How to Train Your Dog to Stop Chasing Shadows

Easy
5-14 Days
Behavior

Introduction

You and your partner settle down with a well-deserved glass of wine and this week's episode of your favorite show. Only your dog has developed a somewhat irritating habit of going berserk at the sight of his own shadows and chasing them around until his energy is spent. It makes for just about the least relaxing atmosphere to watch TV in. It’s the same when you have guests over, he charges around the room causing havoc. It was entertaining to begin with, but now it’s time to stop.

Getting this training right won’t just be good for your sanity, it will also help his too. The shadows may actually scare him and he could be working himself up into a terrified state each evening. A happy dog is a healthy dog!

Defining Tasks

Thankfully, you can train this bizarre behavior out of your dog relatively easily. The main thing you need to do is motivate him to be calm around shadows. You need to show him with food and a variety of other things that he’s safe around shadows and so can relax. If he’s a puppy and this habit is new, then getting a handle on it could take just 5 days or so. If he’s older and been chasing shadows for many years then you may need a couple of weeks to fully break the habit.

Succeeding with this training is essential if you want your evenings back. You also need to do it for his benefit too. If he’s getting worked up and stressed out by these shadows it could have an adverse effect on his health. You don’t want any expensive vet bills to contend with.

Getting Started

Before you can get going with training you need to collect a few bits. You’ll need his favorite food broken into small pieces and some mouth-watering treats. You’ll also need to get a couple of new and enticing chew toys. These will all help to distract him when shadows make an appearance.

You’ll also need some quiet time to practice training. Take him to a quiet room where you won’t be distracted by a noisy household.

The only other things you need are patience and a positive attitude. With all of that, you can get to work!

The Surroundings Method

Most Recommended
2 Votes
Step
1
Spend time in rooms with less lights
If left to develop, the shadows habit can only get worse, so try and address his surroundings to limit the problem. One of the first things you can do is to spend time in a room in the evenings with less lights.
Step
2
Dark curtains
Hanging dark curtains in the rooms he uses most can make a big difference. With half the shadows to chase, the problem is halved straight away.
Step
3
Store reflective items
Until you’ve got the problem under control, store particularly reflective items out of the way. Again this will reduce the shadows in his environment, which will reduce the stress and the chasing behavior.
Step
4
Distract him
When you can see shadows appearing, keep him distracted with a new toy. Get him excited by playing in an animated voice and playing tug of war. If you tire him out with play he’ll have less energy to spend chasing shadows.
Step
5
Exercise
Up his daily exercise intake. A lot of dogs that chase shadows are particularly energetic, so tackle that through out the day. Give him an extra or longer walk. Alternatively, play fetch on the walk. These short sprints will leave him napping for the rest of the day rather than chasing shadows.
Recommend training method?

The Keep Calm Method

Effective
1 Vote
Step
1
Get him settled
Gently play with him. You need to get him calm and subdued before the shadows arrive. That means be soft and quiet, don’t get him over excited--this will just make the chasing worse.
Step
2
Regular treats
To keep him calm, reward him for good behavior. While he remains lying calmly with you, give him the odd treat to reinforce the behavior. He will quickly associate being calm with getting tasty rewards.
Step
3
Obedience commands
If he does start going crazy and chasing shadows, instruct him to ‘sit’ or ‘wait’. By making him work you are channeling his energy into something productive while also distracting him from the shadows.
Step
4
Don’t punish him
If you shout at him or shut him away you may only add to the problem. He may already be scared of the shadows, so needs your support. If you desert him he may become even more agitated and the problem will be heightened.
Step
5
Tackle the problem every day
You need to follow the steps above consistently until the problem subsides. To fully break the habit,you need to be persistent; any lapse days will simply set the end result back further.
Recommend training method?

The Eyes Up Method

Least Recommended
1 Vote
Step
1
Quiet room
Head for a quiet room with a pocketful of treats. You’re going to incentivize him to keep his eyes up. That way the shadows should feature less in his vision and be less of a problem.
Step
2
Hold a treat at just above his head height
Make sure you hold it at a height. That means he has to slightly look up to focus on it properly. Make sure it’s just out of his reach, for now you just want to hold his attention with it.
Step
3
‘Eyes up’
Issue the command at the same time you hold the treat up. He will learn to associate this cue with looking away from the shadows. You don’t have to use that exact phrase, you can use any word or phrase you like.
Step
4
Reward
As soon as he does look up, give him the treat and some verbal praise. Really show him how happy you are that he’s done the right thing. This will make him more likely to repeat the behavior next time. Practice this for 5 minutes each day.
Step
5
Increase the time
Over the next few days, increase the length of time he has to look up before you give him the treat. Keep practicing this until he swiftly looks up for as long as you leave him to. Now you can use this command whenever he starts to get agitated by the shadows. Working for the food will be a productive distraction and he’ll soon stop caring about the shadows.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Lexi
Cockerpoo
3 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Lexi
Cockerpoo
3 Years

She not only jumps at shadows she has started being snappy at meal times eating from my other dogs bowl instead of her own. Which is confusing my other dog as they have always had there own bowls in different placez in kitchen
Please help

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
242 Dog owners recommended

Hello Dolcie, I suggest feeding both dogs in crates separately. For the shadow chasing I suggest consulting your vet or a veterinary behviorist. Shadow chasing is an obsessive compulsive behavior most of the time. It is important to interrupt the behavior but there also might be an underlying chemical or phycological reason also. Low levels of seratonine or dopamine can sometimes be involved or other unaddressed medical causes. Both the behavior and any possible medical causes need to be addressed. A veterinary behaviorist is someone also trained in animal behavior, who can often address both. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Add a comment to Lexi's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Lily
miniature poodle
5 Months
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Lily
miniature poodle
5 Months

We got Lily just a few weeks ago, and this past week we've noticed this awful habit of chasing shadows. It only happens outdoors, though, even if she sees shadows inside. Once she goes outside, if there are shadows, even at night with few lights, she runs at full speed, tugging at the leash, back and forth. It's worrisome. Even though she's only 6 pounds, she is a strong little bugger, and she nearly escaped her harness tonight during her shadow chasing fit. I think the suggestions here are great, but I'm not sure if they will help so much outside as it's not quiet out there. We're having trouble enough potty training, and this is making matters more difficult!

Thank you!!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
242 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kelsey, I suggest purchasing an electric collar that has a wide variety of stimulation levels and vibration and when she fixates on the shadows correct her by vibrating the collar. When she is calm around shadows reward her with treats. Make sure you are stimulating her mentally through training often, things like puzzle games or food stuffed chew toys, and other interesting activities. If the vibration has no effect, find her working level with the electric collar stimulation (the lowest level she responds to at all when calm) and use that. E-collar working level: https://youtu.be/1cl3V8vYobM Do NOT use a laser pointer with her - you may not be but that can lead to light and shadow chasing and OCD behavior. If you do not see improvement through correcting with the collar and rewarding calmness, I suggest visiting a veterinary behaviorist and getting her evaluated for obsessive compulsive disorder and hormonal imbalances. Many puppies do chase things like lights, flies, and leaves, but if she isn't responding to training seek professional help to figure out if something else is going on. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Add a comment to Lily's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Penelope
Shetland Sheepdog
4 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Penelope
Shetland Sheepdog
4 Months

My pup broke her back leg racing after light reflections from the sun on the glass door. Now while waiting for her leg to heal, I carry her around and I notice that she is watching my shadow. I have turned off the light from the fridge but she still is watching the shadows. Is there a way to "dull" shadows indoors, even on a cloudy day, but I need to see. I have been using Quiet Moments and she doesn't seem as reactive to the shadows. She really hates the dark big shadows of me while taking her out at night so I take her to the side yard so I can see but my shadow is reduced. I have been giving her lamb bones to chew on, so am I changing one obsession for another?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
242 Dog owners recommended

Hello Carolyn, You may want to look into window shades like cellular shades, and use overhead lights that might produce less shadows. Honestly, I would speak to your vet about this or a veterinarian behaviorist. Shadow chasing can be due to a chemical Imbalance in the brain. Many puppies will do it a bit for fun, but when it is a strong obsession something obsessive compulsive may be going on. Sometimes medication to help brain function or hormone imbalance can help (I am not a vet though so cannot diagnose). Using a laser pointer can also leave to light and shadow chasing. If she ever chases one of those, stop using it immediately and permanently. I would also correct the behavior. Use an interrupter when she gets fixated, like a quick leash tug or buy a Pet Convincer and spray a squirt of unscented pressurized air at her side, to make the shadow or lights less exciting if she seems excited about them. If she seems fearful around the lights, work on her earning treats for ignoring shadows and lights and focusing on you instead. For excitement you want to interrupt and calm down with a gentle correction. With fearfulness you want to work on her being in the presence of that thing and focusing on something else positive instead. I think giving her the chew toy is fine. While you may still need to address a medical underlying cause with your vet if she feels there is one, a chewing habit chewing her own durable toys is much safer for her and the chemicals released doing that activity are different than the highly arousing ones released while light chasing. Things that are calming, like chewing, can potentially benefit her. Working on obedience commands that build impulse control can also help. Such as: Heel Place Down Stay Sit Stay Watch Me Waiting at doors General manners and structure in her routine Working for what you give her by having her do a command before hand, such as Sit before being petted or for a walk. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Add a comment to Penelope's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!
Sketch of smiling australian shepherd