Q. My dog feels anxious when runners or bikers pass by when we are out on a walk. He lunges and makes an effort to follow them. Can you help? What should I do?
A. The “chase” phase of the predatory sequence is what causes dogs to instinctively desire to pursue an object that is running away from them at a high rate of speed. While most dogs can control their need to chase, which only manifests during play, other dogs have a strong tendency to chase anything moving, with bikers and joggers being their preferred prey. There are strategies to divert your pooch’s pursuit behavior to suitable outlets if he has never attacked anybody and is generally calm while on a walk.
It’s critical to redirect your dog’s impulse to chase, as doing so might have adverse effects, especially if he ever manages to escape his leash. While most poochs would retreat as soon as they got up to the runner or cyclist, some would nip or even take down the runner or cyclist in full force. Also, the pursuing biker or runner may kick or harm your pooch in self-defense because they are unsure whether your pooch is friendly or dangerous. Stopping the chasing behavior protects your dog and the other drivers on the road safe.
Always use a strong leash that is a certain length to restrain chasing poochs; never use a retractable leash or lengthy line. Head halters are useful for diverting your dog’s focus away from the moving object. A front-clip harness is an option for dogs with flatter faces.
The problem is significantly more severe if your dog has a history of biting humans or exhibits aggressive or predatory behavior. For advice on approaching this scenario, speak with a veterinary behaviorist or a licensed dog trainer.
Train Your Dog to Sit and Turn
Teach your pooch to turn and sit, which involves turning his body to face the pet parent and sitting down. This is the most straightforward approach to stopping your dog from chasing. Call your pooch’s name when you are in a quiet area. Reward him as soon as he turns to face you. Then take a few steps forward, call his name once more, and reward him as soon as he turns to face you. When his name is mentioned, you can instruct your pooch to turn around and face you while sitting. The pooch will eventually turn and sit on command if you call his name and tell him to do it enough times. As long as you don’t say “release,” keep treating him while he sits. To make the turn and sit a habitual activity, practice it in various settings, including the house, the front yard, the backyard, and while getting out of the automobile.
Remember that you will need to reward your dog more frequently when he is in the seat with distractions nearby, potentially every few seconds at first. If he can’t settle down to concentrate on you, put more space between you and the cyclist or jogger, or ask them to slow down.
Have the runner or bike alternate between getting closer and picking up pace, being careful only to vary one factor at a time, as long as your dog is calm. You may start practicing in different settings and with additional people after your pet regularly turns and sits when he notices someone running or riding. Your dog should begin to internalize the notion that seeing a runner or bike signals a turn toward you and a comfortable sitting position that lasts until release.
If your dog is calm, gently approach the route or road until you can walk beside the bikers and runners. Once the runner or cyclist has gone, ask your pooch to turn and sit and give him a treat or a little game of fetch as a reward.
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