How do I stop my dog from chasing cars, cats, and people?

Dogs are natural "chasers." They do it on instinct - if something is running or moving away from them, they want to chase it. Part of this is a herding behavior - many dogs instinctually are trying to "herd" whatever is running, and that is more prevalent in some breeds that were bred by people to herd livestock. Sometimes the dog is doing it just to play, as chasing is a form of play among young dogs. Other dogs do it as a form of hunting. This is largely why dogs chase cats and other small animals - it is their instinct to hunt the sort of small animals they would eat in the wild. Modern dogs may or may not actually hurt the animal if they catch it, but it's not a good idea to find out.

   

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Don't ever let your dog off a leash outdoors if it has not been trained not to chase things. When the dog gets caught up in the heat of the moment, you can't rely on it not to run out into traffic or other dangerous behavior. It could also hurt someone else's pet.

The general key to training a dog not to chase things is to put it in controlled situations where it is tempted to chase something and teach it a command that means to stop. You can use any short, one-syllable word - "STOP" is actually a good one, or "HALT" since people won't use that in conversation as much. Start out by training the dog indoors on a leash. Hold the dog on the leash, and get a toy and show it to the dog, saying "HALT." Then throw the toy. If the dog tries to run after it, say "HALT" loudly and tug on the leash. Keep repeating this, with praise if the dog doesn't run after it. After awhile, the dog should learn that the word "HALT" means not to go after it. You can try it without the leash once the dog has learned.

Then, if your dog has a problem chasing people or cars, set up a controlled situation outside. Get a friend to be the driver or runner (for the driver of a car, it's ESPECIALLY important - the person has to know the dog may be running after him so they can be very careful).

Use the same command on the dog after having the person go by. Again, start with the leash on first, and once the dog has got that down pat, try it without a leash.

Your dog will eventually learn the command. Use it before the dog actually starts going after something. If he starts looking at a car or a runner, say "halt" beforehand and you have a much better shot of getting the dog to do it. With small animals, it may be harder. You can't create a controlled situation. The one thing you can do, however, is introduce your dog to a cat in a situation where it is not running away. If the dog is unfamiliar with cats, bring one into the house in a cage. Let the dog sniff it and feel it out. The dog will be much less likely to injure a cat it is chasing if it views it as a game instead of hunting, and if it gets used to cats it won't think of them as prey.

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