Many dogs like to chase really fast-moving things, including people on bicycles, tricycles, recumbents, inline skates, toboggans and skateboards. Some dogs are excited by the movement of these human-powered vehicles (HPVs), while others are more reactive to skateboards and inline skates because of the sound of the small wheels. This is a very dangerous pastime because dogs can usually move faster than HPVs. Once they catch up to a person on wheels, dogs often nip and bite at the rider of the HPV or interfere with the HPV itself, causing the person to crash. This can obviously result in people getting hurt—but dogs can also be injured if they get hit by a fast-moving HPV during the chase.
Even leashed dogs who are attracted to fast-moving things can pose a problem. Leashed dogs can become highly excited and growl, bark and lunge at riders going by on their HPVs. Even though restrained on a leash, a lunging dog can still knock down and injure an HPV rider or injure her owner when she lunges.
When you’re walking your dog, if she shows any interest in the movement of HPVs, teach her to associate them with good things that come from you. As soon as you see your dog looking at a bike or a person on inline skates, for example, call her name, praise her and give her delicious treats when she turns toward you. If your dog doesn’t pay attention when you say her name, wiggle a treat right in front of her nose and lure her head around toward you. When she looks at you, give her the treat. Continue to do this each and every time an HPV passes by until your dog automatically looks at you in anticipation of treats whenever she sees one.
If your dog chases HPVs that pass by your fenced yard, she might or might not chase them if she were loose. If there is virtually no chance that she can get out of the yard, this is a relatively safe form of exercise for an understimulated dog (one who is bored and underexercised). If you prefer that your dog doesn’t chase HPVs along the fence line, you need to interrupt her whenever she starts the behavior by calling her name, clapping sharply, if necessary, and telling her “No!” Then bring her inside the house. To prevent the behavior from happening again, you can put up a stockade-style privacy fence or attach tarps to your existing fence so your dog can’t see and get overexcited by passing traffic. You should also avoid leaving your dog alone in the yard. It’s never a good idea to leave a dog unsupervised outside for longer than 15 to 20 minutes—even if she’s in a fenced area. In addition to discouraging and preventing your dog’s chasing behavior, it’s important to give her plenty of acceptable things to do. Provide daily exercise and enrichment for your dog so that she’s less motivated to chase HPVs out of pure boredom and excess energy. Please see our articles, Exercise for Dogs and Enriching Your Dog’s Life, for lots of great ways to give your dog the mental and physical stimulation she needs.
What to Do About the Problem
- Keep your dog confined in a secure kennel or fenced yard so that she can’t chase HPVs passing by on the road.
- If you walk your dog off leash, do so in places where she can’t see or access roads, sidewalks or bike trails. Avoid skateboarding areas at the local park.
- Some dogs lose interest in chasing HPVs if they become accustomed to seeing their pet parents riding HPVs. For instance, if your dog is excited by moving bicycles, spend a bit of time every day—or as many times a week as you can—riding a bike in circles while a helper holds your dog on a leash. Allow your dog to approach you. Talk to her so that she recognizes it’s you. Continue doing this until she loses interest in you on the bike. This may or may not carry over to seeing others on bikes. If your dog exhibits any aggressive behavior toward you or your helper, stop immediately and contact an experienced Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) or certified behaviorist for assistance. Please see our article, Finding Professional Help, to locate one of these qualified experts in your area.
- Teach your dog a really reliable recall so that you can call her whenever you need to. Please see our article, Teaching Your Dog to Come When Called, for detailed information about how to accomplish this. To be successful, you’ll need to start your dog’s training away from traffic areas so that she can focus on learning without being overly excited and distracted. Only when your dog is extremely reliable at coming when called should you “test” her around HPV traffic. Even then, you should do so with your dog on a long line (a 15- to 40-foot training leash) in case she decides to go after an HPV. It’s nearly impossible to call a dog off once she’s in pursuit of an HPV. Be prepared to devote a substantial amount of training time and effort to making your dog’s recall reliable. Even then, please realize that your dog will still be motivated to chase HPVs. It will be your responsibility to detect potentially problematic situations early enough to call your dog before she takes off. Don’t hesitate to find a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) in your area for help with this training.
- As a last resort, you can teach your dog to associate chasing HPVs with an unpleasant, punishing experience, such as an obnoxious noise, repulsive spray scent or something painful. To ensure that you and your dog benefit from humane and effective training procedures, it’s imperative that you work with an experienced Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT), a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or Associate CAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB). (Please see our article, Finding Professional Help, to locate one of these qualified professionals in your area.) The behaviorist or trainer must work with your dog over many sessions, in a variety of circumstances, with many different HPVs for the procedure to work. Some dogs are so excited by the anticipation of a chase that even associating HPVs with very strong or painful punishment won’t deter them. This is why it’s crucial to work with an experienced professional. She or he can determine in the first few sessions if this kind of procedure is likely to work for your dog. This may be your only viable option to safeguard your dog if she’s an escape artist and frequently manages to get out of her yard or kennel.
What NOT to Do
- Do not purposely expose your dog to moving HPVs and physically beat her. This is inhumane and highly unlikely to deter your dog. At best, she might refrain from chasing runners when you’re nearby, but she won’t learn not do to it when you’re not around. At worst, you could injure your dog, damage her trust in you and cause further behavior problems, such as fear and aggression.
- Do not purposely let your dog to take off after an HPV and then allow her to hit the end of a leash or long line at a dead run. This could cause severe damage to her neck and vertebrae.
- Do not attempt to frighten your dog and discourage her from chasing HPVs by intentionally “bumping” her with one. You could end up seriously injuring yourself or your dog.