A Tail of Woe: The Dangers of My Dog Chasing My Car When I Leave

dog chases my car when I leave

Do you know that 1.2 million dogs are hit by cars every year in the United States alone? To me, that is one dog too many.

If your dog has a habit of chasing your car or cars in general, you need to do something about it before it is too late. I personally know of dog owners that witnessed their own dogs being hit and killed by a car due to the dog’s car chasing habit.

This is something that no dog owner should have to experience and one regret that will last a lifetime.

In this article, we will be looking at the reasons that cause some dogs to be so into chasing cars and what you as a concerned dog owner can do about it.

Why Does Your Dog Chase Your Car?

dog running

There is something that I do every time before I drive off from my home. I will check underneath my car for any sleeping stray cats and ensure that my dog is locked indoors.

Cats are quick enough to get out of the way when I start the car. But to my dog, the engine sound used to signal playtime in his mind.

Thankfully, this car chasing behavior was more frequent when he was a puppy but I still try to be on top of it.

Here are a couple of reasons that are causing your dog to chase your car.

Dogs Love A Good Chase

Many dogs just love a good chase. It is within your dog’s natural instinct to chase a moving object. This chasing energy makes a dog so much fun and interactive. Try playing fetch with a cat and you’ll get what I mean.

The only one doing the fetch would be you.

Your dog’s natural instinct to chase comes from its prey drive and its origins. Our dogs are direct descendants of the wolf. And when it comes to chasing, not many animals can do it better than a wolf. Some countries even have Greyhound racetracks where people can come and bet on the winning dog.

Wolves are known to spend days just chasing down prey till it gets too tired to run any longer. This is when the pack of wolves will go in for the kill.

On top of a dog’s evolutionary past, the strong prey drive of a dog can also fuel its desire to chase.

The prey drive is your dog’s natural ability to hunt, chase and capture prey. You might not see your dog as a natural-born hunter but your pooch is capable of chasing down live prey, capturing, killing and eating it on the spot.

Prey drive is especially strong in dog breeds that are bred for hunting, herding and guarding. It is this strong prey drive that allows these dog breeds to be so good in what they do.

Your Dog Might Have Separation Anxiety

sad dog

If you have a dog that just won’t leave you alone and doesn’t like being alone, there’s a chance that your dog is chasing after you and not your car.

There’s still no conclusive evidence as to why some dogs develop separation anxiety. It can be due to a simple reason or a combination of reasons.

The most common causes are:

  • Change in your dog’s schedule
  • Change in your dog’s environment
  • A new addition to the family (human or animal)
  • Being abandoned before

A dog with separation anxiety might start to get agitated when it knows that the owner is about to leave home. The poor dog starts to build up a lot of anxious and fearful energy while the owner gets ready.

Other separation anxiety symptoms include:

  • Excessive barking
  • Excessive drooling
  • Destructive behavior at home
  • Peeing and pooping indoors

The dog will start looking around frantically when it can’t find the owner. The starting of the car engine is the trigger that sends the dog’s separation anxiety into overdrive which makes it lose self-control and chase after the owner’s car.

Your Dog Is Reactive

If you have a dog that is reactive, it will always be sensitive to stimuli in the environment. These stimuli are known as triggers and can cause your dog to react by:

  • Barking
  • Whining
  • Growling
  • Biting
  • Digging
  • Chasing

Dogs that are reactive do it out of frustration and fear. This behavior can be made worse if the dog is leased or kept behind a barrier.

The dog is trying its darkest to investigate the trigger by trying but is not able to. Hence there is so much build-up energy that can cause the dog to just make a desperate dash towards it.

How Do I Get My Dog To Stop Chasing My Car?

Even though your car chasing dog might only have the hots for your car, it might only be a matter of time before it expands its repertoire to other cars as well.

You need to nip this behavior in the bud the moment your dog starts showing an interest in chasing not just cars but anything on wheels such as bicycles, strangers on roller blades, etc.

Keep Your Dog Indoors

If your dog has the habit of only chasing after your car, then the best way to prevent it from happening is to keep your dog inside the house. Most dogs, especially puppies which can be a nightmare, will try to follow their owners’ cars out of the driveway.

Without a chance to get out, your dog can make a break for it when you start to drive off.

You need to make sure that there’s no other way for your dog to escape as a desperate dog who is reactive or has severe separation anxiety will try hard to get out of the house and make a beeline for your car.

Stop Driving Your Car

In the event that your dog manages to get out, do not continue to drive and accelerate even harder to pull away.

Your dog’s behavior becomes conditioned by the car’s movement. The act of chasing your car is a self-rewarding behavior.

When the dog begins to chase your car as you leave. That behavior is then reinforced by the car itself driving away. To your dog, it is satisfying its prey instinct by chasing after something that moves.

Seeing the car move further away as it gives chase gives the dog satisfaction that it has done a good job in making that ‘thing’ go away.

Keep Your Dog Leashed

dog on leash

To prevent your dog from chasing cars in general, you need to have it on a leash whenever you are out. This is to prevent your dog from breaking free and getting into trouble when it’s off-leash.

By keeping your dog on a leash, you are able to teach your dog impulse control. Whenever you feel that your dog is about to start chasing cars, give the leash a tug to distract your dog and say “Leave it”.

This will let your dog know that you don’t like its attention wandering and it should be on you at all times.

Allow me to rant about something which has been happening rather often.

I’m perplexed as to why so many dog owners think walking their dogs on a leash is a form of punishment. As long as you aren’t choking your dog with a very short collar and there’s room for it to move and explore stuff, a leash is a great way to protect your dog and the public in case your dog goes bonkers.

The usual reply I get is that the dog is very well-trained and will never misbehave.

As much as we love our dogs, they are animals first and they operate on instincts. There’s no 100% way of predicting how your dog will react in any given scenario.

Ok, rant off.

See A Pet Behaviorist Or A Dog Trainer

A pet behaviorist will come in handy if you have a dog that suffers from separation anxiety. It can be difficult for you to try and ascertain what is causing it without proper knowledge.

The pet behaviorist will be able to drill down on the possible causes and come up with a training plan for your dog to manage the symptoms. Anti-anxiety medication might also be given to dogs with severe separation anxiety.

For dog owners who might not have the time to properly train their dogs to not chase cars, hiring a professional dog trainer can definitely help to correct their behaviors.

A dog trainer is able to properly assess your dog and show you what needs to be done to keep your dog safe and sound.

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