Our expert says:
Dog Behaviour Expert
Hi Patti, this is not always an easy one to solve as chasing behavior is part of the inherited predatory hunting sequence and a dog is genetically ‘hard wired’ to catch prey in order to survive. What also makes this so difficult to change is that it is self rewarding to the dog and therefore reinforces the behavior each and every time the dog engages in the activity. They enjoy this pastime so much that once the chase has started the owner can very seldom recall them. It’s not that the dog doesn’t listen, rather it is experiencing such a ‘high’ that it just doesn’t hear the owner. This is why prevention is so very important with chasing behavior, you need to get and divert the dogs attention before they become fixated on the rabbit/car etc.
The easiest and simplest method to control this behavior is to manage it. If out on a walk, keep the dog on a long lead. If the rabbits are coming in your yard, restrict them as much as possible by digging a deep trench along your fencing and placing wire there. Even this sometimes does not do the trick to keep them out. Another alternative is when you are not home to supervise- keep the dog in an enclosed area so that he cannot get to the rabbits.
At the same time you need to stimulate your dogs prey drive, but with ‘legal’ objects. Start playing frequent games of catch and bringing back, as often as you can, for short periods of time. Your dog will sorely miss the chase and this will give him an opportunity of being able to engage in this, but using a ball, Frisbee etc, rather than live prey. Keep this particular toy ‘only’ for these games, don’t leave this object lying around, it is only to be used for this game. This will make the object more sedirable to the dog, plus, he gets your company at the same time. This is not an overnight thing, it will take a lot of practice and even when the dog is not chasing anymore, you need to keep on practicing this exercise. I would even consider giving this game a specific name, such as ‘frisbees’/ballies’ etc and use it each and every time you play, repeating often. This will serve as an additional distraction if the dog does spot a rabbit – you call, Frisbee, frisbee a few times in a high pitched voice and the dog will realease that both a game and time with its person is about to be forthcoming.
Additionally I would teach an excellent ‘sit and stay’ as well as a really good recall. Good luck, hope this helps, but make sure you really put in a lot of practice in order to be successful. Thanks Scotty
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