Why Dogs Chase Cars



Your dog, Spud, loves to chase cars. He stays indoors most of the time but on those rare occasions when he escapes, he doesn’t go pee in the neighbors garden; he doesn’t go hide in the woods and he doesn’t go sniff fire hydrants. No, your Spud just chases cars, and despite the jokes, you are rightfully concerned about this. You are not sure why Spud is drawn to automobiles and you also are not quite sure how to stop this dangerous habit. You do know that you need to figure out something but are unsure where to start. Don’t worry, Wag! Is here to help you make sure that Spud remains safe and sound.

The Root of the Behavior

Dogs love to play and they love movement, so when they see a large car, they feel more than inclined to interact with it. Although, we, as humans, sense the danger behind this, dogs have little fear. They just view that semi-truck as a fun toy. One reason for this is because dogs are predators, and they have a long history of chasing their prey. Through evolution, dogs have acquired various hunting skills such as stalking, chasing, and herding. Before breeding, wolves were also chasing things. Their need to hunt was even more important and difficult to control because it was necessary to their very survival. Wolves had to chase their prey in order to obtain their food. They did this for years and this trait carried over into the domesticated dogs of today. Humans also reinforced this need for the chase by breeding dogs to hunt. Some dogs like the opportunity to put these engrained skills to use and see no better way than chasing that moving vehicle. Your mortification does not faze them; the need to chase is hardwired into that doggy brain. Some breeds of dogs are also more prone to chasing cars than others. This is due to years of breeding, specifically for hunting purposes. According to contributor, Amy Shojaii of The Spruce, Greyhounds, Whippets, and Terriers are common dog breeds that were raised to hunt. Because of this, these particular dogs may have a stronger need to chase cars. Similarly, Border Collies and Australian Shepherds have been bred to herd animals, and when there are no cows or horses around, they may find satisfaction in attempting to “herd” cars. Humans also encourage chasing. You love to throw Spud frisbees in the yard, and you shower him with positive reinforcement when he brings it back. Spud associates reward with chasing and retrieving things. This is not to say that you should stop throwing that frisbee, but it is important to find strategies to eliminate this dangerous behavior.

Encouraging the Behavior

It is not rocket science that you certainly do not want to encourage this behavior but what can you do to prevent it? Chasing cars can result in injury or death, and we know you want to do everything in your power to prevent anything like that from happening to Spud. One important tactic to keep in mind, regardless of the natural temptation, is to not chase Spud while he is chasing a car. This will only encourage him to run more. Also, basic training is necessary. Once your dog learns basic commands such as sit, stay, and heel, he will be more apt to listen to commands when there are distractions present. It is one thing to tell a dog to sit when there are no disturbances, it is another thing to tell a dog to sit when there are cars nearby. Honing in and perfecting your dog’s basic training skills will benefit him when distractions are present. You can even set up a mock chase for your dog. Ask a friend (a very nice one) to jog or ride a bike by your dog. Have your dog on a leash, and when he tries to go after your innocent friend, command Spud to “Stop!” or “Heel!” If Spud listens, offer him up a treat. If not, stay patient. He will get there. This will help with commands and with staying away from moving objects, such as cars, in the future. 

Other Solutions and Considerations

We’re all in agreement that a dog chasing a car is not a good thing but what if you have tried everything mentioned above, and Spud still continuously runs in the road to try to “attack” the SUV? Well, then it is time to call in the professionals. Take your dog to a specialized behavioral trainer; it just might save Spud’s life. You might also have to be more diligent with making sure Spud doesn’t get out on his own. You could build a fence and always make sure doors are closed. It’s also important to know where Spud is at times--you know that he can be sneaky.


It is important to take some action in stopping Spud’s habit of chasing cars. Yes, it is hardwired into his canine brain due to years of hunting, and Spud just wants to exercise his predatory instincts, but you love Spud and would hate to see anything happen to your pooch. This is why it is important to teach Spud basic commands and even set up a training session with distractions as well. And maybe take some extra precautions like a fence and double checking doors. Although Spud doesn’t understand it all, the results are bound to be pawsitive.