screaming and she still does it. She just started doing it late in life and I have no idea why, the others don’t do it. If I can get her in a sit and stay she will wait and watch it go by but if I’m not quick enough off she goes.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Sand And Water~ FitDog FridayMy Profile

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