By instinct, dogs are predatory animals. In fact, many breeds have been bred for their ability to chase and hunt prey animals. Dogs generally consider any animal that runs away to be prey, unfortunately this can include animals such as cats, sheep, horses, rabbits and possibly other smaller dogs. When dogs catch up with prey, they soon learn to bite first, to avoid being bitten themselves.
Preventing this is often one of the greatest challenges of raising a new dog and indeed some of the best trained dogs have an uncanny ability to ‘switch off’ to any training commands once engaged in a full-flight chase. The following hints and tips will help minimise your dog’s opportunity to develop significant chase instincts:
- Lots of chase games condition your dog to focus their chase instinct on toys.
- Always leash your dog when walking through fields of livestock.
- Don’t allow your dog to stray too far when out on walks.
- Never leave your dog alone with other small pets such as rabbits and hamsters.
- Train your dog the chase recall (see below).
Since it is very difficult to completely remove a dog’s chase instinct, there will be times when you will need to be able to recall your dog back, should it start chasing another animal. In many senses this is one of the more important commands to teach your dog as such chases can have significant dangers for both animals involved.
Teaching the chase recall is about teaching your dog to stop the current chase, because it thinks an even more exciting thing is about to happen. Training this requires two people and two of your dog’s favourite chase toys. One person holds the dog and throws one of the toys past the other person (standing about 5 metres away).
At random intervals (every 3rd or 4th throw) the other person should catch the toy, hide it out of sight and, as the dog starts to chase, command it to LEAVE. When your dog realises the toy has disappeared, it will look back at you. As it does this, introduce the other toy (the most favourite one) and throw it in the opposite direction and make this chase even more exciting by running with your dog as well.
In effect what we are teaching your dog is that when, during a chase, they hear the word LEAVE, they stop immediately, because an even more exiting chase is about to be offered.
When using the chase recall in real situations, make sure you really fuss over your dog to reinforce the fact that it was worth its while to stop the chase.
Many people find a training whistle useful for chase recall. Alternatively, try a Dog Stop Alarm. These emit a high-pitched sound that dogs are particularly sensitive to and which can be heard over a longer distance than verbal commands