How to Train Your Dog to Stop Chasing Shadows

How to Train Your Dog to Stop Chasing Shadows
Easy difficulty iconEasy
Time icon5-14 Days
Behavior training category iconBehavior

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!

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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.

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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!

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The Keep Calm Method

Most Recommended

3 Votes

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Most Recommended

3 Votes

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Surroundings Method

Effective

5 Votes

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Effective

5 Votes

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Eyes Up Method

Least Recommended

1 Vote

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Least Recommended

1 Vote

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Written by James Barra

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 11/02/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Ruby

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Australian Cattle Dog

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year old

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Question

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Hi. My dog is deaf and she chases shadow s all the time. Will any of the methods described in the article help my doggo?

Aug. 5, 2023

Ruby's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I recommend hiring a professional trainer who has experience with e-collar training and obsessive compulsive behavior. Shadow chasing is an obsessive compulsive behavior. Often the behavior needs to become unpleasant for the dog, interrupting the fixation without over stressing the dog, and ideally without pup associating the correction with you but with their own behavior instead. Once it’s interrupted, then the behavior needs to be replaced with more appropriate outlets through reward based training and teaching things that help stimulate pup mentally and exercise their brains in appropriate ways, to help pup redirect that obsessive energy to better outlets. If anyone has ever used a laser pointer with pup, also stop using that. The use of laser pointers tends to contribute to dogs who are prone to developing such obsessions beginning to chase lights and shadows too. Herding breeds are more prone to obsessions due to their intensity and high intellect. Giving pup mental stimulation through small jobs, regular training practice, incorporating training into things like fetch or walks or earning what pup wants throughout the day by obeying commands first, puzzle toys/dog food stuffed kongs/working for food, or canine sports once the behavior is interrupted will be especially important for your dog. With pup being deaf, you should still be able to train, but you will likely need to add a vibration sensation on a remote training collar and teach pup that whenever it vibrates they should look at you, rewarding their attention toward you each time so that the vibration is simply a signal and doesn't have a negative association. Most high quality stimulation collars also have a vibration setting. I would choose a collar like EZ900 from e-collar technologies that has vibration settings that can be adjusted so that you can choose the lightest vibration setting pup can feel to avoid stressing them out with the vibration signal. Once they are looking at you after the vibration, use hand signals to direct them - have intentional time where you teach commands you need pup to know using hand signals in place of verbal words. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Aug. 23, 2023

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Cabo

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Border Collie

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One Year

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Question

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He is a deaf dog we rescued but has developed a unhealthy addiction to shadow chasing and pouncing his nose/mouth on floor now. We have meds from doctor that helps but in no means has stopped him. We have tried exercising but now it has come to a point that walking him is not possible because he is chasing. I have used toys he just carries them in his mouth while chasing. Its hard to get him to go outside to the bathroom or to bowl to eat. HELP

Feb. 27, 2023

Cabo's Owner

Expert avatar

Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

Recommendation ribbon

1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I recommend hiring a professional trainer who has experience with e-collar training and obsessive compulsive behavior. Shadow chasing is an obsessive compulsive behavior. Often the behavior needs to become unpleasant for the dog, interrupting the fixation without over stressing the dog, and ideally without pup associating the correction with you but with their own behavior instead. Once it’s interrupted, then the behavior needs to be replaced with more appropriate outlets through reward based training and teaching things that help stimulate pup mentally and exercise their brains in appropriate ways, to help pup redirect that obsessive energy to better outlets. If anyone has ever used a laser pointer with pup, also stop using that. The use of laser pointers tends to contribute to dogs who are prone to developing such obsessions beginning to chase lights and shadows too. The Border Collie breed is more prone to obsessions due to their intensity and high intellect. Giving pup mental stimulation through small jobs, regular training practice, incorporating training into things like fetch or walks or earning what pup wants throughout the day by obeying commands first, puzzle toys/dog food stuffed kongs/working for food, or canine sports once the behavior is interrupted will be especially important for your dog. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

March 1, 2023


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