Why do dogs like to chase cars? – and how to stop it

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Dogs are special animals – and one of the most unusual dog behaviors is chasing cars. It’s confusing and fun to see a dog chasing after a car, because it’s not like he can outrun it. Besides, if they overtook a car, what would a dog actually do? Let’s take a closer look at why dogs love to chase cars and ways to stop this potentially dangerous behavior.

Why do dogs run after cars?

Dogs chasing a car | Martin Bernetti/AFP via Getty Images

Instinct is the main reason dogs chase cars. Like all animals, dogs are guided by instinct, and one of the most powerful instincts for a dog is to chase prey. Dogs often perceive cars as prey that they can chase and capture. When they see a noisy car speeding by, their instinct is to run after it and grab this four-wheeled monstrosity. It doesn’t matter if a dog never grabs a car, because the natural instinct to chase prey trumps everything else.

However, dogs do not limit their hunting to cars, trucks, SUVs and buses. They also chase after other wheeled vehicles, such as bicycles, motorcycles, and scooters. Some dogs also chase people on skateboards, rollerblades, and wheelchairs.

Additionally, another component of dog car-hunting behavior is habit. Once a dog experiences the thrill of chasing a car, they can’t stop doing it. They can’t break the habit.

Do some dog breeds chase cars more than others?

Dog standing near a compact car, explaining why dogs chase cars and how to stop it
Dog near a car | Osher Mizrahi via Unsplash

As it is a natural instinct, all dog breeds can chase cars and other types of wheeled vehicles. However, some dog breeds chase cars more than others. This includes sighthounds, such as Afghan Hounds and Whippets, as well as Herding group breeds, such as German Shepherds and Border Collies.

A dog running after a car is dangerous

While it’s fun to see a dog chasing a car, it’s dangerous behavior. If your dog continues to chase a car and rushes down the street, he could get hit. As a result, your dog could be seriously injured or killed. Moreover, it is preferable to limit this behavior, especially when it is accompanied by aggression. If an aggressive dog overtakes someone on a bicycle or rollerblades, it could potentially attack them.

How to stop a dog from chasing cars

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Luckily, you can train your dog to stop chasing cars and other wheeled transportation, as detailed by Hill’s Pet. For some dogs, however, this training can be difficult, especially if the desire and habit of hunting is very ingrained in their behavior. However, the training is worth the effort.

Here are some training tips to keep your dog from chasing cars:

  • Train your dog not to chase before the impulse begins. It will be much more difficult to stop the chasing behavior when it occurs. Your dog will be more likely to perceive it as play, and it could prolong the chase.
  • When training, keep your dog close to you on a leash.
  • Train your dog to “stay” on command.
  • Keep your dog’s favorite treats close at hand and reward him with a treat to reinforce his positive behavior. Verbal praise is also an effective tool for positive reinforcement.
  • For a toy-motivated dog, you can reward him with his favorite toy. The key is to introduce your dog to something more exciting than chasing a car.
  • Every time your dog goes out, even for a short bathroom break, provides the opportunity to practice.
  • Once your dog understands the “stay” command, you can present him with scenarios that test his “impulse control.” For example, asking a family member or friend to slowly pull a car out of a driveway or to pass someone on a bicycle – while your dog sits or lies down. When your dog stays close to you and avoids distractions, reward him with treats, verbal praise, or his favorite toy.
Dog Sitting In Front Of A Toyota, Why Dogs Chase Cars And How To Stop It
Dog in front of a car | Erik McLean via Unsplash

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Does your dog resist training? If so, you might want to consider working with a professional dog trainer to get the best results possible.

Dogs love to chase cars due to their natural instinct to chase and catch prey. While that instinct is still there, a dog can be trained to stop potentially dangerous car chase behavior.

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