The car-chasing dog is a real problem. He's both a nuisance and a potential cause of an accident, since many drivers instinctively swerve away from the dog. This may be all right when the road is clear. When it isn't, the swerving driver may strike another car or a pedestrian.
One of the theories advanced as to why dogs chase cars is their instinctive reaction to motion. You will recall the dog is an animal of the chase, a running hunter, and chasing a car is an extension of the hunting instinct. But there are other factors contributing to car chasing. The pup may have been badly frightened by a car and his reaction is to get back at it (he can't tell one car from another, so he chases any car). He may also have had an experience where some people drove past in a car and threw something at him or made loud noises. Or perhaps a passing car contained another dog that barked out of the window. And finally, certain car motors and exhausts make a noise that strikes the dog's ears the wrong way.
The writer has observed an example of this reaction of a dog to motor and exhaust noises. While commuting to New York City, two cars were used alternately. The writer owned an American car with the motor up front. A neighbor had a foreign car with the motor in the rear.
Springer Spaniel. The house had no yard or fence and the dog usually stayed on the porch. When we drove past in the American car, he paid no attention and went on with his scratching or napping. But when we drove by in the foreign car, the dog went berserk. He dashed down off the porch, raced after us and snapped at the rear tires, gradually giving up as we sped away.
Now, it might be argued at this point that the dog had some grudge against a foreign car, other than its noise. But we varied the experiment. We pushed the car fast enough to make it coast down the hill past the dog. While the motor was off, the dog took no notice of the car and went on with his nap. But when we started the motor, he came tearing down off the porch and took up the chase. We were satisfied that it was the noise of the motor or exhaust that irked the dog.
Despite careful training and restraint, dogs do develop the car-chasing habit. This is especially true if, when they are turned out of doors, they join a gang of canine delinquents. Once your dog has the car-chasing habit, you will have to take drastic steps to break it. Keep him in a yard or kennel, take him outside only on the leash, and reprimand him severely if he so much as takes a step toward a moving car. If he races along the inside of the fence as a car goes by, take him to task for this too.
Several techniques for breaking dogs of the car-chasing habit have been developed by trainers. None of them are guaranteed. Car chasing is a tough problem. There have been cases where dogs were struck and severely injured, only to resume their old habit upon recovery. While being struck by a car may cure some dogs, it only seems to aggravate the habit in others. They now have a stronger reason to chase a car.
Even though the car-chasing deterrents are not guaranteed, they are worth a trial. One of the techniques is a variation of the old saw, "Give him enough rope and he'll hang himself." We're not interested in hanging the dog, just in stopping him from chasing cars. Put him on a long rope, about twenty feet long, and take him out on the street or highway. When he bolts for a car, give him plenty of rope, brace yourself, and when he gets to the end of the line— dump him hard. Don't be afraid to upset him. The jolt you give him will be nothing compared to what he'll get if hit by a fast-moving car. After a few of these sessions, the dog will think twice about taking off after a car.
Another method is to fling a heavy chain at the dog's feet when he chases a car. This flung chain works similar to the South American gaucho's bola which he hurls at an animal to entangle it. Have someone drive past in a car and hold the chain ready. When the dog sails after the car, throw the chain at his feet. If your aim is good, the chain will tangle around his feet and either throw or stop him. A chain with links the size of snow chains will be satisfactory. Don't try to break the dog's legs; the entanglement plus the surprise will usually do the trick. If this seems like harsh treatment, consider what may happen to him and the occupants of a car that may strike him or crash trying to avoid him.
There are some other methods aimed at breaking the car-chasing habit. One is the water pistol treatment. This consists of having two people drive past the dog, one of them armed with a water pistol loaded with an ammonia-and-water solution. The "ammunition" should not be too strong, just powerful enough to make the dog's eyes water when hit. The trouble with this method is that you have to be a marksman. Some dogs are wily enough to dodge the spray. The other method is to hang a lead or steel pipe from the dog's harness or collar, so that it dangles across his front legs. When he runs, the pipe bangs against his legs, impeding his progress or at least discouraging him. This trick has worked, but again, some smart dogs simply take the pipe in their teeth and go after the car. But, as we said before, try anything to break the car-chasing habit.
If you are bothered by dogs chasing your car, here's a tip that will help. When a dog charges out to chase your car, simply stop (but make sure that you signal your intention to stop to any cars behind). Since the dog is chasing motion, your stopping will eliminate the motive for the chase. Dogs rarely attack a standing car. You merely have to stop the car and wait a few minutes. No need for shouts, oaths or insults. Once you stop the car the dog will either stand barking at you or will walk away, confused or baffled. But if he happens to be a confirmed car-chasing addict, he'll probably resume the chase when you start up again. But keep repeating the process and even the most dedicated car chaser will give up. Also, when driving along and a dog suddenly races out to give chase, don't swerve. Keep a straight course. The dog knows enough to stay clear and will run along the side or to the rear of the car.
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