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You love your dog nearly as much as you love your children, and possibly more than you love your partner. So when you see him constantly try to chase cars when you go out for walks, you can’t help but fear the worst. You’ve had more than one or two moments when your heart has dropped into your stomach as he has leaped into the road and charged after a truck.
It isn’t just the fear of losing him that worries you, it’s the thought that he may cause a serious accident and other people may be seriously injured too. For your peace of mind and for his health, you need to get this bad habit under control, not to mention it doesn’t set the best example of road traffic safety to your kids.
Thankfully, training your dog not to chase after cars is relatively straightforward. You will need to rigorously use obedience commands to increase your control over him. You will also need to take a number of steps to deter him from traffic sports.
The younger your dog is the more receptive will be quicker to respond to training. Older dogs can also successfully be trained to stop running after cars, but it may take several weeks before they finally kick the habit.
While some tricks and commands are trained into dogs for fun, like fetching the newspaper, this sort of training is essential to save the life of both your dog and other road users. You don’t want to lose your canine friend and be held responsible for a life-changing traffic collision too.
Before you begin training you will need to get together several things. First, your dog's favorite food or some doggie treats will be essential to incentivize and reward him during training. A secure leash and potentially a body harness will also be needed if you have a big, strong dog. Some quiet space, free from distractions and away from seriously busy roads, will also be needed.
Once you have these bits together, just come with a positive frame of mind and you’re ready to get to work!
The Come Method
Head into a quiet field with your dog and some tasty treats. You are going to teach him to return to you whenever you call him. That way you can always bring him to your side, even when there are distractions like moving cars.
With him on a leash, take several steps away from him. You need to ensure there is enough distance between you both that he can’t get to you too quickly, but that he is close enough that his attention will be solely on you.
Say ‘come’ and lure him over with a treat in hand. As soon as he comes to you, give him the treat and shower him with praise. It is important you give him the treat quickly so he associates the action with the treat.
Repeat this training daily for 10-15 minutes. Each day, take more and more steps away before calling him over. Lose the leash when you can call him over from a distance the leash doesn’t extend to. Consistency is key, so be sure to keep up the training each day for at least a couple of weeks until you can call him over from 30-40 yards away.
Slowly introduce distractions
Now he understands and responds to the command, introduce distractions and continue calling him over to you. Start by going to places where there are other dogs, then up the stakes and go onto quiet roads. When he still responds quickly to your ‘come’ command, slowly reduce the frequency of treats until you feel confident taking him around busy roads again.
The Monitor & Exercise Method
Increase the length you walk him or increase the tempo on walks. Many dogs chase because they have pent up energy. Simply tiring him out with more exercise can often kill the desire to chase moving vehicles. If you can’t walk him more frequently, throw them a tennis ball throughout walks, the constant sprinting will quickly tire him out.
Use an extendable leash when you are close to roads. You must be responsible around roads, so until his chasing is under control, always keep him on an extendable leash around dangerous areas. He will still have the flexibility to walk around and sniff plenty of unpleasant places, but you will also be able to pull him back if needs be.
Consider a body harness
If your dog is big and strong, a body harness can seriously increase the level of control you have over your canine friend, plus it puts less strain on his neck when you pull at the leash. They can be bought from a range of online retailers and local pet stores and are straightforward to fit.
Always secure him
If you live on a busy road, always secure him when he is outside. A long rope tied to a tree or an extendable leash will do the trick and it will totally remove his ability to chase cars.
Be firm when your dog does chase, by shouting "No!" or using a compressed air can to make an unpleasant sound. As soon as he tries to chase, emit the sound close to him and it will quickly send the message of disapproval. Consistency is key, so be sure to discourage the behavior every single time until he slowly kicks the habit.
The Reduce Pulling Method
Secure him to a leash and head out down a quiet road. You are going to train him to always walk calmly next to you, so he knows chasing after cars is an absolute NO!
Wait for him to reach the end of the leash and hold onto it securely. Keep a close eye on him, you need to be able to react instantly.
As soon as he pulls you, yank the leash in the opposite direction and start walking the other way. Repeat this every time he pulls, even if you walk the same 5 steps back and forward for 10 minutes. Practice doing this for 15 minutes each day and soon enough he will realize that if he wants to walk anywhere, he will have to wander calmly next to you within the confines of the leash.
Start by walking in places where there will be other dogs and repeat the same process as above. It may be challenging to start with, but dogs gradually learn that pulling isn’t acceptable.
Final few treats
Now try walking him on a quiet road and bring some treats with you. Repeat the same training as before, but now each time a car goes past and he doesn’t try to chase them, quickly give him a treat and praise him. Continue doing this until he stops trying to chase cars altogether, then slowly reduce the frequency of the treats until they are no longer needed.
By James Barra
Published: 11/06/2017, edited: 01/08/2021