Monday, June 18, 2012
There you are out for a nice walk with your dog when you spot a car, planting your feet firmly in the dirt you brace yourself for impact. Sound familiar? All too familiar for many people dealing with car chasers. I see car chasing dogs often; just the other day while driving home from the park a man was struggling with his dog who was trying to chase a car. The dog was obviously part border collie, I'm not saying that all car chasers are border collies but they definitely are up there in the most commonly seen breeds.
Any dog can become a car chaser and if you have lived or live with one now it sucks big time. You cannot go for a nice walk down the street, you may feel humiliated by your dog and you most definitely can lose complete control of your dog. So what are you to do if you have one or suspect that you might have one on your hands. First and foremost nipping it in the bud is the best tactic. Stop it before it starts. If you have a high drive dog, get it out around cars, go for lots and lots of walks around them. Create a "we don't care about cars" aura.
If you have a full fledged chaser who has a solid history of chasing then you need to step back, away from the road. You need to go far enough away that you can have a clear headed dog who has not yet been triggered. Switch it up; change what you typically do. Work on some obedience, play tug games or have a little visit with another dog and their owner. What you need to get is control, anytime your dog glances at the car mark it with an error word or sound. My "wrong" sound is just a low and quick MM sound or AHHH. Not long, short and intense with impact. Treat with whatever your dog considers a reward when your dog looks back at you instead of the traffic.
The big secret to conquering a chaser is to do it in baby steps. If you get too close too fast you will fail. You want to set your dog up for success, give them small rations that they can handle. Working on your own behavior is another big part of stopping a chaser. You have to remain calm. So if that means getting a new collar or harness so that you have the confidence that your dog will not slip out then do it. When you react to your dogs reaction to cars in an agitated state you actually fuel their behavior. It can also cause redirected aggression which is when the dog becomes so frustrated that they turn around and bite the hand that holds the leash, or leg or whatever they can sink their teeth into. Yanking and screaming can cause this.
You also must tell yourself that "you can do it." Oh yes you can, you are the human and you can control the situation. If you truly feel like you cannot and become too flustered then hire a professional to get you through the first steps. But make sure that it is a positive trainer who will use positive association, not yanking and yelling.
Depending on how severe your dogs trigger is and how long they have been doing the behavior will factor in on how long it will take to stop. It may be a long road but it can turn around. Stopping a fully agitated dog partaking in a chase is nearly impossible. But, if you know what to look for you can stop it before it happens. When you are working to rid your dog of the chase response you must first get distance, get control of your own emotions, work on baby steps and never go too close or ask too much. It is always better to have little tiny baby steps of success than huge failures back to back.
You can do this.
Posted by Sherri at 8:44 AM