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 Keep Calm Method

Most Recommended
3 Votes
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 Surroundings Method

Effective
4 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 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
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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
396 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

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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
396 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

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Question
Penelope
Shetland Sheepdog
4 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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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
396 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

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Question
Tully
Kelpie
6 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Tully
Kelpie
6 Months

Our beautiful kelpie puppy became obsessed with shadows 3 days ago. We miss her affection and attention as she is only interested in staring an chasing shadows. Her ears are up and pointed and her tail is wagging like crazy, so she appears very excited by the shadows. We've increased her exercise and try to distract her with treats and new toys but she really is only interested in the shadows.
I've read you're above techniques but I can't seem to get her attention to commence any. We took her to the vet today but he advised there's not much we can do, just try and give her more exercise and diatractions. Please help!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
396 Dog owners recommended

Hello Lisa, Check out the video linked below and find a qualified trainer who is very familiar with safe and correct remote collar training techniques. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XU97L9vAZgE If you ever use a laser pointer with him, also stop that immediately. Best of luck training,' Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Oreo
Border Collie
3 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Oreo
Border Collie
3 Years

My dog loves chasing shadows and hes deaf, but when he chases shadows he barks and it is getting annoying to neighbors and such. Is there any way to make him stop chasing shadows or stop barking?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
396 Dog owners recommended

Hello James, First of all make sure that you are not using a laser pointer with him. Laser pointers often lead to shadow chasing and other neurotic behaviors. Second, the behavior needs to be punished. Right now it's a self-rewarding behavior and other rewards aren't going to be good enough to compete with it, so you need to make it no longer fun for him. An remote training collar that uses stimulation is typically how this is done. You need to find his "working level" which is the lowest level on the collar that he responds to, learn how to properly fit and use a remote collar, then time corrections as soon as he starts to fixate on shadows - don't wait until he is worked up and barking - it will be much easier for him to learn while dopamine and adrenaline levels are still low and he is calmer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cl3V8vYobM When he stops fixating for even a minute, give him something else to focus on. Work him on obedience, practice commands that require focus, self-control, or calmness. Provide things like food stuffed chew toys or puzzle toys (puzzle toys only when you are home if he is a strong chewer). Shadow chasing can be a mental disorder that's related to chemical imbalance in the brain, if you have other reasons to suspect that, then see your vet and ask them (I am not a vet). Border Collies are very prone to obsessive compulsive behaviors and need a lot of mental stimulation to keep them from creating their own obsessive or destructive games. I would spend time teaching him new commands or the next level of commands he already knows - to add a little challenge to the training. I would prioritize training time even above long walks for this breed. My own Border Collie learned almost 100 words/commands just as a way to stimulate him mentally to keep him calmer and happier. Take the shadow chasing seriously, it can get really bad - if it's not already. In general, if you purchase a remote training collar, purchase one that also has a vibration setting and you can train a deaf dog to look at you when they feel the vibration using positive reinforcement training. Train commands using hand signals, then once they are looking at you after feeling the vibration of the collar, use a hand signal to give them whatever command would be helpful for them right then. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Tico
Border Collie
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Tico
Border Collie
1 Year

Hello! This is my beautiful baby boy Tico. He is crazy about shadows and any reflections. We can’t even have a ceiling fan on or he freaks out, we have to keep the lights off & can barely watch TV. It’s gotten so bad that he will stare at the lights on the ceiling and just bark at them, and he gets very possessive of them. As our other dog was walking by he just tried to attack him over it for no reason. After he barks at them and tries to attack the shadows he will whine bc they aren’t going away & I’m scared he is losing his mind & is going to hurt someone or one of our other dogs.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
396 Dog owners recommended

Hello Alana, Light chasing is an obsessive compulsive behavior. First, I would see your vet and ask if there could be a chemical imbalance or something medical that needs addressing. I am not a vet so your vet can assess that. Certain imbalances can increase OCD tendencies but Border Collies are also more prone to be obsessive in general. In addition to that you need to hire a professional trainer who uses both positive reinforcement and fair corrections, who is very experienced with using electric collars (also called remote collar training). It needs to be stimulation based and not citronella or vibration probably. The behavior needs to be disciplined to break the obsessive cycle. Once light chasing is no longer fun, he needs to be given a something mentally stimulating to do...Food stuffed chew toys, learning new tricks, agility, canine sports, ect...In addition to anything active you teach him like a canine sport, include obedience that builds focus, self-control, and calmness, such as the following commands. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Crate manners: https://thegooddog.net/training-videos/free-how-to-training-videos/learn-to-train-the-good-dog-way-the-crate/ Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Dog Training Do’s https://www.solidk9training.com/sk9-blog/2016/09/08/the-ten-commandments-of-dog-training-and-ownership-do-2 Finally, never use a laser pointer with him. Laser pointers can actually create light chasing behavior in dogs that are prone toward obsessive compulsiveness. A laser pointer will bring back the light chasing behavior. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Sully
French Bulldog
19 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Sully
French Bulldog
19 Months

My dog is 19 months old, adopted 4 months ago. About 2 months ago he started chasing shadows and lights. We spent a lot of money on behavior training and he has gotten a little better, as he now will sit and look at me if he is chasing lights indoors. The problem is when we walk outside. We live on a busy city street and there are constant lights and shadows. Even if he sits and looks at me, the second he gets up he is chasing shadows again, because the whole block is lit up. Walking him is very difficult at sunny times of day, and even with shadows at night. We don’t want to restrict the amount we walk him, but every time he has a really bad walk we just can’t take it and we go back inside.

My question: Since we stopped using our trainer, we have no advice on how to redirect or desensitize our dog on a walk now. The furthest we got was “sit and look”, but he is too distracted outside. Any advice on how to continue distracting him while on a walk? It seems that we can catch his attention with a new treat for about a day, then he gets bored and the shadows are more important, but soon we’re going to run out of ideas for treats.

He has had some progress: he listens enough most of the time to sit when he is fixated, when we used to have to push his back down. He listens to sit and look when indoors and ignores shadows, but we must redirect him several times before he forgets about the light.

Disclaimer: We consulted a vet who mentioned Prozac but said he doesn’t need it at this time. She Said if it gets worse to consult a veterinary behaviorist, but it hasn’t gotten worse, so these are not options for us at this time.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
396 Dog owners recommended

Hello Danielle, I would consult a trainer who is very familiar with e-collar training. Shadow and light chasing is an obsessive compulsive behavior. The behavior is self-rewarding so no matter how much you redirect and reward not doing it, you are always competing with something that is even more rewarding (the shadow chasing itself). You need to first make the shadow chasing unpleasant, removing the rewarding aspect of it. Once the shadow and light chasing is no longer fun, then you can work on the desensitization and reward focusing on other things instead effectively. Once pup pauses the chasing after being corrected, follow that up with lots of obedience instruction, like "Watch Me", "Heel", "Sit", fun games that make pup think and focus, and other obedience while outside. An remote training collar that uses stimulation is typically how light chasing is interrupted because you want the dog to associate the correction with his behavior and not just you. You need to find his "working level" which is the lowest level on the collar that he responds to, learn how to properly fit and use a remote collar, then time corrections as soon as he starts to fixate on shadows - don't wait until he is worked up - it will be much easier for him to learn while adrenaline levels are still low and he is calmer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cl3V8vYobM Shadow chasing can be a mental disorder that's related to chemical imbalance in the brain but it can also just be behavioral. (I am not a vet) Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Hi Caitlin! Thanks for the response. I have a question: can the collar just me Vibration based for him, or would you recommend shock based? My boyfriend and I are afraid to use shock based unless it’s a last resort. We live in a city and just don’t want everybody passing by to pass judgement on us while we walk him.

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