The problem with a dog attacking or chasing a bicycle or a car is one of the most common problems.
More often, we only deal with attacking other dogs. As is usual with dog training, there are several
reasons for this type of behaviour, as well as there are several ways to solve this problem. Below I
will describe what can cause such behaviour and one of the ways to solve it. As it usually happens on this blog, there will be a comprehensive introduction so that you do not try to perform exercises when your dog simply cannot do them yet. This way you will avoid frustration, upset and discouragement. You will definitely need time, a good place to train and two exercises to teach your dog not to attack or chase a bicycle or a car (but also runners, motorbikes and other moving objects).
To train your dog effectively, you need two simple exercises. If you don’t know the importance of choosing the right place for the training, read Where to train with your dog. The first exercise is nothing else than classical conditioning, the second is also conditioning but instrumental. You don’t really need naming. Just remember to start with the first exercise and after you consolidate it, move on to the second one. It is worth spending a few days on each exercise. Exercise a few times a day in short series of several repetitions. You will achieve great results when you let your dog sleep during breaks.
Exercise number 1 – The reward marker
With the reward marker you will make it clear to your dog that what he is doing is OK. The whole exercise is that you combine the word “yes” with something pleasant, food in this case. Therefore, it is worth doing the exercise when hungry and do not use the dog’s daily food for this purpose. Use something special for the dog. It can be dog’s favourite treat, a bit of cheese or sausages (really small pieces). The dog does not need to eat, it just has to associate the fact of hearing the word “yes” with the fact that in a moment it will get something fragrant and delicious that they like.
It is important that the word is said in the same way always and everywhere. Without unnecessary excitement, not to get the dog over exited. You can use a clicker instead of the word yes.
Version with saying “yes”
Stand in front of or next to the dog. In the first stage, you can have a treat hidden in your hand. Do not give any commands to the dog. Don’t ask for anything. Just say yes and give your dog a treat immediately. You can repeat this exercise 3-4 times and take a break. Next time, keep your hands and the treat in your pocket. Same here, without any previous commands, say “yes” and extend your hand with the treat. Again 3-4 repetitions. The next stage will be keeping the treats in your pocket and taking them out after each word “yes”, here the dog has to wait a little longer for the prize, thus his satisfaction will be greater. Now you can mix the ways of giving the treat.
- If your dog is for some reason afraid when you reach out to him or lean forward, throw the treat on the ground near the dog.
- Every time you say “yes” give a treat; always, even if you make a mistake and say “yes” and the dog did something not quite as intended
The clicker version
The clicker version is covered and shown in this video in the first two minutes. You can also see how to use the clicker in other exercises:
- A click always means “treat”, even if done by mistake or incorrectly.
Once you have the word yes conditioned, you can proceed to the next exercise. Remember to come back to this exercise from time to time and remind your dog what the click or the word “yes” means. Exercise number 2 Pressure, pressure relief, or how to get the dog’s attention.
For this exercise, you also need a quiet place (at the beginning), a collar and a light leash. Walk with the dog on a leash, and when the dog becomes interested in something, say the dog’s name and say “to me” in a calm tone. As soon as the dog turns its head – say “yes” (or click) and pull out the treat. Most likely, the dog will not pay attention to you in the first attempt. Then, tighten the leash gently, helping the dog to turn to face you. As soon as he turns his head, you say yes (or click) and give him the reward. In subsequent training sessions, choose more and more difficult places: street, park, other dogs, cars nearby, etc.
Remember not to jerk the dog or raise your voice!
This is essential for a successful learning experience. The dog should associate the fact that the leash
is tight in the presence of a stressor with you. You are someone who has something good for the dog
and the dog just needs to turn around.
- the dog will react to the call without tension on the leash – then change the place to a more difficult one
- the dog does not turn his head, he is staring and contact with him is difficult. Don’t yell, yank, “tap” the leash, or touch the dog. Walk away with your dog and start exercising in a less distracting place
How to unlearn chasing a car or a bicycle
If you have already worked out the above two exercises, you can move on to the next stage. Remember that one of the most important elements of the exercise is you. Keep calm, do not jerk, do not shout, but also breathe calmly and relax. Don’t let your dog know that something is about to happen. Loose leash. Do not shorten the leash when in the distance you see a bicycle, car, runner or anything else that your dog may chase or attack.
Take care of the dog’s safety
Safety is extremely important in the entire learning process. Make sure you have a good place to exercise. The collar and leash are very important. Find out which collars we recommend here: Which collar for your dog? You must be 100% sure that the collar will not come off and that the dog will not free itself from it. You also need to be sure that you can hold on to your dog. If you do not know if you will be able to hold a strong dog, put on an additional harness and attach a strong, longer line to something to create an additional protection.
The dog attacks/chases bikes, cars, etc. Step by step learning.
You can’t really unlearn a dog anything. Once learned behaviour stays with the dog forever. The whole art of getting along with the dog comes down to making the dog choose what to do in a given situation and that the choice is acceptable for us. It is important to understand how your dog works, what drives it and what benefits the dog gets.
Two things may be forcing a dog to chase a car, bike or runner, one of which is fear. The mechanism here is simple. The object approaches, the dog attacks, the object moves away and the dog is relieved that the damn thing is no longer a threat to him. The second reason is the natural behaviour of the dog and the desire to chase, catch. The dog is just coded to do that. He inherited this behaviour from his ancestors and when he presents such behaviour, he simply feels satisfied.
How to distinguish what is driving the dog? In the first case, when the dog sees a stressor, he becomes anxious (faster breathing, nervous movements), he will observe the object but will not stare at it. He will lie down less often. He will also not chase the subject. In the second case, you can observe that the dog winds up going to a place where it knows there are cars or cyclists, snooping around and looking for something to chase. When he sees it, he may stick to the ground or freeze in motion. He will also often pay attention to the car or cyclist that is standing. He will be waiting for movement to set off in pursuit.
The dog is afraid of cyclists (cars, runners).
In this case, learning comes down to showing the dog that a car or a cyclist are nothing to be frightened of. However, it is not enough to take your dog somewhere close to the bike path and talk to him. This process should be broken down into individual steps and training days. The dog will do better and worse during training. Sometimes you see progress and in a couple of days everything returns to the starting point and so it can get better again. It’s normal. Stay calm. Go back to the previous step in training or increase the distance from the stimuli. If you are losing patience, stop the training. If you are upset or stressed, the dog will sense it. The dog will connect the car with his own stress and multiply it by the level of your stress and dissatisfaction. Instead of a caring guardian, the dog will have two sources of stress.
The entire learning process is perfectly shown in the video below. The movie is 5 minutes long, but don’t think that this is enough. Several stages are shown in the video. It is worth doing them in exactly the same order when practicing. In the event of unwanted behaviour from the dog, it is better to go back to the previous step instead waiting for the right behaviour to happen.
Stage I conditioning
At this stage, the dog gets a treat when it looks at the car. The reward should come as a surprise, so it’s worth hiding treats in different pockets. Don’t reward your dog for looking at you while the car is driving by. Only when the dog looks at the car does he receive the award. You teach (or basically condition) the dog that the appearance of a stressor is not a bad thing, on the contrary, it is an indication of something pleasant. If the dog cannot withstand the pressure, move away from the road. If the dog is making progress, reduce the distance. Remember that you are not rewarding the dog’s behaviour here. You only combine two things – that the appearance of the car equals the treat.
Desensitization and counter-conditioning
The concept of desensitization means that you expose your dog to a stimulus (bicycle, car, runner, etc.) so that the dog gets used to it, but you do it gradually from a greater distance to a shorter distance. At the same time, you use counter conditioning, that is, you give the dog a treat.
At this stage, the dog gets something tasty in the presence of the stressor. When the stressor disappears, the food disappears. And the other way round, the stressor appears and so does food.
In this stage, you reward the dog for behaviour. So, it is not the very appearance of the stressor that causes the treat to be drawn out, but the dog’s conscious gaze in your direction. In this way, you teach your dog to make a decision and that there is a reward for choosing you.
At this stage, the two exercises described above come in handy. The clicker (yes word) and pressure on a leash are those that will help the dog choose (the dog does not require it in the movie).
Focus on the owner
At this stage, when the dog knows that the car is okay, you can start teaching your dog some simple commands or focusing attention on you (looking at you for a long time). Such learning will allow the dog to gain self-confidence even more and the dog does not have time to think about what to do because he knows that you expect something from him, and correct performance will be rewarded.
In the last stage, learning to walk alongside the leg in the presence of stressors is shown. Leave this stage for the end when the dog is really well acquainted with the stressors. This will make your daily walks with your dog easier.
Does the dog hunt(lunging,caches) cars, cyclists or runners?
When the dog’s behaviour is driven by its instincts, the matter is more complicated. Here, the first thing you need to do is to make the dog believes that you are the one who sets the rules, tells what and when do or not to do, even when something as wonderful as a cyclist appears in view.
Here you must start the exercises with obedience. On our blog you will find several articles on this topic. First, read the texts How to teach a dog to obey, How to teach a dog to focus on a guide?
A loose leash – one of the methods of teaching walking on a short leash.
In the next stage, when you are sure that the dog can perform the exercises, e.g. at home or in the garden, go to more demanding places and try to encourage the dog to look at you. This is where the exercises described in the introduction come in handy. Once you have mastered them, you can proceed to the stages described above. Except do not allow your dog to cling to the ground, staring and aiming at the target. If the dog exhibits such behaviours, increase the distance from stimuli. Start all the steps described above at such a distance from e.g. the street that the dog can withstand the desire to chase, but also make sure that the distance is not too big. Once you have found the desired distance, start conditioning the dog, desensitizing and counterconditioning. Only then you can reduce the distance.
Also remember that any presentation of bad behaviour by a dog is your fault. Do not be upset or nervous. Just take a few steps back. Remember that the training sessions should not be too long. When the dog gets winded up, let him rest, encourage him to sniff and let him calm down.