Veterinarian-written / veterinarian-approved articles for your dog.

Why Do Dogs Chase Cars (and Vacuums)?

Why do dogs chase cars and vacuums?

We've all seen a dog that barks at, chases, and pounces on the vacuum cleaner when it's running. We've probably all had our heart skip a beat when a dog comes darting toward our car out of nowhere, chasing us down the street.

Neither seems like a particularly great past-time to us humans, so why do some dogs engage in these behaviors?

Why Do Dogs Chase Cars?

Many dogs chase cars because they are predators at heart, and chasing things is part of their DNA. Wild dogs often need to chase their prey for quite a while before catching it.

Members of herding breeds might chase cars because their instincts kick in and they feel the need to herd the big, loud thing to a certain area.

Some dogs like to chase cars as a game. These dogs might be bored or extra energetic.

Dogs that chase inappropriately, whether it's cars, kids, small animals, or bikes can easily be injured, killed, or injure or kill another living being.

It's important to evaluate your dog's behavior objectively. If he shows signs of aggressive stalking or chasing, in which his demeanor is quite serious, eyes focused sharply, ears up, and tail held still, he may be a danger to kids and small animals. You should talk with your veterinarian or a dog behavior specialist as well as always keep him on a leash and under control.

How to Stop Your Dog from Chasing

Be sure you're giving your dog plenty of outlets for his chase drive. That means lots of fetch, other exercise and play, agility training, and potentially getting your herding dog into organized herding dog trials.

Learn why dogs chase cars and vacuums.

When you have a puppy, take extra care to provide chasing outlets and correct inappropriate chasing behavior, even if it seems cute at the time that your tiny puppy is chasing your big cat.

Work on your basic obedience training all the time, whether you have a puppy or an older dog. The more your dog is trained to obey specific commands from you, the less he will engage in inappropriate behaviors like chasing.

Why Do Some Dogs Chase Vacuum Cleaners?

Some of the reasons dogs chase vacuums are similar to why they chase cars, and some are a bit different.

Dogs may be afraid of the noise of the vacuum, and this may cause them to either run and hide or attack out of an idea that a good offense is the best defense.

Herding dogs may feel the need to try and control the vacuum.

Teach your dog to tolerate the vacuum through desensitization treatment.

  • First, put your dog on a leash.
  • Then, have someone else turn the vacuum on in a different room.
  • Ask your dog to sit, and give him a treat when he does so.
  • Always reward your dog for calm behavior and ignore it if he starts to get worked up. If your dog isn't acting calm, try moving the vacuum further away or running it for a shorter time until you're able to have him sit calmly.
  • Gradually move the vacuum closer to your dog, always rewarding for positive, calm behavior.
  • Spend 5-10 minutes per session working on this with your dog, and always try to end on a successful note for your dog.

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