By Courtney Emken
co-written by Jen Larson, KPA-CTP, and Bart Emken, CPTD-KA
The age-old stereotype of the mailman-chasing dog exists for good reason. Some dogs are compelled to chase just about anything. While it may be cute to watch dogs run circles around one another, it’s another matter entirely when your dog chases dangerous cars and animals.
In this article, we’ll explain why chasing is more prevalent among certain breeds. Then we’ll detail how to manage this behavior through positive reinforcement training, environmental enrichment, and especially exercise.
Knowing The Dog Breeds With The Highest Chase Drives
Preventing excessive chase behavior starts with breed selection. Many breeds that are now thought of primarily as pets were originally working dogs. This group includes common household companions such as:
- Labrador Retrievers
These dogs were bred to perform specific tasks like pulling a sled, herding sheep, and even chasing vermin/game. For example, terriers are called “terriers” because they would burrow into the ground to chase rats and rabbits. Similarly, retrievers would “retrieve” prey like ducks and pheasants for their owners.
The dogs most inclined to chase are those raised to herd and/or hunt. For instance, we had a Sheltie growing up who was so chase-driven that she would chase cars while inside a car. Her instincts compelled her to herd those strange metal sheep whether they were moving or otherwise.
If you’re looking to adopt a puppy who won’t go chase-crazy, it’s safe to say that these breeds are off the table. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with these dogs— it’s just in their blood! You simply have to be aware of and manage their above-average chase drive.
Reducing The Chase Drive With Management And Training
The best method for reducing a dog’s chase drive is to tire them out with exercise. If your dog just hangs around the backyard with nothing to entertain them, then they’ll resort to chasing whatever (or whomever) wanders inside your fence. This reinforces their chase drive.
These dogs need outlets for their energy, and dog sports/exercises are the way to go. We recommend:
These sports let hunting and herding breeds channel their instincts in a positive way that’s enjoyable for both pet and owner. Couple this with effective walks and food puzzles to ensure that your dog doesn’t even think twice about chasing that mailman.
The next step is to train a strong recall cue. Some dogs are just going to have problems controlling their desire to chase, whether well-exercised or not. It’s up to the owner to keep them out of trouble with verbal cues, such as:
- To me
When properly reinforced, dogs will almost always prioritize a recall cue over environmental stimulus. This trick is a lifesaver for chase-driven dogs. It can keep them out of the street and away from other dogs in spite of their powerful instincts.
After taking steps to manage and reduce the chase drive, make sure that you or others don’t set your dog’s progress back. Don’t let anyone play “chase” with your dog, even innocently, as it will reinforce the behavior. You may also want to encourage children not to run around your dog, as it may trigger their chase drive.
Chasing is one of the most difficult behaviors to curb on your own. If you need help stopping this behavior, please contact us today. Our expert trainers can counter condition your dog’s chase drive using the latest in positive reinforcement training techniques.