Why Do Dogs Love Chasing Cars? — and How to Stop It

Dogs are peculiar animals — and one of the most unusual behaviors of dogs is chasing cars. It’s puzzling and amusing to see a dog run after a car, for it’s not like they could outrun it. Also, if they caught up with a car, what would a dog actually do? Let’s take a closer look to find out why dogs love chasing cars, and ways to stop this potentially dangerous behavior.

Why do dogs run after cars?

Dogs chasing after a police car, highlighting why dogs chase after cars and how to stop it
Dogs chasing a car | Martin Bernetti/AFP via Getty Images

The primary reason why dogs chase after cars is instinct. Like all animals, dogs are driven by instinct, and one of the most powerful instincts for a dog is to chase prey. Dogs often perceive cars as prey that they can hunt and capture. When seeing a noisy car quickly moving along, their instinct is to run after and catch this four-wheeled monstrosity. It doesn’t matter if a dog never actually catches a car, for the natural instinct of chasing their prey overpowers everything else.

Dogs don’t limit their vehicle chasing to cars, trucks, SUVs, and buses, though. They also run after other wheeled vehicles, such as bicycles, motorcycles, and scooters. Some dogs also chase after people on skateboards, rollerblades, and wheelchairs.

Furthermore, another element of the car-chasing behavior of dogs is habit. Once a dog experiences the thrill of running after a car, they just can’t stop doing it. They can’t break the habit.

Do some breeds of dogs chase cars more than others?

Dog standing near a compact car, highlightly why dogs chase after cars and how to stop it
Dog near a car | Osher Mizrahi via Unsplash

Since it’s a natural instinct, all breeds of dogs can chase after a car and other types of wheeled transportation. However, some dog breeds chase cars more than others. This includes Sighthounds, such as Afghan Hounds and Whippets, as well as Herding Group breeds, such as German Shepherds and Border Collies.

A dog running after a car is dangerous

While it’s funny to see a dog run after a car, this is dangerous behavior. If your dog continues to chase a car and runs out into the street, they could get hit. As a result, your dog could get seriously injured or killed. Also, it’s best to curtail this behavior, especially when it’s accompanied by aggressiveness. If an aggressive dog catches up to someone on a bicycle or roller blades, they could potentially attack them.

How to stop a dog from chasing after cars

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Fortunately, you can train your dog to stop running after cars and other forms of wheeled transportation, as detailed by Hill’s Pet. For some dogs, though, this training might be challenging, especially if the desire and habit to chase are very ingrained in their behavior. However, the training is worth the effort.

Here are some training tips to stop your dog from chasing after cars:

  • Train your dog not to chase before the impulse starts. It will be much more difficult to stop the chasing behavior when it’s happening. Your dog will be more likely to perceive it as playing, and it might prolong the chase.
  • When training, keep your dog close to you on a leash.
  • Train your dog to “stay” on command. 
  • Keep your dog’s favorite treats on hand, and reward them with a treat to reinforce positive behavior. Verbal praise is an effective tool for positive reinforcement as well. 
  • For a toy-motivated dog, you can reward them with their favorite toy. The key is to present your dog with something that’s more exciting than chasing a car. 
  • Anytime your dog goes outside, even for a short bathroom break, offers the opportunity for training.
  • Once your dog understands the “stay” command, you can introduce them to scenarios that challenge their “impulse control.” Examples include having a family member or friend slowly back a car out of a driveway or having someone ride by on a bicycle — while your dog stays seated or lying down. When your dog stays near you and avoids distractions, reward them with treats, verbal praise, or their favorite toy. 
Dog sitting in front of a Toyota, highlightly why dogs chase after cars and how to stop it
Dog in front of a car | Erik McLean via Unsplash

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Is your dog resistant to training? If so, then you might want to consider working with a professional dog trainer to achieve the best possible results.

Dogs love to chase after cars because of their natural instinct to chase and catch prey. While this instinct will always be there, a dog can be trained to stop the potentially dangerous car-chasing behavior.

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