The desire to chase is something that’s instinctive for most dog breeds. At a basic level, dogs have evolved as predators and scavengers, so this desire is very common and it can be hard to suppress or eradicate entirely.
In particular, hunting breeds can be highly prone to this type of behavior, along with herding breeds such as German Shepherds or Border Collies. Furthermore, breeds like the Greyhound or Whippet are also likely to give chase at any possible opportunity, too. Additionally, there’s no real limit to the types of animal that your dog may like to chase, so this can include cats, birds, squirrels, rabbits, sheep, and a whole lot more.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to “fix” the chasing behavior, or at least subdue and redirect it toward safer outlets.
It’s certainly possible to teach your dog the obedience that’s required to stop your dog chasing (and harming) cats, squirrels, birds, and any other wildlife you may come across when you’re walking your dog or even animals that can make their way into your yard.
In this guide, we’re going to explain why your dog chases, as well as explore some of the things you can do to stop the behavior from occurring so often, so let’s take a closer look.
Why Does Your Dog Like To Chase?
The main reason why your dog chases other animals is that, ultimately, the behavior is inherently rewarding and pleasurable all by itself. The desire is very innate and instinctual, but while it can be difficult to stop entirely, it’s still possible to redirect the behavior to some degree.
One of the key things to understand about your dog’s built-in chasing behavior is that it’s greatly influenced by your dog’s sense of smell (which also gives you a useful window to redirect the behavior, as we’ll come to later).
Furthermore, the movement of cats, squirrels, birds, and other wildlife can also tempt your dog into making the chase. Simply put, if the critter is running away, then your dog will have a great time pursuing them.
So, if you’re looking for the quickest and safest way to stop your dog from chasing other animals, then it’s well worth taking a closer look at a few preventative measures first, as these tactics can often give you the quickest results and stop your dog from killing a fleeing critter.
Keep Your Pooch On A Leash
First of all, keeping your dog on the leash whenever you’re in an environment that’s likely to contain other animals is the smart thing to do, particularly if you aren’t confident that your dog will follow your commands just yet.
Ultimately, keeping your dog on the leash ensures you’ll have full control over your dog at all times, so there’s no chance they’ll be able to catch another animal.
Of course, you still may want to give your dog some freedom to run around and explore, so investing in a quality retractable dog leash can be useful as well.
Add A Bell To Your Dog’s Collar
Another option to add a simple bell to your dog’s collar, which will easily alert any animal that your dog is planning to chase, and it’ll give the critter a chance to escape before your dog manages to capture or harm them.
There are various ways to add some noise to your dog’s collar, but one of the best solutions is to attach a cowbell to your dog’s collar. These bells are also great for generally letting you know where your dog is, too.
Change Your Walking Schedule
It may help to change the time of day when you walk your dog. Commonly, wildlife is most active at dawn and dusk, so if it’s possible for you to walk your dog in the early afternoon, you may have a better chance of avoiding the usual animals they may like to chase.
Keep Cats, Birds, & Squirrels Away
If you’re struggling to keep your dog from chasing animals that are in your own backyard, then it can be useful prevent these critters from gaining access to your yard in the first place.
Primarily, this will involve removing any food sources that may be tempting squirrels or birds to visit, and it could also mean removing any empty birdhouses or sawing a few branches off any trees that could be attracting wildlife.
Some people find leaving orange rinds and lemon peel in the yard can keep various forms of wildlife away, and you could also consider using a non-toxic bird repellent as well.
Keep Your Dog Tired
Managing your dog’s energy levels can often go a long way towards overcoming a variety of behavior issues, and it’s safe to say that a tired dog is going to have less pent-up energy available for chasing cats, birds, or any other animal they find on a walk or in your own yard.
If you can’t walk your dog as often as you’d like, or enough to tire them out, then it can be highly beneficial to hire a dog walker who can give your energetic pooch the exercise they need.
Don’t Walk A Hungry Dog
If you’re walking your dog when they’re hungry, then there’s a good chance that you’ll be revving up their desire to chase, particularly if you have a breed that’s already prone to chasing and hunting.
With this in mind, making sure your dog has already enjoyed a filling meal can be a good thing to do before you head out for a dog walk, as it’ll go some way towards lowing their motivation to chase.
Provide A Better Outlet
Your dog primarily relies on their sense of smell to hunt, so a good way to give them a more suitable outlet for they prey drive is to hide some tasty treats around the home and give them the opportunity to sniff them out.
These hide-and-seek games will give your dog a similar sense of satisfaction, so you won’t need to worry about whether you’re depriving your dog of the fun that their natural desire draws them toward – and importantly – you won’t need to worry about other animals being injured by your dog.
Additionally, it’s a great idea to invest in some interactive dog toys, as well as treat-dispensing toys that can give your dog more fun and engagement than a regular chew toy would.
Watch Your Dog’s Body Language
Keeping a close eye on your dog’s body language when critters are around can be very wise, and if you’re lucky, you may even be able to spot the cats, squirrels, or birds before your dog does.
However, if you notice your dog’s body is stiffening up, or they’re staring at something, or perhaps even buzzing with excitement while watching a nearby critter, then your dog may have spotted something they’d like to chase. If so, this gives you the perfect opportunity to practice some redirection techniques…
Redirect Their Attention
Controlling your dog’s attention is an effective technique for overcoming the chasing problem, and you can use their sense of smell to greatly distract them from the thing they want to chase.
In order to redirect your dog’s attention, you’ll need to begin by carrying some tasty dog treats with you on your dog walks. Using something meaty like small chicken pieces can also be ideal, but you can equally use your dog’s favorite treat if they already have a particular preference.
Simply take the treat from your pocket and gain your dog’s attention with it, and continue to hold your dog’s focus as you walk past the distraction.
Of course, this may not work if your dog is already deeply enthralled by the animal they want to chase (the prey drive is a powerful thing!) but if you first practice this technique in low-distraction scenarios, you can gradually build up to more challenging situations and still experience excellent results.
Some dog owners find that practicing with a stuffed toy on a rope or piece of string can be useful, as you can safely drill these attention redirection techniques in your own backyard without risking the safety of another animal. Just as you’d expect, this works best if you have a helper who can attempt to distract your dog with the stuffed toy while your practice redirecting your dog with a treat.
Teach The “Leave It” Command
Making sure your dog follows your “leave it” command can be invaluable if you’ve got a chaser on your hands. Not only can you use this command to dissuade your dog from giving chase to start with, but it can also save the life of the other animal if your dog was to catch it.
With this in mind, making sure your dog is fully versed in the “leave it” command is an essential step before letting your dog off the leash in a location where they’re likely to find birds, squirrels, cats, or any other critter.
Teaching Recall (The All-Important “Come” Command!)
If your dog listens to your recall command at all times and in any situation, then you shouldn’t have too many problems if your dog does decide to give chase. Of course, this means that teaching recall another main priority when you’re dealing with any sort of chasing behavior.
Ideally, you’ll begin this type of training when your dog is still a puppy. Training your dog early gives you the best chance of the command “sticking” and being effective as your puppy grows older, but this certainly doesn’t mean there isn’t any hope of training an older dog.
The basics of recall training are to begin in an environment with few distractions and praise your dog when they come to you, using treats as an enticement and reward.
You can then gradually increase the distractions around your dog just enough to provide some additional stimulus, but not enough to make your dog miss your commands.
Once this command has been mastered, your dog should prioritize returning to you over pursuing any other distractions (such as squirrels, cats, birds, or other animals they may enjoy chasing).
Using Noise Aversion
One way to dissuade your dog from chasing is to create a negative association with the act itself. A safe and humane way to do this is via the technique of noise aversion.
All you’ll need to do is make a loud noise (such as a clap of the hands, or something louder, like a firm shake of a rock-filled plastic bottle), and aim to do this at the moment when your dog notices the animal they want to chase.
Making this unpleasant sound will cause your dog to associate the noise with seeing the animal they wish to pursue.
A great way to do this kind of aversion training without causing any discomfort to your dog is to use a device like The Pet Corrector, which simply emits a hissing sound that’s quite similar to geese. As you’d expect, this kind of noise will quickly grab your dog’s attention and discourage them from continuing the behavior they were previously engaged in.
Patience & Consistency
At the end of the day, redirecting and subduing your dog’s prey drive can be a challenging task, especially if you have a breed that’s hardwired to engage in this activity.
Ultimately, patience and consistency will aid you greatly when it comes to preventing the chasing behavior, and it’s important not to give up even if you face the occasional setback.
Furthermore, it can be useful to desensitize your dog gradually and start slowly by practicing the suggested techniques in low-distraction scenarios before you take your dog for a walk through any local areas where wildlife is found.