Why Do Dogs Chase Cars? (& How to Get Them to Stop)

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If your pet seems to be called to chase anything with wheels, you might be left wondering, "Why do dogs chase cars?"

It's not like they can outrun them, and even if they could, how would they benefit from the end result? The behavior seems strange to say the least, but now you're curious. What causes a dog to chase cars? Let's take a closer look at what may be causing this behavior and how to stop a dog from chasing cars.

Why Do Dogs Chase Cars?

Although humans may not quite understand it, for dogs, chasing is an instinct. For dogs, moving vehicles may be an annoyance, a thrill or something else entirely, but one thing is for sure: It sparks that natural instinct in which a dog recognizes the vehicle as prey they must run after and capture.

And it's not just four-wheeled on-road vehicles, like cars or buses, that your dog might chase. There are other-wheeled vehicles that a dog might be just as motivated to follow, such as bikes, scooters or mopeds. Your dog may even chase people on Rollerblades or in wheelchairs!

Because chasing is a natural instinct, any type of dog breed may feel the drive to chase a car or other-wheeled form of transportation. However, the American Kennel Club (AKC) reports that sighthounds of all sizes and other herding breeds may be particularly driven to chase.

Black and white border collie running on the green grass

The Dangers of Chasing Cars

One of the most important things to keep in mind if your dog is chasing a moving vehicle on- or off-roads is that if they continue to chase, they might get hit. A collision could cause serious damage to your pet — damage that could potentially be life-threatening. If your dog is chasing and has problems with aggressive behavior, you also have to worry about your pet potentially attacking someone if they're able to catch up to them — like someone on Rollerblades who was simply skating by your property.

How to Stop a Dog from Chasing Cars

The good news is that you can train your dog not to chase cars or other forms of transportation. However, for some particularly chase-driven pets, the training may prove difficult. The AKC reports, "The desire to chase is inherent to many dogs and is a highly self-rewarding behavior ... Because some dogs enjoy it so much, it can be extra challenging to train them not to do it."

Still, this doesn't mean you should give up hope. Here are a few tips to train your pet on impulse control:

  1. Start training before the impulse strikes. It will be a lot harder to stop the behavior while it's happening than working in calm conditions first.
  2. Keep your dog on a leash and close to you during your training.
  3. Begin by teaching your dog the "stay" command.
  4. When your dog understands the command, introduce scenarios that challenge their impulse control, such as a member of the family on a skateboard or slowly backing out of the driveway while your dog continues to stay seated or lying down in a still position. This phase of training will take the most time. Here, you'll need to increase speed or exposure, all while maintaining safety and keeping your dog leashed and close to you.

If at all possible, consider working directly with a local dog trainer for maximum results in the safest environment.

So, why do dogs chase cars? The answer lies in natural evolution: They simply have the instinct to chase, and a quick-moving car appears just like their prey. Training your dog to stay immobile or by your side can help so that chasing cars becomes a thing of the past.

Contributor Bio

Erin Ollila

Erin Ollila

Erin Ollila is a pet enthusiast who believes in the power of words and how a message can inform—and even transform—its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print, and includes interviews, ghostwriting, blog posts, and creative nonfiction. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Reach out to her on Instagram @ErinOllila or learn more about her at http://erinollila.com.