Predators that they are, moving objects are always of special interest to dogs, and cars are no exception. Herding breeds, terriers, and the bull breeds especially have reputations for car chasing, trying to grab moving tires, or both, but any dog can be vulnerable to this potentially fatal obsession. Leave it, sometimes combined with an aversive, is the solution to this hazardous habit. If you’re walking with your dog on leash, it’s relatively easy to use and enforce the “Leave it” command and then reward and/or redirect your dog to a more appropriate activity than chasing cars.
If for some reason your dog has freedom around moving cars (not a good idea in any case), or is obsessed to the point of physically overpowering you to get to them, you’ll have to teach the dog that coming near moving cars means something bad is going to happen. The next sections will help you get a handle on car chasing.
Timing Is Everything
You already know how important timing is to many aspects of training your dog. To be effective, particularly in the teaching stage, the leave it command has to come when your dog first notices the car, or when he’s thinking about chasing it, not when he’s already running down the road after it or having an hysterical fit at the end of the leash trying to get to it. When your dog can perform the command easily before he’s in full chase mode, then you can try it when he’s a little more stimulated or has more freedom, gradually working up to calling him off something he’s chasing.
Deterring Determined Car Chasers
As mentioned previously, really determined dogs who either have very high prey drive, or who have had so much practice that the behavior itself is reinforcing may need an aversive associated with moving cars to deter them from chasing and keep them safe.
You’ll need at least two helpers to assist you in teaching your dog that cars sometimes strike back. One person can drive the car, while the other can toss the aversive, in this case, big water balloons, out the window at your dog if he approaches the moving car. For safety, the car should be moving very slowly at first and your dog, of course, should be on leash. Repeat the exercise with several different types of cars, and even beg for the mailman or regular deliverymen to get in on the act with you.
Yeah, you’re going to get a little wet, along with your dog, but it’s worth it. If your dog is not deterred from car chasing in several sessions, consider a bigger correction. For life-and-death issues like this, a remote collar is a reasonable choice to deter dogs obsessed with chasing cars.