How to Train Your Dog to Not Chase Cows

Medium
2-16 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

Chasing is a very natural behavior for your dog, and it is not unusual for dogs to want to chase cattle. Your dog may see cattle as prey, or she may be trying to herd them. If you intend for your dog to herd cattle, training will be about curbing that instinct to only appropriate times. Some overenthusiastic herders will move cattle continuously if given the chance, not allowing them time for grazing and creating a very stressed herd.

Whether your dog is motivated by prey drive or herding instinct doesn't matter very much to the scared cows, and it doesn't matter much for your training goals either. Regardless of why your dog wants to chase cows, your training goal is to teach her to resist that impulse continuously unless asked for, until eventually she is desensitized to the cows.

Defining Tasks

The safety of your dog and the cows must be forefront in your mind during training. It is not fair to unduly stress the cows for the sake of your training goals, so make sure you are attentive to the needs of the cattle and either vary the cattle you are working with or give cows plenty of breaks in between training. An angry or scared cow can deliver a serious injury to your dog. Even if the cows have always run in terror before, as you progress in training and your dog shows hesitation, cattle may be emboldened to attack your dog. Always be in a position to remove your dog from danger.

If your dog is very aggressive when chasing cows, jumping on them or biting, or if she has injured livestock in the past, it may be wise to use a muzzle until training has progressed.

Getting Started

Delicious and tempting treats, as well as good tug and shake toys and noisemakers, are all useful for this training. Noisemakers of various types that make unique and attention-getting sound are very useful for distracting your dog from the cattle. If you find that one noisemaker is losing effectiveness, it is nice to have others handy. For the method dependent on having your dog share a space with cattle, a very good bone, chew or food distributing toy is useful for continuously rewarding and replacing fear/aggression with a positive experience. 

A good harness and long line are essential for all training techniques. If your dog is too powerful for you to easily control with a harness, a chest lead harness or a head halter may be necessary.

The Treats vs. Chase Method

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Step
1
Start at a distance
Start far enough from the cows that they are not visible to your dog. She should be able to smell them, and know that they are around because of droppings in the pasture. Have her restrained on a leash for safety but try not to need to use it. We want her to forget she is wearing it.
Step
2
Treats for attention
Wait until your dog acts interested in the cattle smells and then ask your dog to watch you. As soon as she looks at you, reward.
Step
3
Attention without being asked
Keep practicing at this distance until your dog is looking at you whenever she sniffs the cattle, without being asked to watch you.
Step
4
Move closer
Keep moving closer, practicing until your dog is reliably looking at you without being asked whenever she starts to feel interested in the cows. She is likely to have much more difficulty once you are within sight of the cows. If she will not perform at this level, step back and practice out of sight again for some time.
Step
5
Among the cows
Keep moving closer and rewarding until you can walk among the cows with your dog. Whenever she becomes interested in the cows, she should look at you. In time you can try off-leash and then begin trusting her with the cattle.
Recommend training method?

The Cows, Cows Everywhere Method

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Step
1
Safely surround yourself and your dog with cows
It works best to be in a smallish pen with cows milling around freely outside the pen. If your cows will tolerate it, you can also leash your dog and go among the herd.
Step
2
Treats for chill
Ask your dog to look at you, sit, lie down, or any other basic behavior she knows. As soon as she focuses on you instead of the cows, reward.
Step
3
Chew for calm
Once your dog is taking treats for behavior and not focused on the cows, offer her a chew or food toy. She will likely not want to chew around the cows and will try to carry it off. Don't allow her to. If she refuses to chew, take it away and go back to the last step for some time before offering another chew.
Step
4
Look for relaxation
Once your dog is willing to chew on the chew toy or play with the food toy, watch her behavior and expression for indications that her state of arousal is decreasing. This can be shown by a relaxed mouth and eyes, relaxed ears, and a casually upheld tail.
Step
5
Increase trust
Keep working with your dog around the cattle, gradually moving up to having the cattle move around her. Watch for a relaxed epression and continuously reward. If your dog has a setback, go back a step for some time.
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The Walk With a Cow Method

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Step
1
Choose a cow
Choose a cow that is mild mannered, good on a halter, and motivated by food.
Step
2
Walk and treat your dog
Walk with your dog around the cow, rewarding when she pays attention to you instead of the cow.
Step
3
Walk together
Once your dog is not reacting to being around the cow, take the cow by the harness and your dog's leash, and walk them on either side of you. If you find this challenging, you can have a helper lead the cow. Make sure to reward the cow too for her calm behavior.
Step
4
Walk side by side
Once your dog and cow are walking calmly on either side of you, put your dog between you and the cow so that they are walking side by side. Reward both enthusiastically for good behavior.
Step
5
Off-leash
Once you feel confident that your dog and cow are calm together, remove harness and leash and continue to walk and reward. Keep practicing until your dog is very relaxed with this cow before slowly inroducing more cows.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Sasha
Alaskan Malamute
9 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Sasha
Alaskan Malamute
9 Years

The cows have just come out where I live and I can no longer allow Sasha off lead as she chases them and tried to bite them. I've tried walking her around them and she pulls a lot. There is no way I can let her off lead within a mile of them as she has very strong senses! Can you suggest a method of training for us please? I feel very restricted as to where I can take her now and if she chases them again she could get shot

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
78 Dog owners recommended

Hello Maya, I suggest that you purchase a high quality remote electric collar, also known as an e-collar, and use e-collar training to teach Sasha to leave the cows alone. E-collars are very powerful tools that can be extremely effective when used properly, but they can also be abusive if the person using one does not know what she is doing. They have successfully been used to stop livestock chasing behaviors, which is very hard to break without the use of an e-collar. I suggest that you hire a dog trainer in your areas who has extensive experience training with electric collars. Make sure that you only purchase a high quality e-collar brand such as: E-collar technologies, Garmin, SportDog, or Dogtra. Do not buy a cheap, low quality e-collar, especially one from online from a less reputable company because those collars can be dangerous, prone to inconsistencies or very high levels or shock, and have less levels than a good collar will have. A good collar typically has between fifty and one hundred and fifty levels, to allow you to find the collar stimulation level for your dog without going too high. A great trainer to learn a bit more about e-collars from is James Penrith from Take The Lead Dog Training. Here is a link to one of his YouTube videos where he discusses livestock chasing. He also has other videos where he demonstrates the training so you can see what he is doing a bit more. Here is that video and YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bh225NelfmY Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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