Does Your Dog Have A Chasing “Problem”?

20 02 2009

chasing-a-catDo not tell anyone that I told you this, but chasing things is our way of playing “tag.”  What humans have yet to figure out, is that what we are chasing is running from us, because we are “IT.”  This can present a problem, because chances are, the object that we are chasing also has no idea that he or she is, in fact, running from us because we are IT.

Why do dogs chase things?  Many people have pontificated on this, most of them relating it back to a “prey drive.”  What they have all overlooked is the real truth about chasing.  The real truth is that we chase things because we can!  If it runs, we can chase it.  It could be a stick, a ball, a squirrel, or a human, because it does not matter.  My doggie grandfather, Reverend Junior Mudd (known to his family and friends as “Buster”), is a great example.  In his neighborhood, there was a cat who did not belong to anyone, but he managed to hang around the streets tormenting the dogs from yard to yard.  Every time that the cat found himself in Granddaddy Buster’s yard, he would be chased away by a great chaser.  This took place for many years until one day during the chase, the cat just stopped.  He turned around and looked at Buster as if he were saying, “What?  You dumb dog…  What do you want from me?  I am tired of running from you anytime I want to be here in this yard.”  Well, ole Buster was not expecting such a cunning action by the neighborhood cat, and he did not know what to do.  He was only chasing the cat because the cat ran.  Once the cat stopped running from him that first day, there was no longer any appeal in chasing him.  From that day on, the cat was no longer running from “IT” anymore, and Grandaddy Buster did not ever chase that cat again.

Chasing is a completely natural act to dogs.  Some of us do it for fun, and some dogs will chase things with a much more serious plan for the “prey” than trying to “tag” them in mind.  Those dogs with more sinister plans are typically breeds with a high prey drive.  You usually see sporting breeds, terriers, hounds and herding dogs, with a higher prey drive.  These breeds have the potential to kill their prey once it is caught, because it was bred into them generation after generation.  The chase and subsequent kill is like a game to them, but not nearly as fun as chasing a ball.  They will seek out their prey, chase it, catch it, bite it, kill it and eat it!  Oftentimes, people refer to this as “predatory aggression,” and it can be dangerous as some of these dogs operating in a high prey drive mode may not realize they are chasing a small child, when they think they are after a large rabbit.  Keep in mind that all dogs have a prey drive, but some of us to not take it as seriously as others.

Outside of the aforementioned groups of dogs, the rest of us do not possess the high prey drive, and we are most likely just playing a simple game of “tag.”  As you observe two dogs playing together, you may see that they chase and catch each other.  This usually leads to some wrestling and playful nipping at one another.  If you are concerned about a very active dog’s prey drive, chasing a frisbee, a tennis ball, or any other physically intense activity is a great way to work out some of that energy.

People who have just met me often tell Mom that I am probably a great partner for fetch or chasing frisbees.  They think that because I am a Retriever, that I naturally desire to do such things.  This is true for most retrievers, like my brother Tax and my younger self.  I figured out a long time ago that if I went to get the ball and brought it back, they would just throw it again.  As a younger fellow, it was fun for the first couple throws, but I feel it is now a complete waste of my time and talents.  Over the years, many fine humans have tried to motivate me to fetch, but I am proud to say that they have not succeeded since I was a puppy.  I am far too busy for such nonsense.  Someone alert the media!  I am a retriever that does not retrieve.

What can you do if your dog likes to chase things and he appears to have that high prey drive?  The first thing to ensure is that he or she is under your supervision every minute, especially when there are small humans around.  Also, you will probably need to find a trainer that can help you modify his behavior.

If he is just crazy, like Tax, and chases everything?  Tax chases everything, and I suggested to Mom that she get John Smoltz to play catch with him.  I surmised that if Tax got his teeth knocked out from a high hard fastball, he would not want to chase and fetch so much.  Mom was not too happy about it, and she said that Mr. Smoltz was too busy to play catch with a dog, and she sent me to my room.

No matter what, if your dog chases, he needs some basic training.  He needs to learn about sit, stay and leave it without question.  I would suggest that you never let your dog run loose off leash, unless you can keep him or her contained.  Dogs can be unpredictable and that prey drive can switch on at anytime, even if you have never had a problem before.

If you are having a real problem with your dog chasing and you are concerned that they are a dog with a high prey drive, you need to do everything in your power not encourage it.  Do not let your dog amuse you by chasing something.  This is a behavior that you should never encourage among dogs with a high prey drive.

Also, remember that leashes are made for a reason and most areas have leash laws in effect for a reason.



5 responses

21 02 2009
Karina A.

Spike, thank you so much for finally opening up to us in 2009 and letting us know so much about you. Didn’t know you were a Retriever that doesn’t retrieve! Don’t worry, we have a cat that doesn’t chase so I guess you two will have a blast just sitting around at the park and watching others go wild after a stick!

22 02 2009

Jesse loves chasing, my neighbors have LOTS of cats & some just won’t run from him so he just gives them a nose to nose rub and looks for something else to chase.

22 02 2009

I bet it burns up a lot of pent up energy. It sure does for Tax.

22 02 2009

I am perfectly happy to watch others wear themselves out on something silly, like a ball or stick. I can also be found watching Animal Planet, when I am not writing.

22 03 2009

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