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Your dog Fizzy has lived up to the Whippet name. She's affectionate, lively, intelligent, and gentle. However, one thing she definitely isn't is slow. In fact, as soon as you let your Whippet off the leash, she's off like a rocket. Now, this probably stems from their Greyhound ancestry but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with problems. For example, if they see a smaller dog on the horizon, they bolt towards them and chase them. Now it may all be fun and games for Fizzy, but the other dog usually looks terrified.
So training your Whippet to not chase is becoming increasingly important. Perhaps the biggest worry is that if you don’t pursue this training they may end up charging across a road and being involved in a traffic collision. There is also the danger a dog they chase turns around and bites them, causing serious injury and expensive vet bills.
The good news is, training your Whippet to not chase is actually fairly straightforward. The trick is strict recall training. This will mean you can instruct Fizzy to stop before she starts chasing. But to do that you will need to use obedience commands and have a decent stockpile of tasty treats at the ready. There are also practical measures you can take to prevent chasing.
If your Whippet is just a puppy they should be a quick learner. This means you could see results in just a couple of weeks. But if your Whippet is stubborn and older, then you may need a couple of months before the chasing habit ceases. If you persevere with training you’ll no longer need to panic as soon as you see another pet in the distance. You’ll also have a more receptive dog, making it easier to break other bad habits.
Before you get to work, you need to check you have a few things. A long training leash will be needed. You may also want to invest in a body harness. This will reduce strain on the dog's neck while affording you greater control. A tennis ball will also be needed.
One of the most important components, however, will be a generous supply of mouth-watering treats. Alternatively, you can break their favorite food into small pieces. You can train when you’re out on daily walks and in your yard.
Once you have all that, just bring patience and a can-do attitude, then work can begin!
The Prevention Method
Always keep your Whippet on a long leash. If they can’t chase anything, they will soon give up. This is particularly important when you’re out in public.
If they are running out of back doors or windows and chasing down the street, make an effort to keep doors and windows closed. Get into the habit of keeping them in a more isolated space and they won’t be able to chase.
When you do catch them after they have been chasing, calmly take them by the collar and lead them into a quiet room for a few minutes. Ensure there are no toys to play with. This will get them associating chasing with negative consequences.
From as early age as possible, encourage your dog to always walk by your side. That means keeping them on a short leash and using toys and treats to keep them interested. If they get into a habit of staying close by you from a young age, they won’t think about chasing.
Do not punish your Whippet when they chase. If you shout angrily or scare them, then they will be even less eager to stay close to your side. Instead remain calm when you do catch up with them.
The Recall Method
Head out for a walk with your dog as you normally would. However, keep your Whippet on a long leash. Each day you’re going to drill in recall training until they’re no longer in the habit of chasing at all.
Call your Whippet over regularly in a high-pitched voice. You can use their name or you can use a simple phrase, such as ‘come’. Just make sure you give it regularly and always in a playful tone.
As soon as your dog does return to you, hand over a tasty reward or play with a toy for a minute. They will soon start associating you with positive consequences and will get into a habit of staying close by.
Lose the leash
After a while of practicing recall training with a leash, start taking the dog out without a leash. Continue to call them over regularly and reward them. This will be a good test to see if they can resist the urge to chase.
Phase out the treats
Once they have got the hang of it and don’t chase even with other distractions around, you can slowly cut out the treats. By this point they will want to stay close to you anyway, even without the promise of food.
The ‘Off’ Method
Secure your dog to a leash inside your house or in your yard. Make sure the leash has enough flex that they can run a bit but not too far. Then roll a tennis ball in front of them to the other side of the room or yard.
They will then naturally start running after it. As soon as they do, issue an ‘off’ command in a firm voice. Note you can use any word or phrase you like for this instruction, just make sure to only give it once. As you give the instruction, also give the leash a quick tug to make sure they don’t catch the ball.
Now practice this for a few minutes each day. However, use different distractions, such as sticks and other toys. Continue to keep them on a leash until they stop chasing.
Once they look like they’re getting the hang of it, you can start introducing positive reinforcements. So whenever you give the command and they don’t chase, give them a treat and some verbal praise.
Now that they’re into the swing of it and don’t automatically chase everything, you can let them off the leash. Simply give the instruction as soon as they start to chase or look like they may be about to. Soon this command will completely break their chasing habit altogether.
By James Barra
Published: 04/25/2018, edited: 01/08/2021