You might be walking your dog down a quiet street and as soon as a car goes by, your Border Collie yanks on the leash and chases it. Or you could be playing with him in the front yard and he scares you half to death when he runs into the road and chases the cars as they speed by in your residential area. After your dog comes back to you and your panic is over, you take your dog inside and wonder how he could be so crazy, chasing after cars like that! Doesn’t he realize they are dangerous? Why isn’t it instinct to stay away from a huge moving vehicle and how do I get him to stop?
The Root of the Behavior
Border Collies are famous for herding sheep and they’re very good at it. This instinctive behavior stems from their history and breeding as herding dogs. However, if there aren’t any animals to herd, your dog might think he should herd cars instead. He’s still herding, but he’s modernized his job. These black and white dogs’ instincts to herd have been used for years to round up cows and sheep. Stemming from the instinct of the wolf to herd and kill, the Border Collie has been bred to simply herd, making them ideal for farm life. This is a hardworking dog breed and Border Collies have an innate skill to know when to stare down their target or escalate their behavior to barking, nipping, or circling to round up the herd. Border Collies are more of a companion dog today rather than a herding dog, so many do not get to herd sheep or other animals. As a result, they’ll herd non-traditional things like cats, leaves, ducks, rabbits, or humans, especially children.
Have you ever noticed your dog nudging you or family members to move? He’s herding you. One of the most dangerous things for him to herd is cars. In addition to your dog’s instinct to herd animals or moving objects, your dog sees a car as something that moves, therefore, needs to be herded. Unfortunately, he doesn’t understand the dangers of the road and the unpredictability of drivers. He’ll chase after cars not knowing the dangers that come with road vehicles. It can be scary for you to watch your dog dodge after cars. Even though chasing cars might seem crazy to humans, Border Collies are quite smart and trainable. While entirely eliminating this herding instinct might not be possible, there are ways to train your dog to curb their car-herding behavior.
Encouraging the Behavior
As humans and drivers, we know that a dog running into the street is a huge distraction to any driver and is very dangerous. The driver might swerve and cause an accident, hurting himself, the dog, others, or all of the above. However, your dog has probably only traveled on the passenger side with his head out the window, so he is not aware of the dangers that his herding four-wheel passenger vehicles bring. While it’s important for your dog’s instincts to be used, it’s best to redirect them to something less dangerous. Some dogs have stronger herding instincts than others, so the amount of effort it takes to redirect their attention may vary.
Training your dog not to chase cars can be done through several approaches. You can give your dog a new job to keep him entertained. Border Collies are very smart and have been trained to play fetch, wake up children in the morning for school, and even grab a drink from the fridge! If your Border Collie feels a purpose, he’ll feel like he’s contributing. The instinct to herd is hard or impossible to eliminate, but it can be reduced. Use obedience training to stop your dog from chasing cars. Some basic commands will stop him from running after cars.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Border Collies are very smart and have a lot of energy, so training them requires a bit of effort and skill. Some tips for all training is to keep it consistent and reward your dog with positive praise. A well-exercised dog will have more focus when training and you should try to train him in an area where there are few distractions. If you are working hard to improve your dog’s behavior, but aren’t getting too far, go to a professional trainer. A Border Collie’s intelligence and herding instinct vary from dog to dog, but if they are both strong, any amateur will struggle to train him.
You can talk to a trainer about arranging a visit to a farm for your dog to be around livestock and possibly use his herding instincts to herd safer targets, like sheep. Until your dog is well-trained and can stop chasing cars on command, you should consider keeping him in the backyard behind a tall fence so he doesn’t run into the street. When he is near the street, make sure he is on a proper leash, strong enough for you to hold him if he makes a run for it.
Chasing cars is dangerous for your dog and drivers, and your goal is to keep your pup safe. Talk to a trainer about teaching him to herd appropriate moving objects or redirecting his focus altogether. If your trainer suggests giving the Border Collie a job, make it one that will benefit you, like getting you that drink from the fridge.
Written by a Miniature Yorkie lover Stephanie Molkentin
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 04/05/2018, edited: 01/30/2020