Reigning in Your Dog’s Love for the Chase

Have you ever found yourself being pulled down the sidewalk, hanging onto a leash as your dog dashes after a squirrel with the speed of a mini greyhound? Or maybe your furry friend has nearly yanked your arm out of its socket lunging after a drifting leaf caught by the wind? If these scenarios sound familiar, I feel your pain.
As a dog owner, I’ve been in the same boat more times than I can count. Walking my dog, Rufus sometimes feels like an adventurous tug-of-war rather than a peaceful stroll in the park. The moment he spots a squirrel, rabbit, or heck, even a tumbling leaf, it’s game on. So, why does he do it, and how do we manage this chasing obsession? Well, fasten your leashes because that’s precisely what we will unravel in this article. Grab a seat, and let’s dive in!

Understanding the Chase Instinct in Dogs

Alright, first things first. It’s important to understand that our fur-buddies aren’t just being defiant daredevils when they bolt after small creatures or swirling leaves. The root of this behaviour lies in their inherent instincts. You see, dogs, especially certain breeds, have a high prey drive. This is an instinctual behavior originating from their days in the wild, where the ability to chase and capture prey meant survival. Fascinating, right?
Now, your pet pooch certainly doesn’t need to hunt down squirrels for dinner (thank goodness for kibble!), but this deep-rooted instinct is still very much alive in them. It’s also not just about the ‘hunt’. The act of chasing in itself can be a massive adrenaline rush for dogs, making it an exhilarating and rewarding activity. It’s like their version of a wild roller coaster ride!
In short, chasing is just part of being a dog. However, when it starts affecting their safety and our sanity, that’s where we need to step in. After all, we can’t have Rufus turning every walk into a mad dash, can we? But don’t sweat it. I promise you, with understanding and the right training, this is a manageable issue. Keep reading, as we’ll dive deeper into the signs and triggers of this chase obsession, and most importantly, how to handle it. Onwards and upwards!
  • Predatory Heritage

    The ancestors of modern-day dogs, wolves, needed to hunt to survive. This involved stalking, chasing, capturing, and killing prey. While domesticated dogs have been bred for various purposes over thousands of years, this primal instinct hasn’t been entirely eliminated.

  • Breed-Specific Traits

    Some breeds are more predisposed to chasing than others. For instance, herding breeds like Border Collies or Australian Shepherds might chase moving objects as an extension of their instinct to round up members of a flock. Sighthounds like Greyhounds or Whippets have been bred for their keen vision and speed, making them prone to chasing fast-moving objects.

  • Play Behavior

    For many dogs, chasing is simply fun. It’s a way to expend energy, stimulate their minds, and engage with their environment.

  • Lack of Mental Stimulation

    A bored dog may resort to chasing as a form of self-entertainment. This could involve chasing their tail, a light, or even small animals in the yard.

  • Reinforced Behavior

    If a dog experiences joy or reward from chasing (like finally catching that squirrel or playing fetch), they’re more likely to repeat the behavior. It becomes a self-reinforcing cycle.

  • Fear or Defensive Behavior

    In some cases, dogs might chase something (or someone) because they perceive it as a threat or because they’re trying to establish territory.

Understanding the chase instinct in dogs is crucial for pet owners, especially when considering the safety of their pets and others. It’s essential to provide dogs with controlled environments where they can safely indulge their chasing instincts, like fenced yards or leashed activities. Training, including recall commands and impulse control exercises, can help manage and control this instinct. For dogs with a strong chase drive, structured activities like lure coursing or herding exercises can provide a positive outlet for their natural desires.

Signs Your Dog is Chase Instinct

Before we move on, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page here. It’s one thing to have a dog that occasionally gets excited by a darting squirrel or a gust of wind, but a consistent, compulsive need to chase could indicate a high prey drive. Now, what does this look like, you ask? Well, let me break it down for you.
  • Lock and Stare:

    One tell-tale sign is the “lock and stare”. Your dog might become very still and focused, his eyes locked onto the object of his fascination. It’s almost like they’re playing a very intense game of ‘statues’.

  • Chase Everything That Moves:

    A dog with a high prey drive will likely chase after anything that moves. Squirrels, leaves, cars, joggers – you name it! If it’s moving, it’s fair game.

  • Pulling on the Leash:

    If your dog constantly pulls on the leash, especially towards moving objects or creatures, this could be a sign. He might even try to bolt the moment he spots his ‘prey’.

  • Ignoring Commands:

    When they’re in ‘chase mode’, these dogs can become completely deaf to your commands. It’s like they’re in their own little world, and unfortunately, ‘sit’ or ‘stay’ doesn’t exist in their dictionary at that moment.

Remember, every dog is different. Some dogs might exhibit all these signs, while others only a few. The key is to understand your dog and his behaviors. Once you do that, you’re well on your way to managing this issue. Stay with me, folks! We’re just getting to the good part.

Triggers for Your Dog’s Chase Instincts

So, we’ve identified the problem and we’ve spotted the signs. But what’s actually sparking this chase frenzy in our canine companions? Understanding the triggers is the first step toward finding a solution. It’s like unraveling a whodunit, only in this case, it’s a whodunit.
  • Inherent Prey Drive:

    For some dogs, the chase is all in the genes. Many breeds were historically used for hunting or herding, and this instinct can still come to the fore, even if the closest they’ve ever come to a hunt is chasing their tail.

  • Moving Objects:

    It might seem obvious, but it’s worth saying: moving objects are a major trigger. The sudden movement of a squirrel up a tree or leaves blowing in the wind can kickstart the chase instinct.

  • Genetics:

    The rustle of leaves or the high-pitched squeak of a rabbit can also set your dog off. They do have superhero-like senses, after all!

  • Lack of Mental Stimulation:

    Boredom can be a trigger too. If your dog isn’t getting enough mental exercise, they might decide that chasing after every moving thing is a fun way to pass the time. Who can blame them?

So, now that we’ve identified the potential triggers, what can we do to manage this behavior? Don’t fret, we’re getting to that! Read on, fellow dog-lovers. The best is yet to come!

How to Handle Do’s and Don’ts for Chase Instinct in dogs

Now that we’ve got a bead on why your dog might be showing these behaviours, let’s break down how to handle this chase instinct. Just like every coin has two sides, there are things we should do, and things we should definitely avoid.


  • Do Train Them to Focus on You:

    Start at home, where there are fewer distractions. Call their name and reward them for focusing on you. Over time, this can help them learn to look to you for guidance during walks, rather than sprinting off after the nearest squirrel.

  • Do Use Distractions:

    If you see a potential distraction coming up during your walk (say a bushy-tailed squirrel), distract your dog with a toy or treat.

  • Do Provide Plenty of Exercise:

    A tired dog is a well-behaved dog. Make sure they get plenty of physical exercise to burn off some of that chase energy.

  • Do Be Patient:

    Remember, progress may be slow. Celebrate small victories and don’t get discouraged if improvements are gradual.


  • Don’t Punish Them:

    Remember, chasing is a natural instinct. Don’t punish your dog for acting on this instinct, as it could lead to fear and confusion.

  • Don’t Let Them Off-Leash:

    Until your dog’s chase instinct is under control, it’s safer to keep them on a leash during walks. This can prevent any runaway dog incidents and give you more control if they do get excited.

  • Don’t Use Negative Reinforcement Devices:

    Devices like shock collars might seem like a quick fix, but they can actually create more problems than they solve, including fear and aggression.

  • Don’t Force Them to Interact:

    If your dog is in chase mode, forcing them to ‘face their fears’ might lead to a stressful situation. Instead, slowly desensitize them over time.

Remember, you’re not alone in this journey. Many dog owners have been in your shoes and have found ways to manage their dog’s chase instinct. Next up, let’s explore some products that could help. Stay tuned!
The Halti Headcollar offers a humane way to train your dog not to pull on the leash. Its unique design is aimed to control the dog’s head and thus control its direction of movement. This is especially helpful for dogs that are prone to chasing distractions.

Key Features

The collar controls the dog’s head and hence, its direction of movement.
It comes with an adjustable strap for a perfect fit.
It’s made of comfortable nylon material that is both durable and washable.
The collar is designed to be gentle on your dog, without causing choking.
The Halti Headcollar is compatible with all types of leashes.
It’s suitable for all breeds and sizes of dogs.


It provides a humane way to control your dog’s movement.
It offers comfort to your dog due to the nylon material.
The adjustable strap ensures a perfect fit for any dog size.
Its compatibility with different leash types is a plus.


Some dogs may initially resist wearing the headcollar.
It may not prevent a highly motivated dog from chasing.
Owners must be careful not to jerk the leash to avoid injuring the dog’s neck.
It requires some time and patience to train your dog to get used to it.
PetSafe Remote Spray
The PetSafe Remote Spray Trainer uses a gentle, harmless spray to interrupt your dog’s unwanted behaviors, such as chasing squirrels, rabbits, or leaves. It’s a friendly method for teaching your dog right from wrong, and it comes with a remote for convenience.

Key Features

It uses a remote control to activate the spray from a distance.
The device features three training options: tone, vibration, and spray.
It includes two spray cartridges (citronella and unscented).
The collar is waterproof and can be used in various weather conditions.
It’s suitable for dogs of any size over 8 pounds.
The collar and remote have a range of up to 300 yards.


The spray method is considered humane and not harmful to dogs.
It offers the convenience of remote operation.
The three training options give versatility in training your dog.
Its waterproof feature allows for use in all weather conditions.


Refills of spray cartridges may be needed over time.
Some dogs might not react to the spray correction.
The scent of the citronella spray might be unpleasant for some people.
A mischievous dog might associate the spray as a playful activity.
BarxBuddy Ultrasonic Dog
The BarxBuddy Ultrasonic Dog Repellent & Trainer device uses a high-frequency sound to catch your dog’s attention and stop them from unwanted behaviors. The sound is not harmful and is only audible to dogs.

Key Features

It uses ultrasonic sound to stop unwanted behaviors
The device includes a bright LED light that can be used to distract your dog from unwanted behaviors.
It’s portable and handheld, making it easy to carry on walks.
It’s suitable for all breeds and sizes of dogs.
The device operates on a single 9-volt battery.
The sound it emits is harmless to dogs and not audible to humans.


The ultrasonic sound is a non-physical method to correct behavior.
The handheld design makes it easy to use and carry.
The device can also be used as a deterrent for other dogs.
It doesn’t require any special collar or training gear.


Some dogs may not be responsive to ultrasonic sound.
Battery replacement might be frequent depending on usage.
It might not be as effective at a longer distance.
The LED light may not be enough to distract some dogs.
DogRook Rechargeable Dog Bark Control
DogRook’s Bark Control Collar is designed to deter excessive barking and other unwanted behaviors such as chasing. It uses vibrations and sounds to capture the dog’s attention, allowing for a humane and gentle approach to training.

Key Features

The collar uses vibration and sound to correct unwanted behaviors.
It is free from shocks, offering a more humane approach to training.
The sensitivity level of the collar is adjustable to match your dog’s barking and behavior.
It is made of high-quality, durable, and safe materials.
The collar is rechargeable, reducing the need for battery replacements.
It is suitable for dogs of all sizes due to the adjustable strap.


The absence of shock treatment makes it a gentler choice for dogs.
It provides a rechargeable option, saving money on battery replacement.
Adjustable sensitivity allows customization to your dog’s behavior.
High-quality materials ensure the collar’s longevity and your pet’s safety.


Some dogs may become accustomed to the vibration and continue their behavior.
It may not be effective for dogs with long or very thick fur.
Dogs that are very active may trigger the collar more frequently.
False triggers may occur from other dogs’ barks or loud noises.
The Company of Animals Clix No-Bark
The Clix No-Bark Collar by The Company of Animals is a comprehensive training tool designed to stop unwanted barking and behaviors such as chasing. It employs sound and vibrations in a way that is intended to interrupt and deter your dog’s unwanted actions.

Key Features

It uses sound and vibrations to correct undesirable behaviors.
The device is free from shocks, making it a more humane approach.
It offers an adjustable strap for a comfortable fit.
The device is suitable for both small and large dogs.
It is user-friendly, with a straightforward interface and operation.
The sensitivity is adjustable to fit your dog’s particular needs.


It provides a more compassionate training method without the use of shocks.
Its adjustable strap ensures a comfortable fit for dogs of all sizes
The user-friendly design makes it easy to use.
The adjustable sensitivity feature allows it to adapt to your dog’s specific needs.


Some dogs may not respond to sound and vibration corrections.
The collar might not be suitable for dogs with very thick fur.
There may be a risk of overcorrection if not properly adjusted.
False triggers from other noises or dogs’ barks can happen.
PetSafe Pawz Away Pet
The PetSafe Pawz Away Pet Barrier system uses static correction to train your dog to avoid specific areas. You can set it up around your garden to prevent your dog from chasing squirrels, rabbits, leaves or from going into areas you want them to avoid.

Key Features

It uses static correction to keep your dog away from certain areas.
The system includes a waterproof receiver collar and a barrier transmitter.
The range of the barrier can be adjusted up to 12 feet in diameter.
The system is expandable and additional collars and barriers can be added for more dogs or areas.
The collar is suitable for dogs over 5 pounds
The system also includes an option for progressive static correction


It helps keep your dog away from specified areas in a secure manner.
The adjustable range allows you to define the restricted areas precisely.
The system’s expandability makes it suitable for multiple dogs or larger properties.
The option for progressive static correction makes it more flexible for training.


The use of static correction may be considered inhumane by some owners.
Dogs may experience confusion initially while understanding the boundary.
It might not be as effective for particularly stubborn dogs.
The setup requires a bit of time and may be complicated for some.
PetSafe Gentle Leader
The Gentle Leader Head Collar offers an alternative to traditional collars and harnesses. It provides a humane way to control and train dogs to stop pulling on the leash, jumping up or lunging. This collar is especially helpful for dogs that are prone to chasing distractions

Key Features

The collar offers pressure on the back of the neck instead of the throat, which prevents choking.
It includes a padded nose loop for extra comfort.
It’s adjustable and suitable for dogs of all sizes.
The Gentle Leader Head Collar comes with a training guide.
It’s recommended by vets and trainers for its non-punishing design.
The head collar design helps to steer your dog and redirect his attention.


It offers a humane way to control your dog’s movement.
The collar’s design makes it difficult for dogs to remove it with their paws.
The included training guide is a helpful resource for new pet owners.
It’s recommended by professionals for its non-punishing approach.


Some dogs may initially resist wearing the head collar.
It may not prevent a highly motivated dog from chasing.
Owners must be careful not to jerk the leash to avoid injuring the dog’s neck.
It requires some time and patience to train your dog to get used to it.
Tug Patented 360° Tangle-Free, Heavy Duty Retractable Dog
The Tug Retractable Dog Leash is an excellent tool for maintaining control of your dog on walks. It features a unique, comfortable grip and a durable, tangle-free leash that allows you to manage your dog’s movements effectively.

Key Features

It offers a comfortable anti-slip handle.
The leash extends up to 16 feet, giving your dog ample room to roam.
The patented 360° tangle-free design ensures smooth leash retraction.
It features easy-adjust retraction, with buttons to adjust the leash’s length quickly.
The leash comes in different sizes for small, medium, and large dogs.
It has a quick lock and unlock feature for better control.


The anti-slip handle ensures a secure grip even in rainy conditions.
The extended leash length allows your dog to explore safely.
The tangle-free design makes it durable and user-friendly.
The quick lock and unlock feature provides a quick response time for sudden situations.


The retractable mechanism may become less effective over time.
Dogs may still be able to chase if the leash length is not appropriately managed.
The leash may snap back quickly if not handled correctly.
It can reinforce bad behaviors like pulling if not used properly.
DOG CARE Dog Training
The Dog Care Training Collar is a versatile training tool designed to help curb various types of unwanted behaviors, including excessive barking, jumping up, and chasing small animals or leaves. It features three effective training modes and adjustable levels of static stimulation to ensure a safe and efficient training experience.

Key Features

It offers three training modes: beep, vibration, and shock.
The collar has a range of up to 330 yards for remote training.
It features adjustable static levels to suit your dog’s sensitivity and weight.
It’s designed to be waterproof, making it safe to use in various weather conditions.
The system can support up to 9 dogs with one remote transmitter.
The collar features a long battery life and is also rechargeable.


The adjustable static levels ensure a level of correction suitable for your dog.
The waterproof design allows for use in all weather conditions.
The multi-dog support is ideal for households with multiple pets.
The long battery life reduces the frequency of recharge cycles.


The shock mode might be considered inhumane by some dog owners.
Some dogs may not respond to the vibration or sound modes.
The collar might not fit very small or very large dogs comfortably.
Training with this collar requires consistency and patience.


It’s important to remember that your dog’s chase instinct isn’t a bad thing. It’s a natural part of who they are. Our job, as responsible pet parents, is to help them express this instinct safely and appropriately. It might be a bumpy road, but with a dash of patience, a dollop of understanding, and a sprinkle of consistent training, you’ll be able to enjoy peaceful, chase-free walks with your furry friend. So here’s to happy, healthy walks that leave you and your dog feeling paws-actively fantastic!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why does my dog chase things?
Chasing is a natural predatory behavior in many dogs. It can be triggered by moving objects like cars, bikes, running children, or other animals.
Are certain breeds more prone to chasing?
Breeds with high prey drive like Greyhounds, Border Collies, and Terriers are more inclined to chase, but any dog can exhibit chasing behavior.
Can chasing be harmful to my dog?
Yes. Dogs that chase can run into traffic, get lost, or face aggressive animals or scared humans. They might also injure themselves or the object of their chase.
What should I do if my dog starts chasing something during walks?
If possible, redirect their attention with a command or toy. If they’re on a leash, guide them away gently but firmly. Over time, work on training commands that prevent chasing in the first place.
Why does my dog chase its tail?
Tail-chasing can be playful, but excessive chasing might indicate a health issue (like skin irritation) or even psychological distress. If it’s frequent, consulting a vet or behaviorist is a good idea.
Can other animals exhibit chasing behavior?
Absolutely. Many animals, especially predators or younger animals, might chase out of curiosity, play, or instinct. It’s crucial to understand the behavior within the context of the specific animal and situation.

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