Many dogs love the game of chase but things can get out of hand if they choose to chase things they shouldn't. Inappropriate games of chase can result in injuries to your dog if, for example, it is hit by a car while in pursuit, or to things they chase, such as sheep that may be injured or abort lambs if pregnant while being chased.
Inappropriate things to chase
- People on bikes, skateboards etc
- Other dogs
When there is more than one dog, there is an increased chance of chasing and predatory behaviour. Just like groups of friends are more likely to cause trouble than one person out alone, more than one dog is likely to travel further, chase for longer and be more confident at the end of the chase.
Learning to chase
Dogs with chase problems have often been allowed to chase inappropriately from an early age. The problem is worse if the chasing has been actively encouraged by the owner (e.g. chasing cats or squirrels out of the garden). The dog becomes more practiced each time it does it, and they begin to look for and seek or create opportunities to chase. Eventually, they learn to prefer to chase than anything else (e.g. eating, listening to their owner).
Why are dogs aggressive at the end of a chase?
There are a number of reasons why dogs are aggressive at the end of the chase. Since chasing is exciting, they may bite in the heat of the moment when their ‘prey’ stops, or they may nip at their ‘prey’ to try to make it run again. Alternatively, they may be fearful of whatever they are chasing, particularly, for example, if they have been kicked when a previous chase came to an end, and may bite to try to keep themselves safe. Dogs that chase small prey may be showing predatory behaviour and may give a ‘killing’ bite at the end of the chase.
Resolving Chasing Problem
If your dog chases things away because he is afraid, you will need treat this fear separately. Go to ‘Territorial Behaviour’, ‘Fear And Anxiety’. 'Aggression To People', and 'Aggression To Other Dogs'.
If your dog is enjoying the thrill of the chase, you should first check that you have a sufficiently strong relationship with your dog and that his contentment levels are high. Teach him to play with toys (go to ‘How To Teach Your Dog To Play With Toys’) so that you can give him good alternative chase games. Try to interrupt inappropriate chases before they start and use a lead to ensure your dog cannot continue to practice chasing inappropriately (if you is aggressive at the end of the chase and you cannot ensure that your dog will not get free, make sure he wears a basket muzzle when outside of the house).
You may also like to teach a chase recall and give your dog controlled exposure to things he used to chase while teaching him to enjoy chasing toys instead.
For more information, read ‘Stop! How to control Predatory Chasing in Dogs’ by David Ryan.
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