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How do I stop my dog chasing?

In order to find the answer, we need to ask a different question. It’s not, “How do I stop my dog chasing…”, or even, “Why does my dog chase…?” but rather, “What does my dog get out of chasing?”

Many dogs are confined to a lead, re-homed, or worse, because their owners can’t stop them chasing.  It’s not their owners’ fault, they’ve spent hours out in the foulest weather shouting, yelling, pleading, cajoling and worrying. The better dog trainers tell them, “It’s a recall problem. More obedience exercises!” and that might help for a while, but the problem’s deeper than that.

In order to find the answer though, we need to ask a different question. It’s not, “How do I stop my dog chasing…”, or even, “Why does my dog chase…?” but rather, “What does my dog get out of chasing?”

Like any good detective, you always have to look for the motivation. There are a number of reasons a dog can seem to chase, including things as diverse as fear, territorial behaviour and social interactions.

As a result of the very successful APBC predatory chase seminars and the frequent requests for more information on the subject, I’ve expanded this article into a full book.

“Stop!” How to control predatory chasing in dogs.

Because these motivations are all different, the solutions need to be tailored to suit each one, but true chasing is predatory behaviour and we need to identify it as such before we can address the problem. Check the list. If you can tick any two plus the last one, it is almost certain that your dog is predatory chasing.

Predatory Chase

  • It will often be exhibited towards more than one target (cars, ankles, rabbits, cats, sheep, joggers, bicycles?).
  • Dogs will actively seek out opportunities by going out of their way to find it.
  • They will become excited at the sight, scent and sound of their prey items, perhaps even making small ‘yipping’ noises.
  • Chasing may be preceded by stalking or searching.
  • It can happen anywhere.
  • It is stimulated by movement.
  • They look like they are enjoying it – not anxious, scared or worried

What Do Dogs Get Out Of It?

The answer lies in internal reinforcement. Dogs inherit instinctive behaviour that is too complex to be learned by every generation. You don’t have to teach a dog how to dig, he doesn’t learn to lift his leg to pee, they are instinctive actions, called “motor patterns” by ethologists.

Chasing behaviour is part of the inherited predatory hunting sequence. The sequence is genetically “hard wired” and prepares wild canines to catch prey in order to survive, for example, by searching for or stalking it.

“External reinforcement” is the way we usually train dogs: we give them a biscuit or a pat when they do the right thing.

“Internal reinforcement” is when the brain gives the body a feeling of pleasure. It is similar to the buzz we feel when we score a goal, win a race or achieve that top exam result.

Each part of the inherited hunting sequence is internally reinforcing. Dogs don’t need a biscuit as a reward for performing it; they do it out of sheer pleasure. In brain chemistry terms they get a buzz of dopamine every time they perform an inherited motor pattern. This is the same reward system abused by people taking Cocaine or Ecstasy, so you can imagine the addictive possibilities!

In original canine terms, the wild animal inherits exactly the right amount of each part of the sequence to lead it into the next. Because domestic dogs have been selected to exhibit exaggerated parts of the sequence and omit others, the whole predatory hunting sequence is rarely in balance in modern breeds. Variation appears both between and within breeds. Spaniels benefit from a huge internal reward from searching, but little or none from stalking. Pointers get huge internal reward from stalking, but not from a killing-bite, because of hundreds of generations of selective breeding. Individuals within each breed will inherit more or less of each part than others. This is the variability that makes some spaniels better at searching than others, or some pointers hard-mouthed.

“Chase” is a motor pattern, or behaviour, that is inherited. Dogs that chase are being internally reinforced just by doing it. They don’t need to be externally reinforced with a biscuit or a kind word, because the behaviour is rewarding in itself.

Why they won’t stop

Put simply, they enjoy it. Hugely. They enjoy the “high” they get from endorphins buzzing around their body to such an extent that they close down other senses to concentrate upon it. All focus is on the target as the source of pleasure. This is the first reason that owners cannot recall their dogs when they are in full flight. Their dogs simply don’t hear them.

Dogs with a high inherited drive not only derive great pleasure from chasing, they also need to perform it. They are driven to perform the behaviour to receive the boost to their feelings that it provides. They are constantly looking for outlets for it.

A dog with chase drive towards the top end of the scale is not easy to control because it is very difficult to counter internally reinforcing behaviour with external reinforcement. A dog will not stop chasing for the promise of a biscuit simply because a biscuit is not as valuable as the internal dopamine boost from the chase behaviour. In fact, nothing is more valuable than the thrill of the chase. Neither can you punish them into stopping for good.

Dogs with lower chase drives will comply for a while, but if they are not given the opportunity to express the chase behaviour in some way, the drive to chase will eventually outweigh the value of the biscuit or the pain of the punishment. The second reason owners cannot control dogs in full flight is that there is nothing the dog wants more than what it is doing now.

Understanding why dogs chase is crucial to controlling them; knowing that they take massive brain-chemical induced enjoyment from it; that they aren’t deliberately disobeying us, but obeying a stronger internal urge; that they can’t actually help it; that they’re fulfilling a hunger inside them, because they were bred like that.

Once we see chasing from the dog’s point of view it becomes easier to understand how to control them, because training a dog not to chase is not like training one to sit. The desire to sit for a reward is more or less the same for every dog, but each dog’s urge to chase can be negligible, immense, or anywhere in between.

If your dog is of a breed that was originally bred to chase it’s a safe bet they have the genetic hard wiring in their brain that makes it so enjoyable, but it’s also possible to ‘accidentally’ inherit a strong chase tendency in exactly the same way some pups inherit too long or short legs for their breed.

Dogs of this type seek out opportunities to chase because of the enjoyment they receive from it but unfortunately, if we leave them to it, they often direct it towards what we consider to be the wrong target. Children, rabbits, cats, cars, joggers, livestock, aeroplanes, deer, cyclists… remember, they are actively looking for opportunities to chase because it is so nice to perform. They often have a primary target, the one they use the most, and then a hierarchy of others.

The First Step

You can’t deal with a long standing chase problem in isolation. Because we are working within the parameters of internal reinforcement and a need to perform the behaviour, we are interfering with the balance of the dog’s emotions. Dogs have a limited number of ways of improving their emotions and if we temporarily deny them an opportunity their emotional balance may plummet, leaving them stressed and anxious.

The first step therefore is to scan your dog’s environment for anxiety; take out as many challenges as possible and introduce as many emotional improvers as you can. Challenges will include any fears that your dog has, for example noise phobias, separation issues and social concerns. Emotional improvers will include things like chew toys, a dog walker, or Dog Appeasing Pheromone, where appropriate. Reward based obedience training invariably improves relationships and the opportunities for positive interactions.

It seems strange that to stop your dog from chasing things you first need to address something that appears as unrelated as a fear of fireworks, but think about it for a moment.  The fear of fireworks makes a dog miserable, and the anticipation of that fear causes deep anxiety. Chasing is a way for the dog to cast off those anxieties and enjoy huge pleasure, improving their emotional bank balance. If we remove the challenges, the need to dispel the anxiety through chasing reduces accordingly. If we can’t totally remove the challenges, and sometimes that just isn’t possible, adding other things that improve the emotional balance will go some way towards reducing the need to chase.

Conducting an environmental scan for anxiety is not a simple matter and beyond the scope of most dog trainers. If you are not sure how you can help your dog in this way, you may benefit from contacting a qualified behaviour counsellor.

Control the Opportunities

Having established a reduction in background anxiety levels, we can start to look at how to control the actual chasing behaviour, for which there is now less need.

The problem arises because we have no control over the behaviour. To control chasing, we need to control the dog’s primary target. But we can’t control cats and rabbits, can we? No, so if we want to control chasing, we change the primary target to one we can control.

Initially we have to prevent the dog from continuing to reinforce the unwanted behaviour. Many owners make the mistake of trying to train their dog when it is actually chasing. Forget it. You can’t. The competition for the reward is too great.

What is your favourite exhilarating activity? Hang gliding, ballroom dancing, cuddling your grandchildren, alligator wrestling, strip scrabble, or extreme ironing? Imagine you are halfway through and I say, “Stop that now and I’ll give you a biscuit.”

Would you?

No, and neither will your dog.

Conversely, some trainers recommend that punishment through devices like electric shock collars will stop your dog from chasing, and they might, temporarily, but let’s examine what is happening. The dog chases as a way of improving their emotions. They need to chase something to maintain the positive aspects of their life. It fills an emotional hole for them. Punishment not only restricts a source of enjoyment, but also introduces pain and more anxiety into the dog’s life. One of the few ways in which the dog can enjoy themselves has become a source of pain. The overall effect will be to increase frustration and stress, and to make chasing even more important to the dog! Relate that to taking an electric shock in the throat every time you cuddle your grandchildren or glide across the ballroom floor.

If you want to stop your dog chasing rabbits, start by preventing them now. This is not optional, it is essential. Every time your dog chases a rabbit they stay in an addictive feedback loop. “I get a brain boost from chasing rabbits – I need the brain boost – I need to chase rabbits.” Do not take your dog anywhere near rabbits. Change your walk, take them swimming instead, at the very least keep them on a lead, but find a way to stop the continued addiction now. Imagine a little part of your dog’s brain that is labelled, “Got to chase” and another part that has a picture of a rabbit as a label. Every time your dog chases a rabbit, there is an extra connection between the two brain centres. The more connections, the more difficult it is to prevent.

Changing the Target

If the strength of the neural connections are represented by the red arrows in the pictures, we need to get to the position where…

Start to focus your dog on a toy, but not in competition with the problem. Change the chase context; play in a different place. Indoors is always good, or the garden if there are no rabbits. The new chase toy may depend upon your dog’s old preferred target. Many dogs will chase a ball, but inveterate chasers may be so focussed on their primary target that they ignore toys. Be inventive; make the new target sufficiently like the old one to stimulate your dog to chase, but sufficiently unlike it not to increase the brain connections with the old target when they catch it (if the dog still thinks they are catching a rabbit, the neural connections with rabbits are strengthened).

This is pure dog training, so use short bouts and lots of them, in a place with absolutely no other distractions; always stop before your dog gets bored and always end up keeping the toy yourself. Build up those neural connections between the “Got to chase” centre and the one with the picture of the new toy as a label. Play, play and more play.

Once you’ve got your dog’s attention, work on teaching a retrieve. Check here (link to Teaching Your Dog to Retrieve) if you have difficulty in teaching your dog to retrieve a toy.

Do not allow access to your dog’s favourite toy at any other time. Keep it special and always retain it when the game finishes. Your dog will be quite keen to play with the new toy so long as there are no rabbits about.

Keep practising in a place with no distractions until your dog is desperate to play the game. Because you are continuing to prevent other chasing your dog’s chase drive will be high, but focussed on the new game.

Predictive Command – The Best Recall Ever

Now introduce your recall command. Call, “toy!” in a bright and breezy voice every time you throw the toy for your dog. Pretty soon your dog will associate the word with the unconditional arrival of the toy. Start to use it when your dog is not expecting it. Call, “toy!” and as soon as your dog looks, throw it behind you. The word becomes predictive that there is a game on offer.

This is the time to take your training up a notch, for the best recall ever. Always work in a place with no distractions when you are training something new. Take two identical favourite toys and ask your dog sit/stay while you throw the first one as far as you can without using “toy!” command. If your dog won’t sit/stay, keep them on a lead or hold their collar. Wait for a count of five, then give a “fetch” command and release them. Immediately call, “toy!” and throw the second toy past their nose. As the first toy is dead and the second still moving, they will choose the live toy to chase. Go pick up the ‘dead’ one, then ask for the ‘live’ one back and repeat.

In this clip I’ve progressed a little to rewarding “looking at me” with the throw of the second football. I’m also using Belle’s name as the predictive command but your dog will probably respond better to a brand new one like, “Toy”…

If your dog doesn’t stop for the ‘live’ toy but pursues the ‘dead’ one, substitute the first thing you throw for something less valuable, to make it less attractive. Don’t worry if they go searching for the ‘dead’ one after they’ve picked up the ‘live’ one, you have achieved your goal by focussing on them on the second toy.

After three or four throws, your dog will not set off after the first one, but wait for you to call, “toy”. Don’t. Send them for the first one. Start again. This time wait until your dog is a third of the way to the first one before calling “toy” and throwing the second.

Next time call, “toy” but don’t throw the second one immediately. Wave it above your head for your dog to see and when they start to come back, reward with the throw.

Occasionally, your dog won’t chase the first toy, waiting for the second. Don’t reward that with the second toy, but send them on, going with them to find and play with the first one if necessary. You control the game; don’t be manipulated by your dog.

Leave it later and later to call your dog back and then start to reduce the time the first toy is ‘dead’ before sending them. Your final aim is to throw the first toy, immediately send your dog, wait until they are almost there, call, “toy!” and wait until they come all the way back to you, before playing with the second one. It’ll take a little time to achieve, but that’s what I call a recall!

In this clip I’m leaving it very late to stop Belle, but rewarding immediately.

Slowly introduce non-competitive distractions, for example for rabbit chasers, play the game whilst other dogs are about, or where children are playing football nearby. You are not yet ready to compete with the old problem. If you have difficulty finding a good place or if you just need a little more confidence, you could tie your dog to something sturdy with a long line before playing the game. When you feel ready to progress, untie the line and let it drag, making sure there are no loops in it to get caught. Your dog will feel slightly inhibited by the pull of the line and you will have more control. Shorten it by degrees until there is none of it left at all.

Total Control

Eventually the neural connections between “chase” and “toy” will outweigh those between “chase” and “rabbit”. Your dog will come to prefer the toy to chasing rabbits. The time will vary with each dog and how much previous reinforcement they received, but persistence will pay off.

When your dog spins round and looks eagerly for the game every time you call “toy”, you can test how well you are doing by taking them to a place where there are rabbits, but in the distance. Keep your dog on a long line and when they look in the direction of a rabbit, before they start to run, call, “toy” and play the game in the opposite direction. Do not at this stage wait until your dog is in full flight; remember they close down senses they don’t need, like hearing, when they are chasing!

If they play with you, inch closer to the rabbits next time. If they don’t, back to the garden and reinforce the new toy some more.

Even if your dog responds by ignoring rabbits completely, which they all will eventually, you can never give this up. If you don’t satisfy your dog’s chase needs, they will revert to finding their own targets again. But now you have the ultimate reward! Your dog wants the toy more than anything else on earth and can be asked to perform any behaviour to earn it. Recalls, sits, downs, eye contact, it is the ultimate training tool!

Not only do you have full control over your dog’s chase behaviour, you also have the rapt attention of your dog any time you want it.

394 replies on “How do I stop my dog chasing?”

Brilliant article.
Pulling my hair out with my GSD but am going to try this, will let you know how it goes

My year old JRT X has chased rabbits but recently caught a couple and has been obsessively searching for them on walks ever since. She even jumped a fence to get at one which she has never tried before. At that point I had totally lost control over her so naturally I am concerned.
What I have read here makes perfect sense and I will be practising the technique on every walk from now on. It seems like a very workable strategy.
Many thanks for publishing this advice.

This is very interesting. I got my dog from a rescue centre about 5 months ago, just before his 3rd birthday. He’s probably Lab x B.Collie x Greyhound. He chases everything, Wild Boar (we live in France), Deer, Goats, Sheep, cars. He very quickly runs across a field, over the fence, across the next field & on & on into the distance. He loves it & nothing will distract him. I was advised by the rescue centre to try an electric shock collar. It doesn’t work!!! Having read the article I now know why. I bought a Halti which gives me far better control over him & I no longer get pulled over (or have to let go so I don’t get pulled over). So I keep him on the lead when we are near Sheep. That wasn’t good enough today, he saw the Sheep in the distance & shot off, totally ignored all my yelling & zapping. Fortunately he wears a muzzle so can’t harm anything. I’m going to have to do a lot more playing to stop his chasing or just keep him on the lead as there is always a scent for him to pick up & flush out a victim to chase.

Inspiring post. I used to play ball almost non-stop with my collie rescue pup. Many folk said I was mad and shouldn’t “give in to her all the time”, so I eventually eased off a couple of months ago. Her chase drive increased as did her targets. Having read your book “Stop” and this article I’m now going back to my old routines but incorporating your guidelines. I’ve also gone back to avoiding river walks again. The temptation to chase rowers and water birds is like locking an alcoholic in a distillery!

Thank you for this wonderful post. I’m going to try this out with my 8 month old male border collie pup who thinks his sole purpose in life is to be a deerstalker – nightmare. The problem is that there are so many deer around here (Scotland) that he has had the taste for chase half a dozen times now despite my attempts to avoid deer……so it’s very hard to correct it.

Brilliant article, really useful tips which I will start today with my cat obsessed JRT. Even this morning he chased one and flew through the neighbours cat flap (which at 7am they didnt appreciate). I was begining to loose hope, but now hopefully there will be a solution.

Thank goodness I have found this advice, I have a 15month old very large dog (Dane, mastiff, Ridgeback x) which was bred for Pig Hunting.
I don’t want him as a hunting dog but it is obviously imbedded in him and I can not stop him chasing Kangaroo’s! The only good thing is that he has not caught one, but I have some people that think they are being kind by throwing parts of Roo they have hunted into the back yard for him to eat which i think is adding to my problem…the things he loves chasing are wonderful to eat! I will give this training method a go….although it is hard to seperate him from them as they come into the front yard all the time and there is no where to walk him where he wont see any! I have started by making him drop when ever we see a roo,which he will do but starts to shake and whine, so he obviously needs another distraction…..I will give it my best ! 🙂

This sounds like a great idea. I have a dog who chases sheep and goats which roam free on this island where we live. My problem is that he is not interested in games or toys!!! Any suggestions anyone?

My 2 year old staffie rescued bitch who i love despite only having for 5 weeks has just chased her first sheep……..she has improved in all other areas of her training this `recall in flight` has proved impossible to change, as David says in the article she shuts out everything except the thrill of the chase. 2 days ago I was going to have her put down, firmly believing that you cant stop a dog that chases in this way. Fingers crossed. I`ll be starting this training immediately, its her only chance.

My one year old working cocker spaniel hunts pheasants all the time and is driving me crazy as we live in the country and thats where we walk.
I was considering an e-collar as a last resort, but now that I have read your article I am desperate to give it a try.
My dog is ball obsessed so I am really hoping this will work as I am at my wits end.

Wow! this article totally explains why my newly acquired Border Collie cross Koolie dog doesn’t hear me when he is chasing my sheep, piglets, cat and chooks. I recently got him from a shelter and I think he wasn’t able to express his chase instict very much. It has only been a week today that I got him and I’m desperately tryingto get him to focus on me. There were some suggestions about an e-collar but I much prefer a humane method of training. I need to keep my other pets safe. My dog is only 12 months old so I’m hoping he will take to this method. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge. will post a result.

This is a very interesting article and well written. Although my dogs chase the rabbits, foxes and squirrels in our garden so we cannot avoid going there. It happens mainly at night. I will try the toy method though.

I cant believe this article for nearly a year i had been pulling my hair out with my collie,she wouldnt stop chasing cars and cats,not been able to allow freedom of the lead at all as her chase instinct is so strong,so over the last week i have taken a completely different approach to her and this ball playing is what ive done,and after a year of searching for sufficiant ways to enjoy her and her enjoy her life,I cannot believe the difference in her when we our outside,its very early days and i wouldnt risk her anywhere near traffic but this is working,i had the best recall from her today and we both enjoyed our 3 little playing spurts,,,,thankyou..this works,hopefully over time we will be able to walk on the beach and fields without anxiety.thanks from me and evie.

We have a 20-month-old German Shepherd, whom we rescued from the shelter with paperwork that said he’d been through four owners in one year because of his wild behavior. He was found running in the country, chasing his own prey and surviving quite well. We trained him and were able to control ALMOST all of his habits (he destroyed a bathroom during his first two weeks in the house, tearing the drywall off every wall and even prying off the door frames; he tore up the carpet in another room, opens pantries and jumps on top of washers and dryers, etc). We were feeling very confident. His chasing was the last and most difficult habit. No luck. So, we finally installed an invisible fence that was working brilliantly until this early summer when the neighbor’s yard behind us became infested with rabbits. Now, no matter what we do, he chooses the thrill of the chase over all other options. He’s so fast he catches them, then wanders around looking for others. We live in an upscale neighborhood; everyone has toy dogs, gorgeous landscaping, etc. They certainly don’t appreciate my giant and very intimidating Shepherd causing chaos. I have three kids under the age of 5 and am exhausted using every spare moment for the dog. Nearing the end of my patience. I’ll try this and keep my fingers crossed!

wow!!! thank god somthing that works and u dont have to punish them!!! guna try this now!!

This was a great education for us! Pointer mix Neva tore her CCL last year and since surgery I’ve been reluctant to really let her play ball like she loves to do. Perhaps as a result, I’ve noticed her recently getting more eager to chase little dogs on their walks as they pass by our front yard. We tie her up bur sometimes if i just let her out the door she will do it and its quite embarassing and frightning for the neighbors too! I think we’ll put down this computer right now and start some of your exercises!

A very interesting article, I have a rescue Patterdale terrier spayed bitch 14 months,who is entirely focused when chasing prey usually cat’s,Foxes,squirrel’s and any other small furries. I have introduced 2 balls for playing but have not got it quite right. However I have been advised by her Cardiac Specialist not to let her chase anything including
balls as she has a PDA untill after the corrective surgery in a few days. After she has fully recovered I intend to use these techniques and look forward to gaining control over her chase drive.Perhaps then we will both enjoy our daily outings!

Superb! And very generous to put this up on the web freely available to anyone who needs it. Thank you David Ryan, you are a star.

I am very excited to try this method with my dogs. My problems is more complicated because i have 4 dogs and the moment one of them sees a running target (runners, bikers, squirrels, etc), they take off and not only are they motivated by the thrill of the chase, but also by the pack’s mentality to see which dog will get to the running target first. I live in Berlin, Germany and there are tons of parks where I see many dogs off leash and even though there are many bikers and runners, the off leash dogs do not chase them. It is impressive and I wonder how these dogs are trained. Thank you so much for this article. It is refreshingly intelligent and thought provoking.

My pit bull used to be impossible to control around other dogs. All she wanted to do was chase. Then I found the stick! She enjoys playing with me so much and is so focused on the game that another dog can come running up and try to engage in a chase game and my dog will focus on nothing but me and the stick. This really works!

Thank you for such a well written article. My 8 month old Border Collie has become impossible to stop chasing after our small flock of sheep and as they’re now in lamb this is worrying. So… sheep are now stabled safely away and tomorrow we start with our training aid, Ellie the Effulump (or ‘toy’ as she’ll be known as from now on!)

Glad I found this. My 2 year old Border Collie is good apart from he chases everything that moves-birds, cats, sheep- worst of all cars. I don’t let him off the lead near traffic but he lunges all the time I’ve spent a fortune on dog trainers-no use most of then. I’m going to try this as he will chase a ball in our garden Can anyone give me a realistic time scale.When can I expect to see results? . I really don’t mind how long it takes as long as I know from the start

Very pleased I found your article,I have a 11 month working cocker which loves chasing cattle I can get her to leave the chase using an emergency recall whistle,but never close enough to put her back on lead.I have already started just taking her to beach and have her chase a ball which she loves even to the point of inoring other dogs so feel I am half way there and going to try next step teaching recall using the “toy” command or may call “ball” instead.I have tried various recall methods using treats,which work great in house,garden,on training line ect but as soon as she off lead she is not interested in food just hunting and chasing.So really looking forward to trying this. Thanks for posting it David

This article is very interesting my GSD chases cars bikes cats anything that moves I really must try this hope it works, Ive been told by a dog trainer to keep her on the leash untill her recall is much better, she loves playing with balls so hopefully it wont take long,now I understand why she chases things, thanks for the tips

Thank goodness I found this. My GSD has a beautiful nature but at the park, off leash, and in our garden, she chases birds and is so fast that she often catches them. To date, she has done no damage to the big birds as they seem to recover and fly off but the smaller ones sadly are sometimes not as lucky. She grabs the leash from my hand when we arrive and runs off, then goads me into a tug o’ war with it, so I will now take a ‘toy’ similar to her leash and give that a go. Thank you!

Thanks so very much for this wonderful advice, David. I have a 2 yr old male GSD who we recently reformed Just before Christmas last year. He is wonderful with us and our other dogs, but when he is on his walks, he’s a bit of a nightmare! He comes back to me at first, but then takes off all of a sudden when he gets the scent of a rabbit, and there is just no getting him back until he feels like it. Part of his problem is that his two previous owners weren’t good with him and we think he was beaten when he finally came back to them, so we have an extra problem trying to make him understand we’re not going to hit him.

He ran off 4 hours are we picked him up from his previous owners before Christmas 2011, and was missing for 4 days – he was hit bya car and broke his leg. Since then, he’s had an operation and it’s mended beautifully (thanks to the skill of the veterinary surgeons xxx), and now there’s no holding him back. I will give this technique a try and check back on this website to let you know of his progress with the toy technique. Many thanks once more xxx

brilliant artical, i have a 18 month old weimeraner he has done this a few times we live in country surrounded by live stock he has ran along the fence at cows and yes he does appear to get a buzz, after reading your article i now have a greater understanding of my hunting dogs high drive to hunt i will certainly be looking at getting some form of toy to redirect this as u suggest thanku. carol

We recently rescued an 8 month old American Stratfordshire Terrier, Treeing Walker Coonhound mix. Maggie is a wonderful dog, however she is a rabbit chaser. She has gotten free from the harness when walking with my husband and was in flight mode for over an hour before she was able to be contained and brought home. This article clears so much up for me. I realized early on once her breeding was identified that she would have strong hunt instincts, however we live in a suburban area and do not hunt ourselves so she has no outlet for this. We were considering an invisible fence but I was skeptical. I think that this method of training will do the trick and am anxious to get going with it. Thank you for posting this valuable information, Maggie will be a happier dog and we will be too. I am in constant fear that she will be hit by a car when she is in this flight mode.

About 8 months ago I took a 2 year old American Staffie from my son who can’t look after him anymore. My son rescued him from someone who was a bit of a druggy and the dog had been abused to some extent. Anyhow he is a wonderful dog, and I luv him lots. He has been a perfect dog, absolutely obsesssed about retreiving a ball and showed little interest in anything else. just recently though, (we are in NZ) these birds called Flovers started attacking him whilst we were out and he has started chasing them in return. Unfortunately, during one of his sessions he managed to catch a duck a couple of weeks ago. Since then he is spending less time chasing the ball and more time chasing birds especially water birds. This article seems to make perfect sense and I guess I am now going to be confined to the the garden whilst I work my way through the program! Hopefully this will so the trick, as it is not a good look him running around the golf course seemingly out of control. Thanks.

Thank you so much for explaining all this so clearly. I have just come back from a walk with my 7 month old male GSD, exhausted! We live in a shooting area, and they have just put the pheasants out in the woodlands – flocks of them everywhere, and of course they run. He was on a flexi-leash, and you are right – absolutely nothing I said or did would get his attention. His eyes were glued to them as they ran away and his nose went down to track them as soon as we moved off. I have avoided taking a ball with me so far as I have two friends (one has a border terrier and the other a retriever) who cannot go for a proper walk without their dogs begging for the ball to be thrown all the time. We do play ball in the house in the evenings after dark when he is getting bored, and he does love it so I think you have given me the answer. So glad I found your site before I went down the wrong path with this. He’s a lovely boy, well socialized, loves everyone and all dogs, I would just hate to spoil him now. Thank you.

I have GSD 7 month male chases chicken and lately has garbed twice and injured , brought them home but , didn’t have time to eat them. I’ll try your suggestion, hope it works, thanks

I live in a rural area with lots of livestock within the close vicinity to our house .We also have horses,Chickens and rabbits there are also sheep in a field ajoined to our back garden (not ours).We have a 9 month ols Goldendoodle(Dude) who has for about 2 months been chasing livestock. It is quite plain to see that he dose not chase to hunt but instead to play.I have atributed this to the fact that as we live in a rural area most of the dogs are sheep dogs and seem to find him to confusing (looks abit like a sheep but is a dog)to befriend. So he is quite lonly. My main concern is that he will chase sheep and become out of control and a farmer hearing the comosion will shoot him. This worry has become more hightend recently with the pregnat ewes and the lambing season on the horizon.So we have tried a number of methods to improve his behaviour to no avail.However I look forward to trying this technique on our morning walk.

This is a very intresting article, our yellow lab bitch is nearly one (and only 19″ high to her shoulder! I know, she must have a midget gene) she is very good at walking to heal but when she sees/hears/smells her favorite chase – pheasants she starts shaking, I can keep her to heal (off the lead) for a few more steps then it just takes over her!! Shes off !!Its impossible, now her convidence is so strong she just goes. We have to wait for her to return (maybe 15/20 minutes. Fortunatly we are a good distance from major roads but i dont think the game keeper will be very understanding.This has happened three times now and we cant walk her by the house now without her being on a lead. I considered an electric collar but am now going to try your two toy technique it sounds great, thanks so much for sharing.

Thank you for this great advice! Previously I had read a different article which basically blamed the dog owners which made me feel quite terrible . I have 2, 8 month old border collies, Merlin always comes back and is quite obedient, however, Willow tries to jump at cars and recently has started chasing deer and not coming back, on one occasion she chased it across a road and this could have been fatal. Your article makes so much sense, when Willow spots a deer it is like she is in a trance and nothing will stop her!! I will avoid these areas now and find a toy for her to play with!!

Very good article thanks. I’ve been trying not to play ball with my Dog because her Mum was so obsessed with balls. I’m now thinking the ball obsession is far better than chasing!

Great if you dog likes toys! chows have a very strong chase instinct, but not that bothered about toys!

Hi Jenny, you misunderstand the word ‘toy’. If your chow likes to chase, then he likes ‘toys’, because that’s basically what prey is. ‘Prey’ and ‘toy’ are interchangeable. What you mean is that the toys you are providing aren’t stimulating enough. The answer is to make them more prey-like and when you find one that your dog will get in to, reduce the prey-properties to more toy-like properties over time. You can make toys more prey-like by varying their properties, their actions and their location. Don’t give up so easily with a “chows don’t do toys” – with some lateral thinking and effort there is no reason why your chow won’t chase a toy as a game.
Regards, David

Thanks for the advice. My Austrailian Cattle Dog is nine and raised out of the city, and now we are around traffic and she is relentlessly chasing cars. Very accurate review of her behaviour.

Excellent article, David. I already had a bit of knowledge into why my dog does this but now I have a much better understanding of it. I have two dogs, an English springer spaniel and a mongrel (lab,collie, possibly lurcher)they are both older dogs now but still have a lot of energy. I don’t have any problem with the spaniel chasing anything or with other dogs, I have complete trust in him on/off leash so walking him is a breeze. It’s my wee mongrel I have an issue with, he has a high prey drive especially with rabbits and other dogs. he was recently neutered so the issues with other dogs has dampened a bit. I love in a semi-rural area in Scotland, nearby woodlands, a river and farms/stables, so they’re lots of distractions for him (especially rabbits and cats, also the occasional deer). One incident I had a couple of years ago was when I was walking both dogs on a well used footpath on the edge of the farmers field, I always make sure it is quiet before I let him off leash. But this time I did not see a woman with her two border terriers walking in our direction, they were quite a bit away, and before I knew it, he was off and sprinting full speed towards this woman, luckily she saw my dog coming and picked her dogs up but I was so embarrassed. I learned an important lesson that day. Other times he has chased a rabbit or seen another dog off leash, he always comes back, but always after the chases. He loves tennis balls and I used a similar technique with it. But I am going to use your technique on all walks from now on and with both dogs (The old springer can be a bit stubborn with recalls). Thanks for the advice!

Great article and just in time for us. Our 17-month old Black Lab Emma has just started chasing woodchucks and nearly caught one yesterday. (They live on our fenced-in property, so we can’t avoid them). Her mother is a tennis-ball fanatic and it turns out her grandfather was a field-trial champion. We have had many Labrador Retrievers and never had this prey behavior problem before, so we were at a loss. We didn’t know their chase behavior could be this extreme. Recently, she started trying to catch flying birds and has become interested in bicycles.

Fortunately, we already had been exercising her chase-and-retrieve instinct with both a large ball and a Frisbee, so I’m hoping it won’t be a big stretch to implement your recommendations. She is reasonably obedient and likes to work. We’ve been trying to figure out ways to make her playtime more complex, since she obviously needs a “job.”

Thanks so much — this really helps.

This article is very interesting and very clearly explained. I have a siberian husky who loves the thrill of the chase. She very often catches her prey. When there’s no animals around her recall is excellent ( ive trained her with a whistle). She’s a rescue dog, ive had her just under 18 months. Everybody said I wouldn’t be able to let her off lead but with hard work, training and patience we’ve proved otherwise! But…her prey drive is so strong. I can relate to alot of things mentioned in this article especially to her switching off all other senses like hearing! Im very intrigued by this technique. Fingers crossed! A fab read, thankyou!

My dogs chase is footballs ! Does the same reinforced behaviour patterns work with this behaviour ?? At my wits end with him!

Hi Shone, yes, the same process will work for any chase behaviour. Building up his interest in a toy that you control is the key. Take your time with it and prevent unwanted reinforcement of the previous inappropriate behaviour, then gradually bring the two together again as he concentrates on you. Best wishes, David

Hi, I read this with interest, I have 3 lurchers who chase but I can’t train them using a toy because they have to be muzzled. If I take a toy with me to recall thay just get frustrated because they can’t play with it. They now go absolutely mental when they see a cat and I need to know how to control it on a lead.

Hi Terri, there are limits as to what can be done in your situation. You can’t start from the perspective of three muzzled dogs. If you read the piece, toy-play is started out of context, ie not on walks, and on a one-to-one basis. Only when each dog’s focus is on you (via the toy) can you start to use it in context. Once you have that focus the need to muzzle diminishes. Only when you have control of each individual un-muzzled could you expect to bring them together again, first each two then all three.
All you are doing by muzzling and exposing to ‘prey’ is frustrating them, which increases their desire to chase the prey, making them more difficult to control. In your place I would totally re-evaluate what I was doing and go back to basic principles if I wanted to make any progress. You can’t progress from muzzled frustration because you don’t have anything that they want more than the prey.
It will take a great deal of time and effort, but the alternative is continuing as you are.

This is a really interesting article, thank you for writing this! We have a young German Shorthaired Pointer, who is really into stalking and chasing. He won’t run away, he’ll always stay close to us, but he won’t answer to recall either to come close enough so that we can touch him (or put him on leash). Walking on leash, he’s recently gotten into the same stalking, and I can see him shake and shiver in excitement as he stares at bushes with birds. Your article gives me a different perspective on the issue, a better understanding of what might be going on in my dog’s head, and a promising avenue for working on the behavior. A question I have though: would different sports work as equal substitutes (or alternatives) to building up a special toy? We’ve played find-it games since our dog was a small puppy, and recently started also training for the first level of nosework trial and a tracking trial. Our dog seems to be really into it, particularly nosework. This obviously won’t work as an enticement off leash like a special toy would, but perhaps it will help him redirect some of his prey drive to sports?

Hi Maris, Yes, the opportunity to engage in another activity that is equally or more rewarding would be the same as a toy. In your case I would probably consider integrating a toy into the nosework – it doesn’t have to be a retrieve toy, it could be a ‘find-toy’. In order to keep your value you must control access to the opportunity to engage in the rewarding activity for him, otherwise he doesn’t need you and has no need to pay you any attention at all.

Hi Cora, At the moment your dog may not chase balls or toys, so the challenge is to make balls/toys sufficiently exciting for them to want to do that. There are some ideas for that in the book and there are lots of toys marketed that could stimulate your dog’s interest in focusing on them. If you want to change your dog’s behaviour you have to be prepared to instigating that change from the basics upwards. If you don’t yet have the basics, you will need to work on those first. Any change in behaviour rarely starts from the status quo; groundwork and preparation must take place first. Investment in basics is never wasted.

I have a 16 month old GSD who loves to chase other dogs, trainers I’ve consulted say he is fearful, so chases them away. He does love a tennis ball, he will totally focus on it until a dog is spotted, I am now avoiding dogs at all costs, which obviously isn’t helping the situation. Having just read the above, it’s like a light bulb. He stalks and chases my other dogs in the garden. I need a new “TOY” Can’t wait to start putting this into practice. I know it will take time but, understanding him more, I just feel a whole lot happier. Thank you so very much…

What about dogs that hunt by scent? All of my beagles will deliberately run into copses or similar areas where they know there might be deer in order to look for something to track. Toys are of no use as they are a) not interested in them and b) not visually stimulated anyway. They generally don’t chase rabbits as they get high on the distance tracking rather than a quick visual chase. I do track with some of them but this makes no difference to the need to hunt. I want them off lead but it is always a risk. They drag hunt but will prefer to leave an aniseed trail for real game. Any ideas?

Hi Alex,
It is a good question, but relates to predatory TRACKING/TRAILING rather than CHASING, hence methods to control chasing are less appropriate in your case. You are right that toys have less effect on a dog that is scent orientated, although it is still possible to work using them, just more difficult and time-consuming.
You seem to want the Beagles to track and drag hunt, but not to direct the same behaviour towards game when allowed their freedom. The behaviour is innately rewarding, especially in a breed like Beagles, and wildlife probably has innate properties that make its scent more attractive than an aniseed trail. You are probably asking too much of dogs to make a distinction between what they are allowed/encouraged to do, and what you would prefer they did not do, when they are genetically driven to perform the “forbidden” behaviour more than your preferred behaviour.
You do not have physical or verbal control, neither can you offer them anything more rewarding than the behaviour you would like to prevent.
You have no enticement for them to abandon the behaviour, therefore there will always be the risk of performing it as it is under their own control.
Running more than one dog together will also socially facilitate it and make it even more resistant. Basic obedience training may help, but only to a certain extent.
There is a partial answer, but it involves training the dogs extensively one-to-one and heavily differentially reinforcing the preferred behaviour – but even then I’m not sure it would be reliable.


I really enjoyed this article thank you – it has given me a clearer understanding of my dog’s behaviour. I have a 4 year old rescue street dog from Spain – sort of spaniel type cross. I have had him for 2 years. He is a gentle, loving dog however he is excitable and I have to be very careful where I take him because his desire to hunt is so strong. On a walk he invariably disappears for around 20 minutes, ignoring me completely – even running past me a few feet away, ignoring me as I wave an open pouch of cat food at him. There are nesting birds (pheasants and skylarks) where I often walk and he is currently obsessed with trying to locate and flush them out. He disappears into woodland or long grass and I have no idea where he is until he decides to come back to me, all happy and fulfilled. I am keen to try the toy technique. At the moment he knows when it is playtime with my collie and (if it suits him) he runs in, grabs her ball and runs off with it, dumping it some distance away in favour of rushing off into the woods. Perhaps the fact that he wants to ball initially is a good sign.

I have 2 y/o Sheepdog, of course, bred to herd. We rescued her 3 months ago. We live in a rural area with many deer, armadillos, etc. Our property is not fenced. She has bolted out the door several times in pursuit of deer. I can’t control the deer population, it is what it is here. She does love her toys so I will work on this. My concern, when she is in pursuit, she is fast and hears nothing I have to say. The other problem I have is her barking. She gets walks 3-4 times a day and whenever she sees deer she barks uncontrollably. I tried the rocks in a can, creating a noise and that worked for about 3 weeks then she became immune to that. Will a dog whistle help? I am desperate! Thank you!

Hi Jessica,
You have a square peg that you are trying to smash into a round hole. Not sure what she’s done for the first 21 months of her life, but guessing it wasn’t optimum upbringing. No fenced area and walked on lead is also far from ideal. Many deer that you cannot avoid makes it worse. The rocks in a can is a weak punisher that stopped her behaviour through fear, but her desire to chase the deer means more to her than the fear does, so she’s worked through it. The punishment probably also made you less attractive to her, which is another negative.
Barking at the deer is frustration. This can turn to anger and aggression in some cases if you keep repeating it (but if you are lucky it may not).
A whistle will not work.
It is difficult for me to emphasise just how wrong your environment is for this dog.
If I HAD to keep her using your environment (and my preference would be to re-home her to a more appropriate one, because it is not benefiting either of you) I would forget about walking her and spend the time with her tied-out on a long line so she can’t run off, whilst playing retrieve games with her. Replace the walks with games-time, and make sure the games focus on you. Forget all punishment and build a good relationship (3 months is a bit early to have achieved that yet) and practice your obedience training recall so she comes back because she wants to.
After that you need a protracted programme of introducing the stimulus (deer) at a low level whilst keeping her focus on you (toy-reward) and gradually increasing the salience of the deer-stimulus. Working your way through the book will help (DON’T miss any bits out, especially the early parts) but it is going to be a long concerted effort for you.
Good luck,

So interesting to hear that the ears are gone once the dog is chasing… it all starts to make sense! Thank you, will be thinking along these lines now.


Really encouraged by this. Our 20 month old working cocker has recently occasionally taken to chasing livestock, hares and birds. We used to take a ball or stick on walks but he gets really obsessed with them and it spoiled the walk so we started encouraging him to go off and use his nose! Now see that this was a big mistake. We have stopped taking him on certain walks, in favour of the beach for example, but will definitely re-introduce the ball under the rules suggested. Thanks for the advice, I am confident that this will help.

Don’t forget the ball reward should be conditional upon appropriate behaviour. Unconditional ball will encourage obsession, but using it to reward relaxed behaviour, or returning to you will be more helpful.

Thank you so much, I have just bought the book on line and can’t wait for it to arrive.
We have just rescued a 12 month old lurcher whose focus is on birds he seems to listen in regard to other slower moving prey!!!
I feel he needs to be able to satisfy that out and out running burst and I have been letting him off lead when I can see that it is totally safe to do so (no humans, horses or other wildlife we live in the New Forest UK with wildlife all around) he sprints off and may chase birds but once satisfied seems to have more focus on me and the toy.
Just concerned in allowing this running I’m reinforcing this buzz???

Hi Sam,
So long as he prefers chasing birds to interacting with you and your toy, you will not have full control of him. However, your relationship is new and developing, so you stand a good chance of replacing his desire for birds with a desire for your toy.
Good luck,

Hi David.

What would you say about a track racing whippet? One you want to take to races, or lure chasing races, one you actually train to do this well and compete? There is a constant argument about whether you can train a hunting dog not to chase pray when not wanted, and continue to use them on hunting or races. People actually say to me that I can train my whippet not to chase rabbits and still train him to race tracks and be good at it. I don’t believe that is possible. I have my suspicions on whether it is possible to train a race whippet or greyhound to come back from pray chasing in the middle of the chase at all… Maybe that might be somewhat possible with this guideline of yours, but what about when you actually want the dog to chase “pray” in competitions? German Shepherd people tell me that it’s all about control, but I think that’s a load of…


I would have thought that this was more an issue of control of the environment rather than control of the target. Agreed it is an issue of control in a GSD and could be achieved by training control in a whippet, but GSDs are inherently more attentive than whippets and therefore easier to train (of course working with generalisations here). It COULD be done in a whippet but it would take more time/effort and personally I think there is a risk that you would compromise 100% effort on the track.
My preference would be to encourage the whippet to chase the lure in training and on the track and to avoid areas where there is prey that might tempt the dog. That way there is no confusion in the dog’s mind and you retain 100% commitment to the race. Because the dog is getting plenty of chasing, it is doing what it was bred to do and there is no risk of compromising welfare by confining it to a lead all the time. Everyone’s a winner 🙂

Thank you for throwing me a lifeline. We have 2 rescue dogs the youngest of which has introduced the previously well behaved older one to the fun of chasing almost anything that moves and I have been running out of places where I can let them off the lead. Have now ordered the book and will redouble my efforts to find toys that interest them. Just one query, with none prey targets such as joggers and cyclists, the behaviour is more that of seeing off rather than actual chasing so does the same techniques apply?

Hi Lauraine,
“Seeing off” (chasing away rather than chasing for enjoyment)suggests a fearful component. Whilst the same principles can be used to address each individual event, any underlying fear will have to be dealt with to prevent “seeing off” recurring. This means desensitising and counter conditioning to the feared stimuli in addition to controlling the predatory aspects.
Hope this helps.

I am grateful to have found this information. We acquired a 3 month old Patterdale terrier 2 years ago. Prior to that we had a Patterdale X, who lived to around 15 years. We thought that was enough experience of this breed. How wrong and naïve we were and what a difference in their mind-sets. The first dog would chase cats and sheep if left alone, but I was able to snap her out of it by calling her or keeping her in check by voice command. Our latest addition to the family, Patty, has obviously been bred to be completely wired up to chasing and killing. I cannot let her off the lead at all as she will home in immediately on any small furry thing that moves. When we first had her, she attacked our 17 year old border terrier and would have shaken him to death had I not been there to rescue him (yet she was only a puppy). I found that pet corrector spray enabled me to stop her targeting him. She has bitten through chain link fence, climbed trees, squashed through the tiniest of holes in fencing in order to get to neighbour’s chickens and cats. She did manage to get hold of and kill a chicken – naturally, this caused a lot of bad feeling. We appeared to be irresponsible – if only they could have known what lengths we had gone to, to stop her escaping.

We look after a walled garden where we let her run, she does dig for mice (along with another terrier we have) but frequently escapes somehow. Each time, it causes us great stress and we fear she will find her way to nearby chickens (or even sheep). Luckily for us, she has remained in a hedge trying to unearth rabbits and comes back to her point of escape when she has tired (or killed).

Our endeavours to find out where she escapes have mostly been unsuccessful, when we block one hole, she finds another way. After her escaping just yesterday, myself and my husband were seriously on the point of rehoming her to someone who can cope with or utilise her chasing. Each time, however, I am so glad to see her return and have grown to love the dog and cannot bring myself to give her away.

Then I read your article this morning. You have given me fresh hope.
I will try your suggested techniques for training (and obtain a copy of the book). I can see it’s not going to be easy and may take some time but I think Patty is worth it. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise.

Thankyou for sharing these useful tips. I have ordered the book and will be reading it from cover to cover this weekend. I have a 3.5 year old working cocker spaniel who loves to chase birds (not food motivated), she will run after a ball if you throw it (and there’s nothing more interesting to chase/sniff), but its 50/50 whether she picks it up or not, or runs over the top of it after something else, and usually drops it half way back if she does pick it up! I will be following the instructions for getting her interested in toys/balls.
My other 3.5yr old WCS is food motivated and does not chase (or fetch the ball), she just trots along next to me. Is it ok to still take her along on walks when training the chaser? there’s not enough hours in the day to walk them both separately all the time

Hi Kate,
It is always more difficult to try to control two dogs together, but not impossible. If I was trying to train a chaser, I wouldn’t choose to have another dog along, however well behaved, as I would inevitably have to divert some attention from time to time. I would want 100% of my attention to go on the chaser, but I can appreciate that you may have to compromise.

Hi David,
Thank you for your fantastic book. It is the first thing I have read on predatory chasing that has completely made sense with a realistic solution. I have been working my way through your advise and playing the two ball game using 2 tennis balls, 1 that is more attractive than the other. My only problem is that at this time of year I am forced to take my collie cross for a walk in the dark in the mornings. I have a glow in the dark ball that I throw to give her extra exercise. Should I be calling “toy” when playing with this ball or should that be saved only for the tennis ball? I have 2 of the glow in the dark balls, can I play the game with two identical balls?

Thanks again for your help


Hi Ben, thanks for the feedback – I’m glad it is working for you. The key to using the two balls is in their value. Provided they have high value for your dog, you can use them to play the game – and it seems that they do, so you should 🙂

My 11 month old male Cavalier X lhasa Apso is afraid of other dogs although he tolerates the ones we walk with, and quite timid with most people. He chases cats, birds, squirrels,cyclists,joggers,people with carrier bags, and sometimes just random people. I am going to try your method, but am wondering if the timidity and the chase instinct are tied up in some way and would value your opinion.

Hi Patricia, Dogs that are timid (lacking in confidence) are easily subject to distress (negative emotions such as fear and anxiety). This causes a negative emotional balance. None of us can remain in negative emotional balance all the time – it would cause chronic distress, which can be harmful to health. Therefore such dogs seek out things that give them an emotional boost to counter that imbalance and, depending upon their inherited tendencies, chasing can be such an occupation.
The book goes into it in greater depth, but the first stage in controlling chasing dogs is to redress any imbalance in their emotional state, and simply removing some of the stressors can be sufficient in some dogs to do that – thus reducing their need to chase things. Finding ways for your dog to cope with his fears and anxieties could significantly reduce his need to chase because he would be in a better general emotional state.
Hope this helps to answer your thoughts.

Hi David
I have ordered the book and also the “What your dog wishes you knew” (or something like that) Will there be some advice about finding out what the stressors are. He was only 6 weeks when I got him, I took him then because I thought the people I got him from were not really responsible dog owners although I realise that’s not ideal.

Good morning Patricia,
There are some pointers in both Stop! and Dog Secrets, but it is difficult to be specific as each dog is an individual. You can determine what stresses your dog by observing him – you’ve already identified that it can be interacting with some unfamiliar people and dogs. You will find ways of helping him cope with that in the books too. However, if you are having difficulty, you will benefit from professional help.
I am not currently seeing private clients, and dog behaviour problems are just too complicated to consult by email, but you can find your nearest qualified behaviour counsellor at and trainers/behaviourists at


Hi David
I’ve been looking at your website and the “Stop!” book for my 2 year old “Sprocker” (Mum was a Springer, Dad was a working Cocker)Spaniel. He’s pretty good, BUT…. we live in Auchterarder, Scotland in the country, all his walks are in fields, on tracks and full of pheasants, deer and sheep. He’s pretty good on the recall to a whistle but as soon as he gets a scent or sight of movement he’s off. He does come back but only after the chase. I want to continue walking him in the country, go hill-walking with him but am really concerned about the livestock chasing. The big issue for me is if we come across free range sheep on the hill and he is not beside me, how can I control that? Will your book help me?
Cheers, Alastair

Hi Alastair,
Yes the book can help with the issue you outline, but it isn’t a quick fix (there isn’t one) and you will need to put time and effort into training. You are basically asking for the best recall there is, which is achievable if you put the work in. Having said that, much of the training can be done every day on your walks, and is fun for you and your dog, so it shouldn’t be too onerous.
Good luck with it,

I have a rescue lurcher (staff/greyhound), i got her when she was roughly a year old although she was a stray so her exact age wasnt known. I live in the west country surrounded by moors and woods and at first she was very well behaved and stayed with me but it wasnt long until instinct kicked in and she was off chasing anything that moved!! It was frustrating me almost to tears that she could be with me one minute behaving like an angel and the next she’d shoot off at great speed without even a backward glance and pay no attention to anything i screamed or shouted at her. Having read this artical i now can understand that her chase drive is so strong that she literally doesnt hear me its not that shes choosing to not listen!! Im moving to a house with a decent sized garden soon so will start using your method and see if i can change her way of thinking slightly to make her time with me on our walk more enjoyable!!
Shes is a beautiful dog with a lovely caring nature who is an angel in the house so im hoping i can correct this behaviour and make us both happier beings:)

After an incident this morning where my husband was walking our 2 year old Australian shepherd mix down our long driveway to go the bathroom he ran off chasing a deer and our neighbor showed up threatening to shoot him, and he turned up after being gone for over 30 minutes, we realized we had a serious problem that needed to be fixed… We live in middle of the Forrest on 40 acres with deer, turkeys etc. and he spends a lot of time at my parents farm with chickens, cows, etc. which he is fascinated with (especially chickens- although he manages to control himself for the most part- he hasn’t killed any of them) He doesn’t run off constantly- it seems to be every 3 weeks lately though…

I think this article was eye opening and I am hoping this type of training will work well- I also ordered your book today “Stop!” to learn more…

He seems to run off chasing things when he is with my husband more so than me.. can we both work with him or does it have to be just one person that does all the training- would it be confusing for him if both of us worked with him?

Hi Jessica,

I would recommend that you both work with him. Keep your training words and actions the same and he shouldn’t get confused. Good luck.


We have a rescue whippet lurcher that we have had for nearly 3 years now. We were told not to let her off the lead for 2 years by the rescue centre, but after only 2 days of her living with us she escaped from her collar whilst on the beach and ran off at speed. We expected that would be the last we’d see of her, but to our amazement she turned round and ran straight back to us. She did this twice more on the same walk (consequently we changed her collar!) it did make us realise that she wanted to be with us and we therefore gradually trained her to recall to a whistle, which has been really successful until the last 3 weeks. Over the summer she started hunting mice in the grass and would often catch at least 1, if not more, during each walk. Three weeks ago she progressed to rabbits and managed to kill one. She then would not recall to the whistle as she normally did. The obsession with rabbits continued, although would not always end In a kill.
However, this morning on our usual walk, she chased a muntjac deer (which she often does), but this time caught it at a distance from me. She did not recall for a good 20 mins and when she did, was covered in blood. We feel we have lost control over a dog that was always keen to recall. She is not berated for returning to us and does always return,but now only when she chooses.
She will play with balls in the garden, but will never return them – can we really keep her interest with a toy when the lure of a kill is on offer and do I need to stop walking her off the lead for some time?

Hi Victoria,
Yes, there’s no reason to think that you can’t gain your dog’s attention with a toy, but you will need to work at it – a retrieve would be a good start. And, yes, preventing her from reinforcing the enjoyment of the chase and kill is also a good idea. Good luck, David

Hi very interesting reading your methods and nice to know i am not alone having this problem with my otherwise perfect GS cross dog.He is fine with 98% of other dogs,but will chase any timid dog we come across usually springers or retrievers!It is very frustrating as i usually walk him in a large country park off the lead and can meet and pass as many as 25 dogs without a problem.Then for some reason he will chase and pick on one and understanderbly the owner isnt happy!He is extremely good with young puppies,who adore him and has lots of doggie mates he can play with.I dont want to keep him on a lead all the time because it can be weeks before we come across a dog he wants to chase,but i also dont want to be an irresponsible owner.He has no interest in toys or treats.Any further advice?

Hi Shirley,
Not sure what is going on with your dog (bit difficult without seeing it), but it doesn’t sound predatory. Probably more social in cause from the description. However there’s no reason why the same principles won’t work to control it. You say, “he has no interest in toys or treats”. All dogs have interest in toys and food – your dog’s favourite toy is currently another dog, and he must eat or be hungry, so treats have a value for him. Finding the right toy or treat and building the value out of context is the key. Then train an alternative behaviour to the the unwanted one and reward that out of context before trying to use it in context. If you need help with it you can find professional trainers and behaviourists at

We recently took on a 1yr old rescue Lurcher X English Bull Terrier. We let her off the lead from the start in fairly safe places we knew, but it was clear that she was going to be a far more difficult dog to train than any of our previous dogs. She’d had almost no previous training, had never been walked off lead, and has a really strong chase instinct. We live in a rural/ moorland area so after losing her (briefly and worryingly) a couple of times, I came across your post above and as a result read your book “Stop” and have been following the advice step by step – training her every day indoors with the two ball game and using a strong rubber ball on a rope as her “toy” (which she is now mad about) also working on basic training and in less than a month she’s improved dramatically (she’s not always keen to give back the toy but even that’s improving). Her recall still needs a lot more work, and I have to keep a very close eye on her when we’re out, but now if she sees something (eg.rabbit, squirrel, another dog) and is about to race off, she almost always comes back when I call “toy”. On the strength of this I have just read “Dog Secrets” also very helpful. It’s a long way to go before we can walk with her anywhere near sheep or deer, but I feel very encouraged by what we have achieved so far, thank you.

Fascinating article. Hopefully it will help me and my partner reestablish control of his young springador who has just discovered the fun of chasing sheep! Will let you know how we get on!

Hi David,

Great article – is there no instance when you would ever use an electronic collar? My Lurcher is obsessed with chasing and is already “on borrowed time” as far as sheep are concerned. I’m terrified that her instinct will take over whenever I let her off (I am careful to do this away from sheep but she is likely to stop them before I do!) and she’ll end up being shot or harming something. Could the use of a shock-collar not be condoned a last defence against this by stopping her in her tracks?

Hi Alex,
Training methods are always a personal choice.
All I can say is that I’ve never felt the need to use a shock collar.

I have a border Collie (buddy) he chass after bikes etc motorbike I though I had stopped him but he has started to do it again every time I go outside if he sees or hears a cyclist or motorbike he shoots off after that it this seriously worries me because he chases them along a fence and he has jumped the fence once before onto a dangerous main road I have no idea if this is predatory because when on walks he let’s them be its just on his territory he chases them any suggestions on how to stop him would be greatly appreciated!

What an interesting article!

My 4 yr old rescue Brittany [abandoned hunting dog] is SUCH a good, gentle boy, so eager to please, great with all his commands. We walk off lead in a massive woodland or on a huge beach, where his recall is great.

BUT when he catches sight/smell of a game bird if I walk in the fields: then I have 0% control of him. I become an anxious spectator: he has no fear of running completely out of sight of me and will only reappear when he’s lost the scent. Hence, I walk in the woods. But we’re surrounded by fields…I dream of one day being able to let him off lead in the fields but right now I certainly can’t. )-:

I will try your technique & see if I can make his toy pheasant more enticing…he’s never chased anything ‘dead’ before now, other than a rawhide bone on the odd occasion!! Maybe I should stuff the toy pheasant with some rawhide? (-;

Any other suggestions of how to get a dog interested in ‘toys’? I’ve even thought about stuffing my pheasant with a remote control car!!! (-:

Hi Josephine,
I LOVE the idea of stuffing a toy pheasant with a remote control car – with that kind of inventive thinking, you can’t help but succeed!

Hi David,

Thanks so much for this article. The behaviour you have described is exactly what we are seeing in our border collie x kelpie. She is probably about 1.5yrs old, we rescued her 2 months ago.

We take her to the beach every morning and she is obsessed with chasing birds. We actually didn’t have any issues with this, because the birds are flying over the water and she is never going to catch them, so we thought “hey good exercise!”

My question is can we allow this chasing behaviour but somehow stop her chasing everything else? In particular other dogs, cats etc.

She is not interested in chasing toys / balls, but has recently started chasing other dogs when off the leash at the dog park. We are really confused as she didn’t do this when we first got her, so not sure if chasing birds in the morning is fuelling her to do this?

She is completely fine with other dogs and can be left alone to play all day with my sister’s dog no issues, but at the park as soon as she sees another dog running (after it’s own ball or something) she will sprint after it – and actually growls when she gets there like she is rounding them up and then comes back to us almost proud of her work!

We don’t know how to stop her, as by the time she comes back if we tell her off it would be like telling her off for coming back to us? We’ve also tried keeping her nearby – but off the leash – so when she looks as though she is about to bolt we can verbally stop her (before she loses her hearing on the chase as you mentioned!)

We were also wondering if she has become really territorial, because we often walk her early in the morning so she has the whole beach / park to herself, so then in the afternoon she might be trying to tell all other animals to back off it’s “her area”??

I will start working on getting her interested in toys the way you have described, so we can use this method at the park. BUT my question is do we need to stop her from chasing the birds at the beach, or even the flies in the backyard?


Hi Bree,
It looks like you’ve got a few things going on here.
Firstly, you’ve had her two months. There is often a honeymoon period after adoption where dogs inhibit their behaviour whilst they get used to a new environment. This could simply be her reverting to her previous behaviour.
Secondly, yes, there could be an element of territoriality or even breed specific herding behaviour – growling suggests that she is communicating with the dogs she chases, which is not something you do with prey.
Third, yes, she can learn that she is allowed to chase birds in some circumstances but nothing else. You need to go through a training process where you ask her to check in with you before she is allowed to chase the birds and then call her back occasionally before allowing her to go again.
Fourth, controlling her behaviour with other dogs is a must. Simple obedience training (but lots of it) is the key, and toy training will help you with that because it will be a high value reward for her.
Finally (for now at least) chasing flies in the backyard suggests she may not be able to relax very well. Learning to relax is important and something that doesn’t always come naturally to collies and kelpies, so you might want to look at helping her in that respect too.
If you don’t know how to do any of these things I suggest you take advice from a qualified behaviourist and/or trainer. You don’t say where you are, but if you contact me directly, I may be able to suggest someone for you.
Good luck,

I have a ten month old Collie/lurcher who has just started chasing any small dog that we come across on walks.It is really difficult and I am worried that she will actually hurt one soon.
I have done a lot of training with her from when I got her at 11 weeks. She is very good on recall on walks
( unless there’s a small dog/rabbit near) and she will sit and stay and come when I call.
I have also done chase recall with her which was going fairly well, using a ball to take her off the chase and divert to the ball. She came in to season a month ago and we didn’t do it for three weeks as she was on a lead. I try not to let her chase rabbits and she is good at staying with me and gets rewarded when she keeps close to me. We have a very good relationship and she is a lovely dog. I have noticed lately that she thinks she is pack leader! ( jumping up at me from behind and being a little aggressive if I don’t always reward her when she walks near me) I have been reinforcing that I am pack leader. I wonder if this is also a cause of chasing small dogs?
Any help from owners with similar problems would be great.

Many thanks

Hi Serena,
Most modern trainers have moved away from describing dog behaviour in terms of pack leadership. Perhaps you could have a look at this article to explain why
In the case of your dog it is difficult to be certain without actually seeing the behaviour, but chasing small dogs isn’t necessarily predatory (and it certainly has nothing to do with her “pack leadership”). Quite often behaviour changes around puberty, when adult motor patterns supersede puppy ones, and your dog’s change appears to have coincided with her first season, so that is a distinct possibility. You probably need some help from a qualified behaviourist and/or trainer. You can find one local to you at at and

Hi David,

This sounds fine and your training with two balls is great news. I recently adopted an American Bulldog Cross (female aged 4) from the RSPCA. We had a lovely honeymoon period, but then the trouble started, she chases anything, from cats to cars and she is very strong. She has pulled out of my hands into the road to get to other dogs and now she has started chasing cars, pulling me over in the road today. I cannot take her out anymore, I am so disappointed as I love walking. She loves chasing balls but will not give me them back. I tried with two balls and that worked but then she lost one in the garden. I can’t see how I can stop her chasing cars by throwing balls, as when we are near cars, she is on a lead, so how could I divert her attention to the balls in that environment. I also have to be careful when there are other dogs around, although she is ok, she just wants to play, but will not come away when the playing is finished and I am afraid this will escalate to a fight. I give her treats when she behaves well and praise her but I am concerned that chasing cars is going to end up with one of us being killed.

I am retired and live on a pension, so a behaviourist would be out of the question. Not sure about training, that may help.


C Kelly

Hi Chris,
Sorry to hear you are having difficulty. The first thing you need to do is readjust your relationship because it sounds like your dog is making decisions she shouldn’t be. My Guide & Control book can help with that. The two-ball training needs to be developed so that she is prepared to do what you ask for the opportunity to obtain the reward at any time – the same as other rewards. If you don’t think that you know how to do that, perhaps you could seek out a trainer that could help you. You can find trainers at

Hi David. I have a 15 month Cavelier. She can be very affectionate and likes to snuggle for a cuddle, but at other times when we go to touch her she backs away and seems nervous although we have always been nice to her.Her other main problem is chasing seabirds. We live near the coast and she loves going to the beach where we throw her a ball which she is very good at retrieving, then suddenly she takes off chasing the seabirds scrambling over rocks and seaweed running at full stretch. If she hurt herself we would not be able to get to her. She is totally oblivious to us. Eventually when she is worn out, she comes back, but only because she has had enough. I play with her in the garden every day throwing a ball which she enjoys. She loves playing with plant pots too. Not sure why she is so nervous sometimes. Her redeeming feature is she likes other dogs but always stays with us. She is quite happy just walking with us on her lead but it is such a shame we cannot let her run loose on the beach. She was a nightmare today on the rocks. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Hi Olive,
Difficult to offer any specific advice without more detail, for which you would need someone to see you to collect all the necessary information (see for qualified behaviourists in your area). In the absence of specific advice I would go back to basic with everything: readjust your relationship, re-teach obedience, especially recall (starting with long line), and work on the chasing.
Sorry not to be more help, but you really need to see someone.

Great article! But i am really having a hard time wih my puppy (beagle lab mix 7 months) we have been trying to get her to stop chasing my pet rabbits in my backyard. We have been trying to train her but as soon as we leave her alone she is chasing them. She doesn’t do it while we are there so much and when she does i call her and she comes so its not that her senses shut out when she chases. So how can i stop her from misbehaving and chasing when i leave for work?

Hi Jordan, the short answer is that you can’t control her if you are not there. She isn’t misbehaving, she’s doing what a seven month old lab/beagle has been bred to do – catch small furries. She’s following her instincts in the absence of guidance from a human. If you don’t want her to chase when you are not there, then remove her from the source of rabbits.
Sorry not to be more help, but she’s a dog – doing exactly what she was bred to do.

Thank you for this great insight. I realise I made a terrible mistake in allowing my collie springer puppy such freedom in the woods off the lead because he was so good at recall. I was allowing the chase reward to enable him to overcome every fear in being away from me and encourage his instinct and passion for it. He hit the 8/9 months and suddenly the recall ceased to be so effective. He always came back, but not immediately and would cover huge distances in no time. After a month, I found your method was proving to be really effective and thought I had cracked it, controlling his need to chase with a ball, until at the end of a long walk the ball just wasn’t enough and he took off with potentially awful consequences. I have him back on a long lead and feel like I am starting all over again. I know without seeing the dog, and every dog is different, it is difficult to comment, but is it possible to give any indication how long it might take. I would hate for this beautiful, lithe, clever dog to have to be on the lead all his life. (My last dog was the ‘same’ cross breed, trained the same, and I had no problem with recall, this ones chase instinct seems very extreme.)

Hi Rebecca,
It’s not unusual for dogs to go through this kind of training glitch around adolescence. They are just learning about the world and their place within it. You’ve done right to take control with the long line again. If you can increase the value of the ball/toy with lots of play, and increase your own value through Guide & Control (see the book if you need to), you will be probably be back where you were in six months or so. Yes that might seem a while but in comparison to the rest of his life it is a small time and effort.
Good luck,

We have a 14mth old Rottie and after just 5 weeks was doing really well with his training. He’s good with other dogs, normally responds etc until he met a horse today and saw the horse long before we did which was quite a bit (100m=) away from us. To cut a long story short, he could have been killed (the horse pushed him away with his leg instead of kicking him thankfully) and although he wasn’t being aggressive with the horse he was exitable, and jumping around it, but the horse rider was ery nervous and trying to run away from him (she also had her own dog with her) which obviously didn’t help.

How can we stop this once he has seen a horse (without keeping him on a leash all the time which we of course don’t want to do)?



Dear Beverley,
This is too complicated and dangerous to consult through a web conversation. I’m not currently seeing private clients but you can find out how to improve your relationship with your dog in my booklet Guide & Control Your Pet Dog’s Behaviour, available at
You can find out how to deal with predatory chasing (which this most probably is NOT) in my book “Stop!” How to Control Predatory Chasing in Dogs, available at
Alternatively you can find your nearest qualified behaviour counsellor at and trainers/behaviourists at


Your article was very interesting and went a long way to explain my 18 month old male cockapoo’s behaviour. He has a very friendly temperament and I have never seen him exhibit any form of aggression towards other dogs or people. We regularly walk off lead and socialise with other dogs. However – he is obsessed with seeking out and chasing foxes. We live in surburban London and there are hundreds of the damned things around. Just today I took him to s local park and in a split second he cut off playing with another dog to disappear into the bushes and escaped through a fence into a housing estate. Fortunately he came back on this occasion, but he had crossed roads in the meantime so it’s very concerning. This has happened several times and each time he follows fox trails. He will also chase deer given the chance so I have to be extra vigilant as he would not survive an encounter with a large stag! Any advice? Thank you! Nicki

I spent a lot of time training my now eight month old cockapoo in the early days on basic commands and recall which she seemed to respond well to. However, I live in the Scottish borders on a large estate and until recently she has not been exposed to busy roads. Now it’s a real liability walking her alongside traffic as she lurches at every passing car and wants to chase them. I can’t see how any toy intervention is going to help here. Can I desensitise her by continually taking her along busy roads? Will she eventually give up this particularly chase and can it be classed as predatory?!

Thanks, Toni

Hi Toni,
The behaviour is extremely unlikely to be predatory in nature – much more likely to be fear based. “Chasing away” the cars as they pass works because they always go away. However I don’t like to diagnose without seeing it and it is too complicated to consult over the web, but you can find your nearest behaviour counsellor at or trainers/ behaviourists at

Hi there
My Springer Spaniel is 21 months. Ever since we had him (8 weeks old) he has barked at and ‘gone for’ cars, bikes (any type) and runners. Even a lady with a pram! Anything moving quickly toward and then past us.
He is ball obsessed. We walk through farmland and woodland where there are animals and pheasants and he’s really not bothered and recall is good. BUT as soon as we are up on the walking track – even after a bit of ball play – he will bark at any runner (cyclists or vehicle) coming past. He will confront them then try and nip their ankles. It’s horrendous for me. He is such a lamb in all other ways but I cannot control him AT ALL when he is doing this. I have consulted two behaviour specialists who wanted to fix the basics before trying to address this. I get that… & now after reading this article I understand finally what is going through my dog when this happens. He is terrible on a lead (pulling as very strong and I am only little) and I am trying to train him to walk to heel. (long story – I was ill up until November so have not trained him as I should have done.. .) He is a good boy off lead until this happens.So it was all going well until we saw the runners. Now I feel totally destroyed and that I am useless at training my dog. I could cry. I have been walking him where he won’t come across runners in narrow lanes. I have been in big open fields and have totally sidetracked him when I’ve seen anything coming (he also barks at horses) and that makes a happy walk and we play with the ball thrower & it’s a great outing. I live in a farmland / woodland environment. I just feel like I am losing the battle and it makes me sad. I love my dog but I just don’t know what to do – the lady I see said I needed to de-sensitise him and should take him to the park and just sit and watch the cyclists etc etc etc… is that the next step? Thanks FIONA ,

Dear Fiona,
I don’t like to diagnose without seeing the behaviour, but it does appear that your dog is not engaging in predatory chasing, but rather chasing from fear. In that case your trainer is right about desensitising, but it is far more complicated than I can explain by web-posts, and requires more than just sitting and watching things in the park. I’m not seeing private clients at the moment, but you can find your nearest qualified behaviour counsellor at and trainers/behaviourists at

A friend’s dog barks at and tries to chase cars, so I looked it up on the internet. Found many not very helpful articles, until I came across yours which is very interesting. I will suggest she buys STOP. thank you.

Hi I’ve just gotten a 1yr old lurcher today..previous owners had him as a working dog then decided that the didn’t want him anymore and started abusing him. He’s terrified of other dogs and men and women sadly. I also have a cat and they were introduced to each other for the first time this evening the dog had his leader on and was held by my partner on a very short leash. And it didn’t go very well he wanted to chase the cat and stuff what can I do to make the transition easier for the dog from working life to family pet life and also get him not to chase the cat and be nice to one another


Hi there,

This is a very interesting read and has given me some tips to try. I have a lovely 10 month old cocker spaniel and she has certainly found her nose in the last couple of months!! I have ordered your book to see if I can get a few more tips – I have a constant sense of worry that she is going to run off too far and get lost. As I’ve read previously, the training can seem to be going really well then, at about 9 months, it all goes out the window – which is exactly what happened for us!!

She loves to chase birds and she is constantly looking for bushes and picking up scents. I’m just so worried she goes off too far and gets lost or hurt. I have started going to a gundog trainer so I’m hoping that helps – I know there’s no ‘quick fix’ but I’m dedicated and keen to try what he advises, although I wish someone had a magic wand to make it happen sooner!!

Any other tips are gratefully received – I am usually a very laid back person but I now have this constant sense of worry about her running off.

It’s tough being a parent!!!

Hi Euna,
you seem to have a very sensible attitude – I’m sure the book will give you what you need to know.
Good luck and enjoy your pup!

Hi David,
Thanks for the interesting reading and insight. I have 2 rescues: a 3y.o Lab/Staffy dog and an almost 10 month GSHPxGS bitch who we’ve had around 6 months. They get on famously and both love to run, but she particularly loves to chase him. Initially they would play chasey everywhere, but recently they’ve been running laps around a circular garden bed. This occurs despite how long or recently they’ve been walked and has resulted in a very dusty racetrack! I realise that this is play, but am a little concerned that they may injure themselves in their excitement and speed. I’m wondering if I should be attempting to deter the behaviour, or if I’m better off accepting it and putting tanbark down to minimise the mess before Winter?! Also if there is there any likelihood at all that they will grow out of this as they age? I hope my questions aren’t too off-topic – her chasing is instinct rather than predatory (I feel). Thanks very much for any insight you can provide…

Hi Jo,
as you rightly say, this is play behaviour. So long as both dogs are enjoying it they should keep it within limits that don’t harm themselves. It is really up to you if you would like to disrupt them. If they are getting plenty of exercise otherwise they probably don’t need to do it, but it does seem like they enjoy it. You would need to make sure that they don’t start to chase other dogs they meet because that would worry some.
It is unlikely that they will grow out of it totally, but it might decline as they age.

Hi there 🙂

I have recently rescued an abandoned dog from Greece, Rusty was believed to have been owned but left to fend for herself when her owners moved. She spent 6 months on the street and was only found when nearly dying if starvation. The rescue that picked her up did an amazing job and I was told to watch her with food. She growled at first but she is now really good. My problem is that although I was told she was great with cats, everyday she is going after ours, I believe she wou


I believe she would bite given half a chance. She totally ignores out 18 to cat. My husband now doesn’t trust her but I have told him we need to understand why. Please let me know if this technique could work for us as I will not allow myself to fail her. Thank you 🙂

Hi Tracy,
Many street dogs have a different outlook to most pets and when adopted rarely come with just a single issue to be addressed. It is unlikely that you can treat this one problem in isolation and will need the advice of a professional behaviour counsellor. You can find your nearest qualified behaviour counsellor at and trainers/behaviourists at

Hi David

Dog- Patterdale, prey chase very very high.

I got my patt age 8 weeks and did all the training as correct as possible and Im a trainer running my own company, but as she turned 8 month her prey chase “switched on” and I lost the control on drive out. I only allowed this behaviour to happen 3 times and knew I had to change area to stop the behaviour happening, I put her back into classes and started all my normal recall Modification Training Programs but realised in 2 months this was not
working and then worked out the hard wiring was really difficult to break through, So contacted professional friends who suggested you, after reading your information on prey chase I made a new training plan and would like to thank you for your studies, in total this has taken 7 months of work, countless kong balls and lots and lots of small sessions I now have her back in the forest with the rest of my group of dogs, she does chase but comes to check in and will return for the ball word. I dont recall her to a word as her check ins are often and have made the end of the forest the ball game again, ie made it the jackpot area. Im concerned allowing the deer chase can undo all my work? and could it take over the ball game? so far not had a fail as keep doing field for a few days then forest so she gets a mix.
Im booked into your seminar in Manchester and look forward to meeting you.
Thanks again
Ann and Daisy

Hi Ann,
It is a difficult one as every dog is an individual and responds ever so slightly differently. You’ve obviously done a great job – Patterdales can be a tough nut to crack. It’s your call as clearly you know your dog and her reactions better than I could, but I would be inclined to err on the side of caution. Deer can be just soooooo attractive that I wouldn’t be sure that the ball game would be enough to counter the excitement they can generate in a dog. It would be a shame to lose the control you have worked so hard for if you don’t have to.
That said, I do know of people who have perfected that balance so that they allow a limited amount of chasing, but still maintain control with the ball game.
Good luck whatever you decide and I look forward to seeing you in Manchester.

I have just ordered your book but reading your info I think it might help.I got a crossbreed terrier from local rescue centre about 2.5 years ago when she was 7 months old. She was terrified of children, going outside and other dogs and didn’t seem to know how to play. She has improved a lot. She loves walks now, and is addicted to retrieving items, especially a frisbee. And she will sometimes greet other dogs muzzle to muzzle but is still nervous. But she has a very strong chase instinct. She often chases other dogs that she sees running and if they stop running she barks at them to make them run again. She also enjoys chasing deer etc.She hasn’t killed anything or even attempted to, she just barks to try and make them run more. I have used the frisbee to distract her and this does work to some extent. She is not allowed it other than on walks. Her recall is good when not in chase mode. And she always returns from the chase after a short time. She tracks where I have gone. Several friends and family walk her when I am work which makes it difficult to control what happens when she is out. But I will try the two toy technique you mention. In the past sometimes when I have shouted frisbee when she has wanted to run and after something it has stopped her if I do it as soon as I see her catch a scent. But sometimes she ignores me and sometimes she returns the frisbee to my feet then runs off! But when she is in full flight nothing can stop her. So I will try your advice in the book but if there is anything else you can suggest it would be good. I have tried a citronella anti barking collar when out on walks with other dogs. The first time it worked very well and she ran without barking or getting over excited. But the second time she rolled in a cow pat and then jumped in the river and it hasn’t worked properly since!

Hi Carolyn,
It seems that you are working along the right lines, but you need a bit more structure to your programme. The book will help you with that.

This is the most interesting article I’ve read!
I have two rescues. A bouvier des flandres who is 8+ and another medium sized mixed breed 2yr old who I have had for 18 months. They get on really well, both have totally opposite characters though. One protects me and stays close and the younger one, though lovable and obedient mostly, gets that sudden urge to chase everthing with 2 or 4 legs. I have to get the balance between the two. My younger one has started burrowing under the fences to get to the deer, foxes, or anything else he may catch the scent of. I fully understand your remedies/thinking to correct his behaviour but I have tried really hard to get him to play with ‘his’ toy. He really isn’t interested in toys outside, but will play with me inside, or with my other dog occasionally. I understand what you’re saying..but it seems like a very long and difficult road ahead at the moment!

Hi Jean,
Yes, it can be a long road sometimes, but worth it in the end. If the toy isn’t attractive enough for him you might consider changing it?
This is an extract from the book… Choose targets to suit the individual dog and their preferred behaviour: for sheep chasers use big footballs or boomer balls, for bird chasers try Frisbee, for rabbit chasers use Kong rolled through leaves, for “killers” try a ragger. Not interested? Try a gravy soaked tennis ball or sock on string, a shuttlecock, biscuits, stuffed Kongs or one of the vast array of commercially produced toys on the market. Consider smell, taste, texture, chewability and the behaviour of the toy…

Thank you so much for your response! That’s given me so many more ideas. I will try other toys, some I know he’ll love.I don’t really think I have given him enough attention to be honest and your explanation of his thinking has already made me change the way I react to his behaviour. It’s very likely I will buy the book to continually reinforce that in my mind. I was so close to giving up on him. I am very grateful!!

Your article really confirms what I thought about my dog’s chase instinct, and I will try what you suggest.
However he has not shown much interest at all in playing fetch, gets easily bored by it, leaves the toy or the ball without bringing it back to get a treat or another toy…
He is about 18 months old, we’ve had him for a year from a rescue centre and took him to puppy classes for socialisation and training for recall. He is a cross breed, but clearly has whippet and some sort of terrier in him, and probably sheepdog too judging by the way he crouches and crawls while approaching his “subject of interest”.
This may just be another dog he wants to play with, he is very sociable and gets on with most dogs.
My biggest concern is his need to run off leash, how can this be done safely? Should I let him off lead at all I wonder? Will he get very frustrated if I always walk him on leash?
I take him to the beach everyday where he can run freely, he loves to chase the waves but never gets too close as he hates water.
He checks in regularly, looks back to see where I am, and it seems he’s easy to control that way, until…he sees a van or a noisy land rover on the prom. Today, for the first time, he took off after such a vehicle, it was quite far from us and I certainly was not ready for it. He came back after seeing it off, but it certainly scared me. That sort of chasing seems different to chasing a squirrel or a mouse, it seems to come more out of fear?
He also tries to chase these noisy vehicles, lorries, buses, when we walk in town, but he is on leash then, and I manage to calm him down by taking him to the side and giving him a treat as the lorry passes.
What do you suggest I could do to stop this dangerous chasing after vans etc…?

Hi Marie,
This sounds too complicated to be a straight forward chase problem. As you say, it may be rooted in fear. Sorry not to be more help, but it’s just too difficult to do by internet – too many questions and answers. I’d recommend you seek professional help. You can find your nearest qualified behaviour counsellor at and trainers/behaviourists at


Hello David. Really helpful article. I have an 18 month female spayed bearded collie. Recall always very good but occasionally has just barked if she sees someone in the distance and now barks at joggers unless very tired after a walk. Barks furiously at people/ dogs on lead walking down road wagging her tail. If they come close she stops barking and wags even more so doesn’t feel like she is scared. She likes barking at people she sees on the road passing by. She stays close on a walk but when we walk through field of sheep on lead she is very interested and I wouldn’t trust her not to chase/ herd them. Other beardie owners just laugh and say you have a barking beardie but that’s not good enough. Joggers need to enjoy their walk. I don’t understand what is going on.

Hi Helen,
I appreciate that Beardies can be barky dogs, but agree that yours is going a bit far with it. I hate to try to diagnose by internet, but from what you’ve written, this doesn’t sound expressly like a chase issue. It sounds more like frustration to me. Your young dog is looking for stimulation and is frustrated it isn’t arriving NOW. There are various things you can do, including taking more control (Guide & Control ) but you’d be better seeing a professional in person, just to make sure we aren’t missing anything. They can also tailor a programme to you and your dog. You can find your nearest qualified behaviour counsellor at and trainers/behaviourists at


Hi David, I have a 4 year old staff cross we got him when he was approx 8 months old, I take him to training classes every week and he is a really lovely boy, BUT he has a really high chase drive. His recall is a bit hit and miss and so I have taken to walking him on a long line( lots of sheep near us) and will only let him be off lead if he is muzzled, not because he is aggressive but he plays really rough and body slams other dogs and will chase and doesn’t seem to know when enough is enough and I am obviously conscious of how powerful and strong he is. He always crouches when he sees another dog, ready to pounce. So how can I use your method if he is muzzled or do I need to lose the muzzle and practice on his long line until I feel confident. He loves to chase a ball/ Kong but runs off with it & doesn’t always bring it back and even then he is distracted so easily if he sees something moving he will leave his toy and go! I would also love for him to be able to play with other dogs nicely without him being such a bully, he is such an intelligent dog and I don’t understand why I can’t seem to train him to recall every time, what can I do.

Hi Ingrid,
it sounds like you have a quite few basic problems that may or may not be related: lack of recall, inappropriate play behaviour with other dogs, lack of retrieve, and some chase issues, so you probably need some professional help. Training classes are good, but won’t address the problems in context. If you are a competent trainer you can follow the book, but you need the basics in place before you even think about addressing his chase issues.
You can you can find your nearest qualified behaviour counsellor at and trainers/behaviourists at

Archie, a fell terrier, settled into home life well and is generally a happy and relaxed dog. The main issue is that he has started to bite Mr Johnson, mainly on the hands but he will also pounce on, and bite his feet when he walks around the house especially if he walks up the stairs.
Archie is walked twice daily for about 2 hours in total, mainly off lead around local fields and the farm down the road where he hunts rats – the farmer is aware and encourages to take Archie there!
Mr Johnson is a very effusive man with a loud voice; he gesticulates a lot when talking and gets quite excitable. Mrs Johnson is calm and controlled, she does all of the walking and feeding; Mr Johnson plays ball in the garden with the dogs most days.
Archie’s previous home was apparently very noisy as three generations of the family lived there aged between 3 years, and 75 years of age. Archie wasn’t well liked by the older generation but got loads of fuss and cuddles from the young children. He was put up for homing as he was too demanding for the owners who had little time to spare for him

Looking at Archie’s history; what do you think may be the motivation and reinforcement for biting Mr Johnson?
Do you think stopping the ‘rat hunting’ would make his behaviour towards Mr Johnson better or worse and why this is the case?

Hi David,
It sounds like you are asking about a dog that isn’t yours. It would be unethical for me to offer any advice without the consent of the people involved. In this case it is also too complicated to comment without seeing the dog, and I’m not currently seeing private clients. You say “looking at Archie’s history”, but there isn’t sufficient information to call a history. Sorry not to be more help.

I have a 4 year old Patterdale terrier she chases birds squirrels and other dogs!Her recall is inconsistant,so usually keep her on lead which she hates. Yesterday I let her off lead in the local park she was having fun with my friends dogs and behaving when she noticed in the distance a man playing ball with his son! She moved so fast stole the ball and ran, when I eventually caught her the ball was pretty chewed up which the man wasnt happy about he went to town on my dog ownership skills I wanted the ground to swallow me up!Now shes back on lead unless we are in a field and totally alone where she will run after her own ball,which she wont drop to me unless I show and throw a second ball!Think she defo has this internal chase drive. She is driving me mad.

Hi Gwyneth,
You have the answer in your second line – her recall is inconsistent. Chasing pother dogs is unlikely to be predatory, and suggests she is simply not under your control, rather than having a chase problem. You can look at my book Guide & Control available at to try to get her under control, but you may need personal professional advice. You can find your nearest qualified behaviour counsellor at and trainers/behaviourists at

I have a yellow labrador who’s 13 months old. I’ve had her since she was 9 weeks old and the training is going very well. I take her as often as possible, usually 3 or 4 times a week, to the beach where she can run off the lead. She has great fun playing with other dogs but always comes running when I call her. She never chases horses or running children. The one problem I have with her is chasing children’s beach balls and footballs. She will not listen to me! I always have a tennis ball with me and she plays with that, I’ve now bought a Chuck-It dogs football but since buying it we haven’t come across any kids playing with their beach balls, it’s still very cold here. She always bursts the beach balls and I always get into trouble with the kids’ parents. It’s impossible to predict what or who is going to be on the beach and the second she spots a beach ball she’s away, it’s too late for me to put the lead on. I’m hoping the Chuck-It ball will help but I know my dog pretty well and I’m almost sure, even with the Chuck-It, she’ll still prefer to chase the beach ball. I was thinking of buying some sort of muzzle, one that allows her to open her mouth enough for a tennis ball but not a larger ball. She’s a really good dog but this ball chasing thing is getting me into some awful trouble, I don’t take anything with me to the beach except a tennis ball so never have money with me. Any ideas what I should do. It’ll be summer soon and I don’t want to keep her away from the beach and the sea and I don’t want to take a purse with me to pay for endless beach balls.

Hi Pauline,
I suggest you spend a lot of time on training the predictive command – there’s a section on it in the “chase” article – so that you are able to stop her on a sixpence. Once trained, your final test proofing would be to throw a beach ball and call her back from chasing it.
Practice, practice, practice… makes perfect.

thankyou for your very interesting article.we recently welcomed a 14mth old bloodhound beagle into our lives.she is not desexed yet will be in next month.But we are on acreage with horses alpacas and lots of different wildlife.she listens pretty well,we had to give her a name not knowing previous one,and comes sits stays when in our enclosed house yard area(hubby had to make more fences so as she could not get to outer paddocks,im scared she will run,first day she visited our neighbours,nose down bum up on a rabbit scent I’m sure)she displays no aggression is a loveable little girl but has obviously been hit,chained up and not had much training(grass was weird for her for a day )we have a 5yr old lab who is our assistance dog(low blood sugars on my 3 girls)he is very well behaved,lots of training.Do you think if I tried to train new dog for low blood sugars that it may take her run away.i would love to take her out of house yard to really run(house yard is still over 1/4 acre)I would like her to explore I just need her to listen when out(and she didn’t couldn’t hear me )or am I rushing things and we need to get to know each other more,she needs to trust,poor thing cowers when I pick up poos.but she has started following me while I’m doing pick up.thankyou sorry for essay

Hi Sue,
It sounds from your description that she has had a bit of a tough past so it’s going to take her a while to trust people. I think the bond to you will be critical here, but it is early to expect that to be in place just yet. Lots of positive recall training will be the key – and if you can get her interested in any kind of games with you, that will help to replace the “nose-down-bum-up” tendencies. However, provided she still gets some attention from you there is no reason why she should run away if you introduce another assistance dog. She’s young, it’s early days yet and you have the chance to shape her future behaviour. Start her on a long line with recall games and take it from there.

Dear David,
What an interesting article…so helpful in terms of understanding the dog’s perspective.

We have a troublesome problem with a 2 year old totally blind lurcher who we have adopted from a rescue organisation as ‘cat friendly’ dog. I was circumspect about this but we already have a very cat friendly lurcher (they rub noses, eat together, walk around the garden companionably) so I wasn’t particularly concerned and took the rescue’s claim at face value.

Our new lurcher is fine with the cat if the cat noses or head buts him…but when the cat is being passive the dog can’t resist getting excited and tracking by smell/noise, and he has made a couple of lunges at him. I’m keen to help him get over this because I fear he would harm the cat and/or get over excited and take a misstep and hurt himself. We’ve given lots of praise and treats when the dog is being calm and gentle with the cat. We try to distract and redirect his interest as soon as he starts getting overly interested in following the cat. The cat unfortunately has no fear of the dog and is also confused by the behavioural inconsistency (often the cat knows he is in the dog’s ‘sight’ but gets no response). I don’t know how to help the dog understand that the cat is ‘family’ as he can’t actually see how we and our other lurcher react to the cat.

If you have any ideas it would be so helpful…there’s a real lack of self help manuals addressing the ‘how to stop a blind dog from assaulting an overly friendly cat’ problem..!

Best wishes,


Hi Catherine,
This is a tough one as there could be some other factors at play here, so without seeing the interaction I wouldn’t want to give a definitive answer that could potentially make matters worse. I recommend that you see a qualified behaviourist who can come to your home. You don’t say where you are, but you can find your nearest qualified behaviour counsellor at and trainers/behaviourists at

I have a 11 month old German Wirehaired Pointer puppy, who comes from very good working stock (both parents are Field Trial Champions), and who I am gun-training. I have successfully trained working gun-dogs before, so I’m not a complete novice.

His recall and drop to a whistle at a distance are very good, but he has an extremely strong chase instinct, and all the training goes to pieces if he encounters game. Occasionally, he will just put his head down, even if there is no game nearby, and just head off, at full speed, in a straight line, and will run for hundreds of yards away from me, free hunting. Eventually, he comes back.

I’d like to try your technique, but I don’t want to turn him off game altogether, and just get him fixated on balls or dummies, since as a gun-dog, he’ll be required to find, flush, and retrieve game. To flush game to shot, or to point it, he’ll have to hunt and find it – he just mustn’t chase it!

Hi Tim,
Yes, there’s no reason why you can’t half-implement the training if you want your pup to work game. The article is written for pet dog owners who don’t want their dog to chase at all. Just adapt the bits you need for what you want.
As an experienced trainer you will know that 11months old is a time when they often go off the rails a bit anyway.
Good luck,

My 15 month old Male Lab cross is well socialised and not anxious about anything, although he hates being on the lead, and this can lead to aggressive barking and pulling towards other dogs. This largely disappears if off the lead and allowed to approach, sniff and play.

He just loves chasing and unfortunately being chased. This means that in addition to chasing cars, bikes, horses, joggers if given an opportunity, he will keep out of reach if he steals or finds a ball. People laugh, but it’s not funny. I can be hours trying to get him back on the lead. He constantly adapts, refusing to be tricked into being caught. Note he doesn’t usually run out of sight and usually returns to the vicinity of me within a few minutes, but just out of reach. This means we can’t go home having to return across a busy road. If by chance I do get the ball of him it’s relatively easy to get him back because the game is over. The chance of me retracting the ball is increased if he is distracted by other dogs, or he’s dropped the ball and lost it, but usually he remembers to keep it in his mouth. The only other retraction technique is to sit and pretend to be disinterested, obviously this takes time.

I’ve tried the ‘total recall’ technique by Pippa Mattinson. This is easy with food inside the house and outside without distractions. But as soon a a dog, bike, ball or interesting toy is available this goes out of the window. Having another ball doesn’t work. I’ve also used a variety of tempting toys such as yapping dogs and even carrying a loudspeaker with barking dogs. However, after vague initial interest he adapts, and quickly releases it’s a trick. A constantly long attached trailing lead, sort of works but is unpopular with other dog owners and of course quickly becomes impractical if I hold it in woodland.

Why don’t I simply keep him on the short lead all the time? Well my stomach muscles have only just healed from all the pulling towards other dogs, and restricting play and exercise can introduce other issues! Having a belt and an elasticated shock absorbent lead, helps though. Neutering or temporary chemical neutering is an option, but after reading various articles on behavioural and health effects on male dogs I’m reluctant to go down this path.


I hope you can help. I have a year old Bullmastiff x Rottweiler x Bordeaux. In general she is brilliant.

When she was a puppy she used to chase bikes and joggers, but she doesn’t do that anymore as I used to hold on to her when they went past and she has learnt not to do it.

She does bolt off after birds as you’re trying to stop above, but very infrequently. I would like to stop it so will be trying the training process.

My problem is I have other animals in the house and she wants to play with them and show dominance over them, as she is bigger she half whacks them, playing, but this might do some damage, if they run off its ‘the chase is on’ so we end up in a bit of a mess! I want her to live in harmony.

Would the process above be suitable or do I just need to wear her out on walks more?

Hi Yvonne,
Although this seems to be a “chase” issue, it clearly goes deeper than that and will need more investigation if you are going to change it effectively. I am not seeing private clients at the moment and the issue is too difficult to explore by email. You need someone to come and see you and your family of animals in order to help you. You can find your nearest qualified behaviour counsellor at and trainers/behaviourists at

I have recently adopted a 2 year old Podenco X Galgo and I am having trouble with the chase drive. He is fantastic with no distractions but as soon as he sees something small and furry he is totally focused on that. Off the lead he would be gone, I once spent a good half hour fighting my way through brambles as he had got his harness stuck and couldn’t get back out. On the lead he will pull (he is very strong), he will whine, whimper and bark and is constantly searching for it. He is constantly on the look out for game (or anything furry) and a walk on a lead involves me constantly pulling from one animal track to the next, even on the long leash he is so focussed that I cannot always get his attention. If I call him back, he may start to come to me but if he smells, sees or thinks there is something to chase he is distracted again. Where I live, there isn’t anywhere to walk him without distractions of cats, rabbits or foxes, even in the garden he can be distracted by birds in the trees. I would appreciate any advise you could give.

Hi Colleen,
You’ve adopted a hunting dog. Hunting is what he is for. He was born to hunt. He is doing exactly what he is supposed to do. You can get him under control, but it will take a great deal of time and effort, and you will need to work on your relationship away from the context of hunting first.
You can find out how to improve your relationship with your dog in my booklet Guide & Control Your Pet Dog’s Behaviour, available at and you can find out how to deal with predatory chasing in my book “Stop!” How to Control Predatory Chasing in Dogs, available at
If you need help with either you can find your nearest qualified behaviour counsellor at and trainers/behaviourists at

I have a 2yr old rescue dog, probably English collie/cocker spaniel mix. We have had him from young and he has always been great apart from chasing. Ducks, geese, squirrels,cats but never people. I normally taking him out for 1-2hours but its making walks stressful which is making things worse. I thought he would have grown out of it now so any help would be appreciated

I have a 19 month Springer Spaniel who is very fast on paws. We live at a park so this is where his early morning walk takes place. Now that it is light mornings joggers and people on bikes are now about. As Buddy is off leash running about due to the trees we don’t know if someone is there until we hear him barking or see him running in full flight mode. He goes from side to side of the person barking. This is his main exercise walk so don’t want to start keeping him on his leash however I am being left with no option. The biker this morning said control your dog or I will get him out down. He’s such s friendly dog but just doesn’t like bikes or joggers…

Hi David,
I have adopted a bordercollie/akita mix that is 11 years old. I have only had him for 18 months. He is a great dog, super friendly with people, gets along with the house cat, and most other dogs that mind their own business. He has been learning to recall off leash over the last year, but as this spring has come, his chase drive has come to full throttle. It only happens when we walk in the woods and I try to let him off leash. He was much better last summer (first summer with us). He always returns within 1-3 minutes (after lots of yelling and a remote collar alert) but I worry he will not sometime in the future or encounter something that is dangerous when he is out of sight.

I’m afraid he has become so happy and comfortable with us this year, that he is just going into predatory drive. Is it possible the opposite of your article is true – LESS stress bringing out more predatory drive?

I look forward to your response.

You make a good point Dee.
Very often rescue or rehomed dogs inhibit their previous behaviour for a while in their new environment. Only when they feel comfortable in their new circumstances and when they feel able to predict their relationship with the new people (and dogs) do they revert to their previous behaviour. We call it the “honeymoon period” for rehomed dogs. All seems perfect because they do very little. However, once the honeymoon period ends (could be a month or as much as twelve) they start to behave as they have previously as they sus out what they can get away with.
It is likely that last year’s lack of chasing was abnormally suppressed in your dog and this year he has reverted to what he has always done because he thinks he can get away with it (and it appears that he can!)
Good luck,

Thanks for your insight – that is exactly what I thought! Back to long leases for this boy for awhile!

Hi my wife and I are the proud owners of an 15month old border terrier.
He listens well and reacts well to the badic commands,
He has a group of four legged friends with which he regularie plays.
I am a keen runner and he loves our regular runs.
But let him off the lead and he’s off, not to be seen for a good 10-15 mins.he’ll return on his own accord unless you call him, then he’ll be off all day.
I was hoping that after a good run or cycle, he would be too puffed to chase anything, obviously not.
Any ideas would be gratefully accepted as i would like to start trail running with him but is nigh on impossible if he’s on a lead.
Thanks for any help,

Hi Ian,
You and your dog have incompatible requirements. You want to go for a run and your dog to come with you. Your dog, like most dogs, finds just running for long distances very boring and is going off doing what he enjoys, which is hunting. Hunting is great fun and he can do it without any input from you. You therefore become surplus to requirements, so he doesn’t listen to you.
Running him for long distances builds up his stamina, so the more he runs the fitter he becomes – it doesn’t tire him out.
The only way you can keep him with you is to be more interesting than hunting. It is a common misconception that dogs enjoy “walks” or “runs”. They don’t enjoy the activity of walking or running, they enjoy the activities they get up to on walks or runs. If you don’t provide something enjoyable for your dog on your runs, he will find his own fun, which currently appears to be hunting by himself.
There are many ways to build up your own attraction and to engage your dog whilst out, but it will involve some training for you both. You can find details in my books, Guide & Control and Stop!

Hi am finding your articles really interesting and useful. My husband and I own two gorgeous 14 month cocker spaniels, brother and sister. Their recall was excellent until about 3 months ago when Maddie our girl decided that chasing butterflies and especially swallows was much more exciting than coming back. I have had three walks with a local pet therapist, she confirmed they are acting like teenagers

I always reward them when they come back, let them “go and play” often during our plays in the park. Maddie sits, scanning the horizon, looking for swallows, and off she goes chasing and making little “yipping” sounds. I have been using a whistle and a long training lead but there has not been any improvement, and now Morgan her brother has also started to not come back when calked. He has always been much more a “Mummy’s boy”, always keen to please me

I am looking for advice please on how I can try and stop the total focus on birds, if I can stop it, or should we walk them elsewhere … other local parks are too close to very busy roads so I cannot let them off their leads there. Is this a “phase”? I retired last year and we collected them two days later so I am with them the majority of the time

I look forward to hearing from you
Thank you

Hi Ruth,
The problem you have is that chasing the birds is a more interesting pastime than staying with you. You need to become as much fun as chasing the birds. It isn’t a “phase”, but increasing control through recall games will help. My book “Stop!” will give you a more complete understanding.

We have had our Working Cocker Molly from a pup she is now just a year. She has a lovely nature is well socialised with other dogs and humans and is never aggressive but lately her behaviour has become more erratic on walks; she loves chasing joggers and it’s obviously a game to her but 10 days ago she ‘nipped’ one on the leg and drew blood. Luckily he was understanding but it’s of great concern as although we are experienced dog owners and trained her to fetch and retrieve etc, which she started to respond well too, it’s a source of worry. I have a experienced dog walker who helps me as she needs loads of exercise and I have some mobility issues. My husband walks her for a couple of hours each day at weekends. We have all decided to try walking her on the lead to try to curb the ‘chase addiction’ but I’m not sure it’s having effect. She has happily worn an open muzzle when let off the lead but I wonder what your views on this? So for the moment her walks to being on a lead when in the local woods etc. Can you offer any help as we love her dearly her nature is lovely she just ‘loses” it once free!

Hi Karrie,
Muzzling and keeping her on a lead is one way of keeping people safe, but it doesn’t address the underlying issue. Without seeing the behaviour it is difficult to say exactly what might be the cause (you describe it as a game, but nipping is usually more fear-based and often appears around social maturity, ie about 1 year old), but using the game-playing protocol described in this article and more extensively in the book should be enough to gain control of her either way. You could start playing the game on walks with her on a long line for safety, then gradually as she becomes more responsive and less focussed on joggers, dispense with the line.

I have a 4 year old yellow Labrador who has elbow dysplasia. We have always exercised him as a normal dog – running about, sniffing etc. but we have recently acquired a 2 year old Labrador bitch who likes chasing him and she runs like the wind. I am now worrying about my yellow Lab as he is so tired and hardly moves all day, she is exhausting him. I have suggested to my partner throwing a ball with a ‘hurler’ for her but he doesn’t like the idea of this. Is there any other way of slowing her down a bit?

Hi Penny,
I’m afraid I don’t have a magic wand – you already have your answer. I once knew a handler of a GSP who spent the first hour of each day throwing a ball for her to bring her down to more normal activity levels. Also in your case it would be good to take the focus away from your yellow lab to give him some peace before she breaks him. Use the hurler.

I have just come across this very useful article. I have a 13 month old Bouvier des Flandres who likes chasing. She chases horses, bikes and runners mainly, this has now developed into a chase with barking. As she is a large breed this can be intimidating for others.
I believe bouviers used to be used for herding so it’s not a ‘chase’ as such, she’s just trying to get everyone together – Will introducing a new toy and training as per your article help with this?
Many thanks

Hi Bekki,
Yes, it will help you get her under control. The essence is to make your game more exciting than the other one.

Hi David,
We have recently rehomed a 3 year old Tibetan Terrier – we already have a 9 year old Bedlington. We keep free range chickens and we accept that the ‘free range’ element is now on hold! However, we have had her for about 10 weeks and recently she has been impossible to get back into the house at night. We have a very large garden and she is fixated on anything roosting or moving about. I think she came from a home with a tiny garden and has just realised the scope she now has to chase. She also yaps, which I’m concerned about because of the neighbours (all the trees are on the boundaries). Her behaviour is encouraging the Bedlington to join in so that now I can’t trust her with the chickens either – before the TT came, she was 100% trustworthy.
I have read your article for help but my main problem is that the Tibetan has no interest whatsoever in toys of any sort. I am reluctant to get anything remotely similar to a chicken or that makes a noise. A ball bores her rigid! On the few occasions she has been persuaded to play she suddenly switches off completely after a couple of minutes and walks away. Overall she appears to have settled well, she is walked off lead every day to allow her to run as much as possible, but only away from other dogs as she can be aggressive (unpredictable) and her recall is poor unless there are no other distractions. Can you suggest an alternative method to help break the chase instinct and/or come in when called at night?

Hi Jane,
I’m afraid you’re trying to run before you can walk. You can’t give your new 3 year old terrier free rein in your big garden and expect her to behave. Even after ten weeks you will have little value for her and she won’t recognise you as someone to be considered as worthy of taking advice from. It’s little wonder she ignores you and does what she wants.
You first need to control her whilst you build up a relationship in which she considers your advice worth taking. If that means restricting her to lead walking in the meantime, then so be it. My book Guide & Control will give you some idea of how to do that, and I appreciate that a ball might not tug her rug – so you need to find something that does, as she obviously likes chasing things!
Also, walking her off lead when she can become aggressive towards other dogs and has a poor recall in the face of distractions is asking too much of her. She needs some serious guidance, which you are not in a position to provide.
Try walking her on a long line, which you can let drag when there are no distractions whilst you practice recalling her and deal with her dog aggression – both of which need to be addressed before any predatory predilections.
Of course she doesn’t come in at night when you allow her to frolic with the chickens and have no means of controlling her – it is far too much fun. Don’t allow her to do it at all until you have trained a good solid recall.
In short, you have a great deal of training to do. When she is very dependable you can start to address her predatory behaviour.
If you need help with any training you can find your nearest qualified behaviour counsellor at and trainers/behaviourists at

Good luck and best wishes,

Hi, I have a 1 year old working cocker spaniel who is generally very obedient. The only issue we have is if we call him to sit and wait to let a car or bike past once we let him go he will chase after it, barking. He can sometimes be called back but he will just go again. He does not chase them any other time, only when we’ve called him in to wait. Any suggestions on how to solve this? Thanks

Hi Vikki,
It is difficult to ascertain the motivation here without seeing it, but you can change the motivation and behaviour by rewarding the sit more, and then extending focus on you. Every time a car comes and you call him in, clip him on the lead and reward the sit with something high value (toy? treat?) before unclipping him long after the car has gone, so he doesn’t chase it. Once you have established the sequence of reward you can withhold it for longer so that he sits and focuses on you as the car leaves, expecting his reward. The car leaving then becomes a cue for him to sit and wait for his reward rather than a cue to chase it.

Hi David.
We have a 1 year old lurcher bitch who had great recall. This stopped at 7months and now only comes back when she is knackered usually. She lives to chase other dogs and get chased but if no dogs are around she will chase cyclists or bark at passers by, and can seem aggressive but I know it’s playing, the person does not. I’ll definitely be ordering your book but is there anything I can do in the meantime for obedience ? My dad always had lurchers and they were always obedient with great recall She is collie greyhound I believe but grandparents were deerhoundx saluki or similar.

Hi Garry,
It’s back to basics whilst you re-train your recall. She’s clearly having more fun with others than she is with you, so you need to control (prevent) her access to chasing other things and make yourself more interesting. Take her out on a long line to control her – if you don’t have verbal control you must have physical control. Retrain the recall for reward, preferably a toy-game with you. The book will give you more details, but this should be enough to be going on with.

Thanks. I’ve ordered the book and will keep you posted.
One other thing if you don’t mind. When I’m getting her sprinting 30-40metres to retrieve a ball her behaviour is really good, bringing ball back and waiting to go again. Should this be more focused on recall and training just now rather than just letting her sprint after it ? Thanks for

That’s great for now – you can let her drag a long line if you need to in order to maintain your physical control, but eventually you will be using that to keep her focus by using two balls and working on her recall. In short, if she needs a burn, play the sprint game under control, but you will develop it later. The book explains it at length.

Thanks for the very informative article.

Confirms my fears that this is something I cannot stop them doing, it is just very natural for them and punishing them in any way will do no good at all.

Other than the chase they are brilliant dogs, very well behaved, responsive to all commands, very well socialised etc but when they get a smell of Deer, Rabbits, Hares, Pheasants there is just no stopping them. And as all the walks are in places where these are all present – in the countryside where we live I either have to keep them on leads or let them do what is natural to them although i don’t like it.

The part where you say “they just are not hearing you” is so true.

They just get into a ‘wild’ but I guess very natural state and hunt.

That is such a basic instinct for them. They are just being dogs and I have to accept it.

Good thing is… they always come back. And they are very pleased with themselves !!

Thanks John

Hi, I have a 6 year old Malinois Belgian shepherd which I walk in the countryside away from roads. When she gets near to the woods or an area of thick hedge which I think has rabbits in it she bolts off and totally ignores me calling her and then after upto 30 minutes when I think I have totally lost her she suddenly appears by my side all calm and ready to carry on walking with me. Sometimes she can be just walking with me in the middle of the field and decide to bolt off in the direction of the woods even though she might not have done it for some weeks. She doesn’t appear to be chasing anything in particular but I am sure there are rabbit smells around. When my husband walks her in the same fields she never does this and she doesn’t chase people or bikes etc but does like to run up to greet dogs and have a play chasing around with them if they cooperate! What am I doing wrong?

Hi Ruth,
I’m not completely sure but I don’t think it is a ‘chase’ issue if she doesn’t do it much of the time and never with your husband. It sounds more like a boredom issue. Whatever it is that she’s doing is more fun than staying with you. Try making yourself more interesting by playing some games on walks and practising your training (recalls, sit-stays, drops, whatever so long as it’s fun), or teach her some searching games and play ball. Make yourself more rewarding to be around. That way she’ll prefer to stay with you rather than go off on her own.

Hi David,
We are fostering a failed hunting dog from Cyprus. Breed is not 100% certain but would say Springers X Pointer.
He chases our cat and becomes very heightened. We can carry the cat and hold the cat whilst we clicker and treat the dog but as soon as the cat is in motion it all changes.
We haven’t had him off the lead whilst out on walks so not sure if he would chase anyone/anything else. He has seen wildlife but mainly ducks etc with little movement.
Do you think it’s prey drive if it’s only directed at the cat?
We spoke to a behaviourist who told us to teach ‘move’ but when the dog is in chase mode it’s clearly not enough. I’m really concerned for the safety of my cat.

Hi Tracy,
A hunting dog can fail for many reasons, including too high a chase drive or lack of control, so “failed hunting dog” doesn’t give us many clues unless we know why. Regardless, a dog that has been bred for hunting and presumably encouraged from an early age will have built up a higher than usual chase drive, so there is a clue there for us. The fact that motion stimulates him is another, and he’s exhibiting it towards a prey-like animal. It certainly sounds predatory and I think you should be very concerned for the safety of your cat to the extent that they should not be alone together.
The other aspect of this is that you are fostering, so I guess you haven’t had him very long. If he is to heed your request not to chase your cat you have to have control of him. Control is based on your relationship and can take many months to establish. If he’s not getting off lead he’s also probably looking for opportunities to chase (as he has been encouraged to do so previously). There are many things that can be done, but it’ll be a long haul – all the explanations and techniques are in the book.
Good luck,

Thanks for that, we’ve had him for 4 weeks. He is golden in every other way. We don’t leave them alone together.
I think it’s common for hunting dogs to get dumped in Cyprus, he is very bright and picks things up very quickly but obviously the safety of our cat comes first. I believe he failed as he wasn’t interested but I can’t be 100% about that.
Sadly the layout of our house doesn’t give the cat a clear entrance/exit so we are constantly on our guard,they are totally separate when we leave them.
Thanks again for your help.

Hi David,

Your article makes a lot of sense and involves some of the same principles I use in frisbee dog training.

The problem – we have a 2 year old Aussie Shepherd show strain bitch who has been spayed and she is trained for K9 Frisbee sports. She is a keen chaser of discs as she should be and she has immense prey drive which is only directed at rabbits and squirrels. She does not chase anything else.

Recently her drive went into warp factor 9 as soon as she realises there are squirrels about she is off on the chase fully locked on target and cannot be recalled until the chase is over and she then always comes back. This can range from 30 seconds to 10 minutes and can be totally out of sight during this time.

She is not an anxious dog at all and loves any ball game and frisbee game but the drive is now at the stage where intervention is required. No other external reinforcer or game matches the squirrel chase. And she is super clever and manipulative.

As you may or may not know Aussies are natural born chase dogs and have exceptionally accute eye sight and the slightest movement can trigger the chase.

Stimulus removal is very difficult indeed as squirrels are everywhere except for the beach which is our daily walk. We love walking out doors and find it hard to avoid rabbit and squirrel free places where we live.

Yesterday we were walking in loggerheads in Wales and the first hour in the woods was fine and we were using the 2 ball method until she lost one. When I throw only one ball she knows she can posses it and then the chase begins as she is in control and can choose to retrieve or posses. Whilst possessing, she saw a squirrel and instantly chased in warp facto 11 and did not return for some 10 minutes.

I always reinforce the return and never punish (positive trainer).

I wonder if your above technique will work for such a high drive chase machine ? Or whether another approach may be required ?

Many thanks in advance.


Hi Ron, all I can tell you is that it has worked on dogs with a very high chase drive previously. The book provides a more in depth explanation, but your sticking point seems to be in the possession of the first ball. You need to increase the value of the second ball (the one you possess) so that she will bring back the first or you do not have control. Retrain the exchange in a place with no distractions over a short distance. Make the ball you have more attractive by bouncing it or playing with it by yourself. You can conceal a squeaky in your hand to pretend the ball you have squeaks (but never let it go).


I have a 2 year old german shepherd who is very friendly and sociable but he loves to chase other dogs. If he sees a dog in the distance he will run up to it as fast as he can and no amount of calling will convince him to stop. Most of the time when he gets to the other dog he will sniff it and then when called he will sprint back to me. Sometimes however if the other dog is particularly playful he will take a long time to come back. I like him to play with other dogs because he’s very friendly but because of the breed and some peoples preconceived ideas about them his behaviour sometimes worries other owners. When no other dogs are around his recall is perfect it’s just dogs he wants to chase. I have tried to get him interested in toys etc but they have no effect. It’s not a massive issue as I know he’s perfectly friendly and will always come back after a while but if you have any specific advice for this sort of behaviour I would appreciate it.



Hi Simon,
This isn’t a predatory issue but a social one, however the crux of the solution is more or less the same. He currently prefers to go to see other dogs rather than stay with you. Your task is to make yourself more attractive so that he prefers you. You have three options, toys/games, food or social attachment. My booklet Guide and Control expands upon them and how to use them. As with most aspects of dog training there are no quick fixes and the groundwork is the most important aspect, addressing the basics out of context. All dogs only come back when they feel like it. The priority is to make him feel like it even in the face of distractions, because you are the most important thing to him.
Oh, and by the way, it may not be a massive issue for you, but it could well be for other dog owners, seeing a GSD thundering towards them – I know it would be for my dog.
Good luck,


I have a 2 year old beagle male (intact) , he has issues with chasing bikes / joggers and people without dogs at the park. He never chases anyone who has a dog. I’m not sure if it’s a case of boredom without a dog to play with because he’ll sometimes leave a dog he is interacting with to chase a person. He’s never nipped anyone but he mainly barks and switches side to side perusing them.

Due to this I’ve been keeping him on the lead for the entire duration of his walks to make sure he can’t bark or chase anyone. But I know it’s not exactly fixing the issue and for a lively dog like him he can’t be expected to live his life on the lead but equally his behaviour is not good at all. Should I seek the help of a behaviour expert? I’m not quite sure what to do.



Hello Mr Ryan

I found your article via the Horse and Hound forum and it has given me lots of ideas, thank you, but I am not sure yet to what degree I may have a problem. I have a 4 month old boxer x old english sheepdog and was deliberately seeking a non-terrier based crossbreed in order to walk cross-country with minimal risk of the dog disappearing. However today she started to follow scent trails on the heathland and jogged about everywhere with her nose firmly to the ground. She attempted to chase a misplaced squirrel at one point but was checked by the lead.

My question is could this be a prey hunting behaviour and might it increase the risk of her behaving like a hunting and chasing dog after all? She has boundless energy and I dread having to keep her on a lead for long since she is already very strong and still growing.

Best wishes

Hello Tania,
You have an interesting situation in a young pup. At four months old she is building areas of the brain that will serve her for the rest of her life. If you allow or encourage predatory behaviours now she will build up the capacity to enjoy them for the rest of her life, which I guess you don’t want as, if she enjoys them they will be difficult to prevent. However, she is highly active and looking for outlets to keep her stimulated. To keep control of her you must have control of the things she likes to do – keep her interested in you. Whilst it is fine to allow some free-sniffing time so she can learn about the world, I would be calling her back to me for short games (which can involve fetching or searching too) before she becomes too intensely occupied elsewhere. I’d also be practising lots of obedience-type games so she enjoys them too – on a long line so that is able to make choices, but you have ultimate control.

I found your article very helpful. I have a kelpie cross Max who we adopted a year ago. He is a good boy with what I assume is a strong chase drive. He is polite but extraordinarily focussed around small children and small dogs, we are very careful. He patrols our back garden and chases birds constantly. He is very excited by the calls of the birds.

I have become concerned because he is becoming very frustrated I assume by his inability to catch them. He has started growling and attacking sticks, plastic sheeting and his outside bedding after a bird chase. Yesterday he ripped an inside cushion and his dog bed when he heard bird calls, not good for any of us.

It is difficult to encourage him to play with toys, very disinterested, he’s amenable but not particularly trainable. I know a poor workman always blames his tools but big difference between him and our other kelpie.

Any advice much appreciated.
Thanks, Madeline

Dear Madeline,
it’s not a great deal of information to go on, but it does sound like Max is becoming very frustrated about not being able to catch what he is chasing. It is a normal adaptive reaction and not uncommon. However, if he likes to chase birds, he likes to chase toys – you just haven’t found the right toy yet. The drive is there, the problem is that he is only currently stimulated by birds, so you have to find something that starts to stimulate him in the same way. If conventional toys aren’t doing it for him, look at things like a shuttlecock on the end of a flirt-pole. Be imaginative – go for it!

Hi David,

Thank you so much for your article! I found it very helpful. I do have a slight challenge with the recall part of the training. My dog Chance is 5 years old, all white pit-bull mix (maybe American bulldog or Staffordshire terrier with maybe some lab in her) and she was also born 100% deaf. The only eye contact she gives me is in the mornings maybe when she’s calm and relaxed and just waking up. Other than that, she looks away, even with her favorite chase toy, a tennis ball. She looks at the ball or the treat and not me.

My problem is she has always had a strong prey/chase drive. I think I helped her with that one day when I noticed she liked to chase me on the other side of the fence. Now she pulls and tugs whenever she sees a fence so she can chase and bark at me on the other side. Lately, she’s been wanting to go after my cats and also little toy dogs. Today she almost gave me a heart attack when she ran so hard and fast after this little dog , who was off its leash, that she puled her leash right out of my hands and started chasing that poor little dog! The owner and I were so scared. She stopped when the dog pivoted and came around my way and my dog found me standing there waving my hands at her to stop. She stopped and looked confused. After reading your article I now understand why.

How could I help her if she can’t hear me?

Thank you, Anything helps,

Hi Marisol,
I think the issue here is that because Chance can’t hear you she makes some inappropriate decisions without looking to you for guidance. Although I don’t usually place great reliance on gadgets, I think in this case a remote controlled vibrating collar would help (NOT a shock collar). The collar vibrates gently on her neck when you press your remote button. You need to introduce her to it properly – check out some of the specialist “deaf dog” websites for advice – and train her to look at you when the collar vibrates. Once you have that in place you can start to train her to look at you when their are distractions, and from there to come back when you ask, using the principles in the article.
Good luck,


I have an 11 month (almost 12) sheltie who is currently recovering from an injury sustained when he broke through a small fence chasing a squirrel. Needless to say he chases squirrels, rabbits, and had chased birds. Through desensitization I have been able to get him 90% calm when in my yard with birds around. I take him in once I sense the reactivity growing. But there is nowhere around I can train without squirrels or rabbits, and his drive for these are much stronger. Obviously, my fencing has all been replaced but he still will try and go through,jump over, etc, anything if he sees a rabbit or squirrel–this makes walks virtually impossible.

To complicate matters he has been on restricted exercise for 6 weeks while recovering, so has had little outlet for his energy (I do give lots of chew toys, puzzles, target training time). He is extremely strong and pulls excessively when attempting to get him in the house once he starts with a chase.

Hi Pam,
the principle is to train an alternative, acceptable behaviour that is under your control out of context, so start in a place with no distractions. If the only place available is indoors, then so be it. Because your dog is a manic chaser he will take whatever opportunities are available. If the only opportunities are through you, you have control of him. Once established you can start to introduce distractions at a distance, eg with the back door open, then into the garden and so on, each time taking care to keep control through the attraction of your alternative behaviour. By slowly increasing your preferred behaviour in the face of distractions you maintain control. The book explains it in greater detail – but in essence it is a long road of small steps, the first of which is to take a toy and have fun with your dog.
Good Luck,


That is fine but how does a game translate to walking on lead in a suburban neighborhood? I don’t often have areas to let him off lead, and wouldn’t trust it if I could anywhere that was not fenced such as a dog park. He gets along wonderfully with other dogs–so that is not an issue.

You didn’t ask about going for a walk in an urban environment! Walking on a lead in an urban environment is a control and training issue – you need a relationship in which you are in control of your dog and the training to ensure he walks with you on a lead. Chasing is another issue. It sounds like you also have a basic recall problem – which is simply another training issue. My book Guide and Control sets out the basic protocols for improving your relationship to achieve control over your dog.
Good luck,

I have a rescue dog from Cyprus, we believe he is a coonhound cross and was used for hunting before being dumped. So his prey drive is very high! Once he has caught a scent there is no stopping him and nothing will make him come back. Unless he can’t see me (sometimes). After a while he looks up to see if I’m still there and sometimes he notices I’m gone (hiding) and will come but other times he carries on for a while longer.
I’ve tried obedience training with him using food and toys but nothing really seems to help. I find it hard to train him because we have rabbits anndnd guinea pigs at home. We also live in the country so everywhere has rabbits, pheasants, sheep and all sorts of wildlife for hire to chase. What would be the best possible route to take for training?
He would be fantastic as a search and rescue dog. But they can take 3 years. There are no scent work training groups within nearly 100 miles.
Hope you can offer some advice.

Hi Clare,
If he could be trained as a search and rescue dog he can be trained to work with you. You’ll find all the details of how to train him to do that in the book.

Dear David,

I am so pleased I found your article, it has given me hope. I have a 18 month old staffie cross lurcher (we think – was a rescue pup) She has been well socialised with our cats, dogs, horses and no problem until recently.

She has shown increasing predatory chase behaviour over the past month or so. She managed to bring down and kill a deer and since then has turned full throttle and now sees our cats as targets. I am keeping her muzzled and away from the cats at the moment.

I was beginning to come to the conclusion that I would have to rehome her with a cat free home, which would break my heart.

I have spoken to my vet and he was not sure this ‘instinctive’ behaviour could be rectified and advised I contacted an animal behaviourist. (I have left a message, waiting a reply)

Having read your article I am going to give your advise a try. She is being restricted to lead only walks. I now realise that she needs to fulfill her chase desire and will introduce a toy indoors and proceed from there.
I will buy your book to help guide me.

Just wanted to say thank you for writing this article, really appreciated!


Hi there David, I’ve just ordered your book on predatory chasing! We’ve got a cracking 9 month old male cocker who is training up very well and gradually ignoring more and more distractions-by following the advice you’ve given earlier like play games, make me more fun than anything else and long leading. He used to chase after any dog in Kent but is now ignoring them, not really interested in regular birds like pidgeons, and not even bothered by squirrels and he is now doing his training like sit/stay etc in fields of sheep whilst ignoring them even when really close. But birds on the ground are a different matter when out in the country and his behaviour is exactly as you describe in terms of being completely deaf to anything else when the chase is on. However he does come back within a minute or two-he doesn’t disappear for hours. So he is only on a lead now in places where he might find birds to prevent him from self-reinforcing this and I will work through your book. My question is…our friends and neighbours have some chickens and I was thinking of taking him into their garden and practising basic training etc with them next to him in the pen-i.e. training to control his instincts with them nearby. Would this help (I gather this is part of gundog training?) or would it just reinforce his drive to chase birds?
Thanks! Graham

Hi Graham,
‘steadiness to chickens’ training won’t do any harm and might help, but there’s no guarantee it will transfer to other contexts. Having said that if I had the opportunity to do it under controlled conditions I would take it.
Good luck,

Thank you for this very helpful article! We recently adopted a 2-year-old dog that we were told was a lab mix with low prey drive. He’s actually a redbone coonhound who, being a hound, is extremely interested in small game. This wouldn’t be such a big deal, but we adopted him specifically in hopes that he would be able to coexist with our two rabbits! Obviously, they are fully separated and probably will be for the rest of their lives.
To my question: our dog has been very easy to train (highly food-motivated) but we’re not sure what to do with his tendency to spot and bark at rabbits he sees from our backyard. He does go into full chase mode and it is very difficult to redirect his attention, though not impossible. Is spotting and barking (followed by sprints around the yard) fun or frustrating for him? Is this something we should permit as natural dog behavior, or something we should try to redirect and train down, as you described above?
Thank you!

Hi Emily,
I think that his behaviour will become more intense over time and will indeed cause him frustration. If he were mine I would redirect and train down as you suggest.

Hi David, thanks for the info, I came to your workshop on this a few years back but was having difficulty in remembering the exact methodology. Looking forward to trying this with my young labrador who needs lots of self control work 🙂

Hi David,

I have 3 rough collies. One will sprint at the sight of a bicycle at the park or seek where the sound of a motorcycle is and if in eyesight, he will bolt for it. I feels it’s only a matter of time where he sprints to the motorcycle at the wrong time, and that motorbike will be the last thing he sees.

His brother, is catching on, on his ‘games’ but is not quite as athletic so can’t keep up. Nonetheless, the two of them will go mad at the lawn mower, or at kids on skateboards, or any other moving object (it’s not even a chase, it’s a bark like mad, and if off-leash, sprint and sniff the scared skateboarders).

Anyway, they are always on-leash unless at the park due to the above issues. The park however, has some surrounding roads and a bike path within it (the bicycle chasing). I am a bit of an asshole in that because of their breed, I’d rather the first collie chase and piss-off a couple of bicyclists but still be able to exert his energy rather than be shackled by the leash over the hour walk. He is young (under 2 years) and as this article mentions, once he is fixated on the chase, I no longer exist.

I could allow two collies off leash, and this one on leash, and we wouldn’t have any issues (he is the youngest), apart from the energy exertion issue and then perhaps he develops anxiety watching his siblings roam free while he is leashed. Or do I have to leash them all? I don’t have a motorbike to ‘desensitize’ him. And the lawn mower gets the same treatment every time too.

It’s safe to say I and the family have been hopeless in effective training the most recent two, but I don’t want this to cost them their lives.

Any suggestions?

Hi James,
I’m not sure from your description that the chasing is predatory – there’s a good chance it is fear-based from your description, but without seeing it I couldn’t be sure. You also have a degree of social facilitation going on, which means your dogs are paying more attention top each other than to you.
Having said all that, the book “Stop!” will provide you with the methods to firstly control and then change the behaviour. Although you have no ‘tame’ motorcycles, you do have a lawnmower with which you can start the desensitisation process. As you seem to have several issues I would recommend that you seek out a competent local trainer to help you. I would also strongly recommend that you prevent your dogs chasing people (whether riding vehicles or not) from a legal point of view.

Thanks for the quick reply David, no it’s definitely not fear, more excitement and that the activity of chasing is far more exciting than whatever it is I have to offer.

I will purchase your book stop on my Iphone and have a read through it that way.

I local trainer should help (i’m in Australia) however the scheduling and costs may be difficult at this time, but I will definitely keep it in mind.

They don’t chase people, just people on bikes/motorbikes or skateboards 😉 haha.

If you ever head down to Australia, update your blog and perhaps we can get in touch (I’m happy to pay a premium for someone like yourself who is an expert in these matters).



This sounds like a great idea, except my GSD dogs love to chase rabbits and cats, but have absolutely no interest in toys. They will work for treats. Any other ideas? Thanks

Hi Peggy,
There is no ‘except’. If your dogs like to chase rabbits and cats then you can develop their interest in toys. You just need to apply yourself to it. Just because you haven’t done it in the past doesn’t mean you can’t do it in the future. It just takes a bit of thought and effort. The book will give you ideas if you need them.

I don’t usually ask questions on these sites. When I see SO MANY people asking, I assume at some point the author will become overwhelmed and stop answering. That being said, you seem to be SO patient and considerate of your readers and we are SO desperate for a solution, I’m going to give it a try…

We have a 6 year old terrier mix that we recently adopted. We don’t know much of his past accept he was found as a stray. He knows some basic commands and shows signs of previous abuse. Our problem is not the chase instinct in and of itself. It’s the fact that it is all consuming. When outside, that’s ALL he wants to do. Look for something (or someone) to chase. Usually rabbits as that’s what’s most prevalent. This is so all consuming, he doesn’t even care about eliminating! He saves the eliminating until we’re back inside! No matter how badly he may need to go, finding and chasing is more important. I read your article with great interest as you seem to have a good handle on this situation. My problem with reducing this behaviour comes with your suggestion of getting him to chase a toy instead. At his age, he is not a dog who enjoys chasing a ball or stick. He doesn’t seem to desire play. He doesn’t want the inanimate! Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thank you so much for reading.

Hi Todd,
An adopted six year old terrier mix, whose background you don’t know because he was found as a stray doesn’t give us much to go on. He is also not giving you much to work with, but that is as may be. We work with what we have.
The first thing to recognise is that this is not going to be easy. You have a dog that is in the ‘difficult’ category, but that means when you succeed it will be all the more enjoyable 🙂
You don’t say how long you’ve had him for, but it often takes six months to establish a basic relationship with an adopted adult dog. It could yet be early days.
And that relationship will be your start point. It has to be forged and guided by you, otherwise he’ll continue to do whatever it is he likes. My Guide and Control book gives you some pointers on how to do that.
Once you have the relationship right you can start to train. Basic obedience exercises are always good. Don’t think you can get away without them, because you have a dog that we already know is ‘difficult’ and you need all the help you can use to control him. It might be a good idea to train him to toilet on request as well.
Then you can start to introduce toy-play. Yes, some dogs are more difficult to introduce to toys than others, but you need to work at that too. Be inventive and start in a place with NO distractions (indoors). If he likes to chase, he will chase toys. You just need to find the toy and method that tugs his rug.
Then you can progress to working on his chase drive. The Stop! Book will give you a more expanded version of the article, which in your case may be more helpful.
If you get stuck or need help you can find your nearest qualified behaviour counsellor at and trainers/behaviourists at

Good luck and have fun.

Hi I’ve recently got a 3 month old Patterdale x Jack Russle. are there anyways to make sure they will not pick up the chasing habits, say if I let them play chase enough with a decoy will he not see the need to chase rabbits or other animals when exposed to them?

Hi Georgia,
Yes, you are right, providing appropriate outlets for your dog’s chase instincts is a good way to control them as they grow up. What you must be careful of is not to overdo it so that chasing becomes too important for them. Teaching them obedience and calm relaxation is equally important.

Hi David – have read your article and all the above comments with great interest, what you say makes so much sense but I have questions.

I have an 18 month old border collie bitch; as you’d expect she is intelligent, learns new things easily and mostly she is a pretty obedient dog (if rather hyper and a tad highly strung) but she chases cars and cyclists, and her focus is absolute!

The 2 x toy idea sounds fab.. and indeed I think we may have cracked the concept in spirit
– with just one ball for our beach walks where we always take a ball and ball launcher aka “the rod of power”…at the beach she is perfect because her ball is her 100% focus and much more interesting than anything else, she totally ignores people and other dogs with barely a lapse!

At home in the garden her frizbee is focus, perhaps I will try taking it to the woods with me where the cyclists are present and see if there is improvement,
(I don’t take the ball as it’s not a practical place to launch it)
Or do you think I should try and introduce another toy specially for the woods?

But what on earth do I do about her chasing cars…she does it in the boot of the car too, stalking any approaching oncoming vehicle and then lurching after it with force and barking, it doesn’t even have to be moving…parked cars are also prey (I suppose she perceives them as moving because we are?)!
It’d very hard to throw a ball to distract her and drive simultaneously!
And same goes for a short walk along the road by my house where we may encounter cars, I can’t suddenly throw a ball or any toy in that scenario either.
Because of where we live we have to go in the car to get anywhere so denying her being in the car for a while is also impossible.
I have previously tried various distractions or look at me techniques for both situations but her instinct to chase is very strong indeed and so far nothing works, one or two things have worked for a short time for within the car and then ceased to be effective as she quickly figures it out as “a trick”

Thankfully I have no real need to walk her anywhere near cars very often and am very fortunate to live 10 mins equidistant from a beach or woodland where she can be exercised without this hazard and I have a harness with double safety lead to keep her restrained for times when it is unavoidable.
But are these short car rides causing her stress do you think? She’s not scared, to me it looks like she is having a great time…ears up, tail going etc! It is stressful for me though lol

I totally get that this is in her nature and as she is not a working dog I am denying her the sheep she desires….what method/game would you suggest for the cars?

Hi Kirsty,
Yes, you are right, in-car chasing is a different matter. The only thing I have come across that works without tight control and focus on the owner, which you say you have tried, is to black out the windows so she can’t see out (or some variation of that).
However I’d also be looking at teaching her some other aspects such as impulse control to calm her more generally (to make her less ‘hyper and highly strung’) so she doesn’t see the need to react to everything. I don’t think the short car rides distress her – she’s probably enjoying the chase.
The purpose of the ball or toy is not to be thrown every time, but to provide a high-value alternative with which you can shape more desirable behaviour ie, ‘you may get the toy if you watch me instead of watching this car’. The intermittent nature of the reward strengthens the alternative behaviour without the need to use it every time. Train the alternative below the tipping point for the behaviour (ie start with a car a mile away) and work closer as the new behaviour becomes established. The promise (expectation) of a reward can be more rewarding than the thing itself and it may therefore also be worth introducing clicker training for such a sharp dog.
Good luck,

Thank you…I will look into impulse control.

I’ve just been looking at your book Stop on Amazon, will this book cover the above too or should I buy a different book?

…and I had looked at clicker training when she was a pup but dismissed it as being un-necessary as she was so sharp and picked stuff up in a flash! But if you think it will help I will re-inforce everything she currently does with a clicker for a while, she likes new things anyway.

The book extends the explanation on here but only contains some aspects of impulse control, so you may need to look elsewhere as well. There’s much on the internet these days.


Other readers of this thread may be interested to know that I had a certain amount of success with the mountain bike chasing on our woodland walk last night!

I took her beloved frizbee to the woods with us; she is not as focused on this toy as she is with her ball but we encountered a bike heading towards us as we returned to the car…she saw it and there was a moment when I thought she was going to run but the frizbee held her attention long enough to divert her and she assumed her stalk position.
I threw the frizbee in the opposite direction as a reward once I had her full attention – and success, she chased that instead!

Certainly a work in progress, all I need to do now is find a more suitable type of toy “for wood walks”, one that is not so easily lost in the undergrowth and I will work with her some more on this.

I’m obviously lucky my collie is already and quite naturally a focused and toy obsessive dog, so the leap to the technique described in the article with two toys shouldn’t be a huge leap for her.

Many thanks for the advice…re the in-car problem, I shall just purchase some ear plugs 🙂

Hi David
We have a 5month old Whippet who we have since 9weeks. His training is coming along well but his chase is just as you say above and we cannot seem to make ourselves more interesting to him. We have tried toys and treats etc but once he goes i cant get him to stop. He chases bikes, joggers and birds mainly but if we are in an open area and someone is on the other side of the field he will just go to them before i can stop him..

Hi Joanne,
No quick fixes I’m afraid, but the book explains how to control him in greater detail. The running-up-to-people will improve as he gets older and people become less attractive to him, but the desire to chase probably won’t reduce. I’d also be looking at teaching him some self-control exercises. If you need help with it you can find your nearest qualified behaviour counsellor at and trainers/behaviourists at

Hi David,
Thanks so much for all the great information. I adopted a 4 1/2 year old pitbull 5 months ago. She’s had a lot of training and is doing well. The last few weeks (when baby wild bunnies were born around the neighborhood), she sits by my back sliding door and watches for wild bunnies in my backyard. When she sees one, she starts whining and wants to go out. If I let her out (she never catches one), she runs all over looking for it and smelling the scent for about 10 minutes. My daughter thinks I should get a curtain for the sliding door so she can’t see the yard. She’s fine on leash, but she’s obsessed with the back yard wild bunnies. I may be totally wrong, but I hate to block her view of the outside-that’s one of two doors she can look out. The other door that she looks out of-there are no bunnies. Help, please! Joan

Hi Joan,
This is a bit more complicated than I can reasonably answer here, because it begs more questions than answers. Firstly you must ask what your dog is getting from the activity. The answer to that would appear to be the excitement of chasing/sniffing around after the rabbits. The second question is, ‘does she need this activity to balance her emotional wellbeing’, or is it an ‘extra’ ie something she can do without and still maintain her emotional balance. If the answer to that is ‘yes, she is a happy dog even without the bunny-game’ then you can dispense with it by blocking her view (although that might cause her some frustration). If she is using the bunny-game as a form of stimulation because she is under-stimulated in other ways, then preventing her from access to it will certainly cause her frustration and to look for other occupations. I can’t tell which it might be without observing her over time.
One thing you might consider is temporarily blocking her view and at the same time providing her with other forms of mental stimulation, for example chew-toys or other activities. Games with you where she is searching and/or chasing might also help compensate. She also needs not to be stimulated sometimes so she can relax, so constant bunny-access is probably not a good idea, even if she enjoys it and you want her to continue.
Finally, if you do want her to continue, place it under your control. Block off her view so she can’t self-reward, but occasionally allow her ‘bunny-time’ on your command when you tell her she can go out and run around, before coming back when you ask. Don’t let bunnies become more important than you are.
I know this sounds a bit complicated but the Stop! book explains it in more detail.
Good luck,

Thinking of my 17 mo. old cane corso’s chasing as an addiction helps tremendously. This is the first thing I’ve read that actually makes sense!

Hi David,

we got a 5yo rescue Husky x German Shepard. He is the most gorgeous creature and since I had a Husky cross growing up, I understand the breed quite well, including their need to chase (as your article has pointed out). Even though it always left me scared for him, an occasional deer/rabbit/cat-chasing adventure was fine for my previous dog, because we lived in a small town near a forest and he was smart enough to find his way home.
Even though we were told never to let our new dog off the lead because of his prey drive, I knew it’s manageable and it has been for about 6 months, when he took in all the training we’ve done with him and became a completely different dog (as we were told by the rescue when they saw him recently). But then spring came and all the neighborhood cats have started wandering around more, and he’s started running off – mostly on the morning walks…and since now we live in a busy city, any time he wanders beyond the edges of the park, he ends up on a street (residential, when we’re lucky, but still…). We also got another husky that we are fostering until he finds a home, so training has become a bit more challenging, trying to manage them both. I’ve ordered your book on chasing and am eager to try your approach, but I guess my question is, what are the chances of me being successful with an older dog?

Hi Jana,
The short answer is yes, it can work with an older dog, but from what you describe your guy is currently getting far too much opportunity to control his own chasing. I would be following the rescue’s advice and not letting him off the lead until you have his chasing under control – at the very least keep him on a long line. The more he does it, the more he’ll want to do it.
Trying to train two will make each one much more difficult too, so make sure you separate them to get the best effect.
Good luck,

I found your article very interesing. I have a 17 month old miniature LH Dachsund who goes into a frenzy at the sight of my cats. His prey drive is so strong that he trembles in a stupor when he sees them and if he has the opportunity chases them with high pitched yelping. I have had two behaviourists-one who wanted to use an electronic collar on him and the other who wanted me to have a special toy that I should persuade him was more attractive than the cats. Whilst trying to protect the cats and at the same time play with his special toy whilst the cats try to pass through the house it has not been successful. I am at my wits end and considering rejoining my dog for the sake of the cats. Do you have any suggestions?

Many rhanks

Dear Claire,
I can see where your problem lies, but not where it originates. This is important in how you would seek to resolve it. I’m afraid we would need a full behaviour consult to work through the whole issue and develop a programme for change and unfortunately that is not something I can offer at the current time. The ‘toy’ idea is good, but I can see where it would be compromised by the cats being in the house. From your description of your dog’s behaviour any programme will be time consuming and lengthy, so sometimes re-homing might be a preferred option. After all it could solve the problem immediately with little or no distress to the animals (and humans) involved.
Without having seen the problem and with the scant knowledge you have understandably been able to provide here, the training will involve forms of gradual exposure to the cats whilst preventing any form of chasing, probably by keeping him on a lead. This is a form of desensitisation – reducing his arousal by low level extended exposure to the stimulus. You would also add in counter-conditioning, which is associating the cats with something other than the opportunity to chase them. This could be food or the opportunity to engage in a game (as suggested by your ‘toy’ behaviourist). The critical part is that this must be done below the threshold for the unwanted behaviour, ie at a level that does not stimulate the full response. There will also be a great deal of background behaviour-relationship work and obedience training. A good behaviourist should be able to explain how to do this and set it up for you. I’m sorry if this is not much help and I’m sorry you have not been able to find someone to help you so far, but good behaviourists do exist. If you private message me with where you live I may be able to recommend one in your area.

Hi David,

I have two young male Golden Retrievers. One is 11 months whine we have had from a puppy, the other 18 months and we have only had the last 6 months. We live on a farm in 20 acres but are surrounded by maize hides for pheasants and partridges and farmers on all sides shoot. All summer I’ve had no trouble, both dogs have pretty good recal and enjoyed walks and free time to explore while I mucked out my Horses, they rarely strayed far from where I was. There has been the occasional rabbit that the older dog had chased after, and the puppy unfortunately got introduced to prey early on when our cats bought in and dropped live birds or mice which he soon learnt to chase and eat. Still neither had caught a bigger prey like a rabbit or pheasant until September when the farmer released hundreds of poults into the wild. They were very immature and could hardly fly and we had just had our hedges cut so they were sitting targets that couldn’t even get through the stock or rabbit fencing easily and so the carnage of catching pheasants began. Initially it was mainly the younger dog but he would not give them up to me and although I managed to save a few he also killed and ate a few. The older dog until that time hadn’t caught anything and when he caught his first bird brought it to me and gave it up instantly. 2 nd or third catch and now he won’t give them up. He’s not so much wanting to kill and eat, but the rush for him is the chase and they have both gone in that crazy chase, the puppy always behind crying in excitement. Every walk was becoming stressful for me and even if I took them off my property and a mile walk on roads to the woods they were now chasing off there too.

Just a few weeks ago it culminated in an accident at my property when they both went off and actually got out under some Christmas trees where the fence had been pushed down by dear or foxes unbeknown to us. They went across the road into a neighbouring farm chasing pheasants and as they came back over the road the younger one was hit by a car. My world was falling apart that day. I was frantically searching and calling and then got a call from the game keeper to say he’d seen him hit by the car. Miraculously he wasn’t badly injured and was up again running, but they carried on back through the maize and over several ploughed fields, through a wood. It was only the efforts of the game keeper going across country and cutting them off with his Jeep that distracted them enough to stop and be caught.

Since then I have only been letting them off lead one at a time and distracting with games similar to what you suggest in your article, but there are so many birds around almost inevitably there is a chase by Jack the older dog on almost every walk. Luckily the pheasants can fly now so once they’ve flown up far enough away he looses interest and comes back. We are having to put stock fencing around several areas of the farm that are vulnerable to getting on to other peoples land. The trouble is Jack is testing fencing for gaps frequently and has twice dug out of my garden. Reading your article I can see that the chasing is massively reinforcing to them and like a drug. Absolutely all food rewards and me calling falls on deaf ears when they are in the zone. Generally I’d say they are emotionally sound dogs, confident, very loving, have huge amounts of play, sometimes I think a bit over stimulating really. Barley the younger one was so much easier when we just had him and our old dog who is 12 and never chased or killed anything in her life. Jack when we got him we knew he was a high energy dog but his previous home he wasn’t exposed to so many things to chase and was a show dog so he never showed the behaviour with the previous owner. We all thought living on a farm with all this space and another young dog to play with would be perfect for him and it wasn’t until the birds were released in their hundreds.

I just don’t know how I can avoid the birds all of the time without moving house! I’m interested in your book and will try what you recommend. Would you say I should keep him on a long lead all the time on my land and train them in the garden separately? I thought about seeing if I could find a scenting class to go to to Chanel the natural drive into something good.


Hi Jane,

You obviously realise that the easily caught poults have been the reason for the change in behaviour in both your dogs, but now they’re switched on to birds they will take considerable re-training.
You sound very sensible and working your way through the book will help you take them back under control.
You are right that you need to physically control them if you don’t have verbal control, so ditching the walks altogether, confining them to the enclosed secure area and using the time that would have previously been allocated to walking to training in that area is a good start.
Training separately is always a good idea, as are any kind of scenting classes as you suggest, but you are also going to need to go back to huge amounts of obedience training to reintroduce the basics.

Good luck,

Thanks David,

I just introduced Bear Bells to their colllars ( like big cat bells) they weren’t at all worried by the noise but some benefit has been the birds hear well in advance of an approaching dog so are flying off early, now that they can actually fly, also I can hear where the dogs are if they disappear out of sight. It doesn’t address any re training of course. I’m Looking into classes and controlled activity’s. I’m only letting one off lead at a time and at a certain spot on our premesis where we have a pond I let both off but have toys stashed under the picnic table so engage in frizby and ball games plus obedience and swimming. Back on lead as soon as out of the water. It’s all just managing a bad situation with diversion tactics really, but at least allows them to play and have some fun of lead. We are also completely dog proofing any escape routes for dogs. Sadly much of the abundant wild life we have enjoyed seems to be moving out or laying low except the pesky pheasants.


Hi David,

Thank you so much for this useful information. I wonder if all of this applies to my chocolate Labrador. We’ve been working on walking nicely on the lead for a few years. He tends to respond well too, but his major problem are cats (sometimes squirrels and crows, but never to the same extent). He can go from being walking happily next to me to trying to get off his harness (he can’t), pull so much in the attempt to escape and chase cats. This is especially true in our neighbourhood, we live at the end of a quiet Close with a green in the middle, he doesn’t exhibit the same behaviour anywhere else (he just knows there’s cats around). I’m usually very perceptive of his body language but sometimes he does a 360 in a split second and has almost dislocated my thumb several times. My solution has always been to drive him somewhere else for his walks or off lead time, sometimes even at the end of the road we live in and go from there. The way I feel is I can keep working on our lead work, but I feel like I’ll never ever be more interesting than going after a cat.

The rescue I got him from is suggesting a Gencon or any other muzzle harness to being able to control him as there is little hope to desensitise him from cats. Speaking to animal behaviourists, they also think it’s a very difficult thing to do – where do I find a fake cat or a real cat to help him out? I find mouth harnesses hard to accept, in my view they don’t fix the problem of him choosing to stay with me over chasing cats. Any thoughts?


Will try the above methods with our 5 year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel we inherited last August after her owner died. She has a very strong hunt and chase instinct and loves to chase squirrels and rabbits. She spotted a rabbit one morning before I did and managed to damage my shoulder when she shot off after it with me on the other end of the lead. She comes to the whistle a couple of times but then decides running into the woods at top speed to chase and hunt is much more fun. We have to keep her on an extending lead to keep her out of mischief
Our rescued English setter working type never chases and has an excellent recall. We’ve tried throwing a ball which our Cavalier loves to play indoors, she growls at it and gets very excited but when out, the ball goes one way and she goes the other! We see other people with this breed and they are nothing like her!

Hello David,

Thank you for this interesting and extensive information.
I am interested in your advice in my case. My dog is chasing cyclists and runners when she is without leash. She is barking while running besides them. Recalling does not work in this case. Are there any methods for stopping this bad habit?
Thank you for your answer in advance!
Best regards,

Hello David.

I have used this method with success before and really like it. I have another dog I’m working with who really shouldn’t be doing much high impact running due to medical and joint issues. Is there any other gentler on the joint methods you can suggest?

Kind regards

Hi Alexa, I’m glad it’s worked for you. You could take it down a few pegs to make it more gentle – maybe include a little tug-game or flirt pole to keep it closer to you, or just play fetch over short distances. You can do a lot of the early stage stuff indoors and over short ditances. You can teach a ‘stay’ and throw a toy towards him/her. It’s just about being inventive and fitting the method to the dog really.
Good luck,

Hi David,
I have your book and I must say this method has been working quite well for my cycle and jogger chasing collie except yesterday we had a bit of a blip, I was in what I thought was a secluded field doing some impulse control training with my dog (on training line) when he spotted a cyclist behind me and took off , I managed to stand on line which still managed to slip straight under my foot! in my panic recall I usually use went straight out of the window but I managed to get the cyclist to stop, I can normally get him to return to me then ( although he has only managed a proper chase once prior to this ) but this time he just continued barking and circling the bike as I was trying to catch him . Is there anything else you can advice if this situation arises again on how to deal with it in a better way. I was in a little bit of a panic so I think I was just more concerned for the cyclist as I was worried he may get nipped. I was wondering what your thoughts were in maybe getting him trained on sheep and them maybe getting some chickens to fulfil his herding instincts, it’s been something I’ve been toying with for a while but I am worried it may exacerbate the problem .Added to the occasion he chased The bike he has once herded the cows that were in my local
Park (they come for the summer and I was unaware they were there) and corralled them in a circle much like a working sheepdog works sheep and if you were watching from afar you would have thought he was working on command, except again he wouldn’t return to me when called.

Your thoughts would be much appreciated,


Hi Karen,
Blips in the training schedule do happen when life gets in the way. Obviously we should aim to minimise them, but sometimes cyclists do sneak up behind you. Next time you could try tying him out to something solid, and use your usual recall. Dogs can sense the panic and he could well have taken advantage of your unusual behaviour by continuing his fun. Try to stay calm.
It is not surprising that your collie works cattle like a collie. Training him on sheep and chickens will increase his desire to herd sheep and chickens, but won’t necessarily fulfil his needs/desires. The point of teaching a recall to the toy is that you are in control of the target, a target that becomes preferable to the alternative inappropriate ones. It sounds like you are at a halfway stage with your training. Don’t be disheartened by a setback, keep going with it and you will succeed.
Good luck,

Hi David, I have a 7 month old Standard Poodle who is very sure that she is in charge of herself. We are busy working with the normal commands and treats. She will behave beautifully on the lead, and in the house off the lead too. IF we are outside and she is off lead she will only come if she sees I do actually have a treat in my hand, and then does not want the treat if she thinks I am going to hold her to put the lead on, she stands just out of my reach and if I move so does she. I don’t call her unless I have a treat but she always checks first. Similarly if I want her to come in from the garden she will stand at the door, looking at me, taking no notice of the treat unless she wants to come in anyway. If I open the door and stand at the door she will back away about 4 feet, then only come in if I move away in to the room. She has no reason to be frightened of me, she is not exhibiting fear, the body language is “might do, if I want, might not if I don’t!”The other big problem is that we have chickens, ducks and rabbits running loose in the garden. I cannot get her to stop chasing them. She is on the lead in the garden all the time now, but looks longingly. If there is a slip up and she gets loose off she goes, and of course cannot be stopped unless I can intercept her. She doesn’t every catch anything and she certainly knows she is not supposed to do it, but can’t resist. I can see the sense of your article, but am not sure where to start because she won’t even come to me unless it suits her! Help!

Hi Susy,
She understands and behaves when on the lead but doesn’t when not. In that case you need to go back to basics on a long line. Use thirty feet of line with no loop on the end so it can’t get caught. Call her once only and if she doesn’t come simply gently reel her in. You don’t have to catch her, just the line. When she gets back to you make a great fuss as you would as if she’d come on her own. Not coming is not an option.
You mention treats, but not using anything else as a lure/reward – I would have thought that a toy/game would have high value for her. Teach her a retrieve and find a special toy you can use with her (as per the article and book). She will also benefit from going back to basics to get your relationship right – check out my booklet Guide and Control
Willful dogs can be a bit of a challenge, but very rewarding when you work together.
Good luck,

7 yr old rescue jack Russell cross bichon frise, chases goes for hours. Afraid I may have encouraged this by letting him chase another dog which is chasing its ball, he gets the same thrill, barking all the time but gets tired of it quite quickly. he also gets tired/bored of playing wth the most favourite toy which I keep on the fridge. as he gets bored so easily its difficult, also I do not know if anything stresses him he is so laid back in any other situation

Hi Georgie,
I’m not sure if this is a question, but if you would like to improve your dog’s behaviour you’re going to need to work at preventing him chasing and redirecting his behaviour onto a toy. It will need time and effort, but could also be a lot of fun. You can counter the fact he gets bored easily by playing in many short sessions rather than extended ones and switching between games (tug, fetch, flirt-pole). There are lots of other aspects to countering chase behaviour in the book


Great advice- which has worked 90% for me and my rescue crossbreed Irish wolf/lurcher…..until today when a single young buck snuck up on us 10ft away and they were off…..totally lost sight of them with and no recall at all. Luckily she came back after what felt like eternity and She got lots of praise and reward for returning but I fear that was only because the deer out ran her. The difficulty for me is the surprise element of a situation like this, I use distraction and avoidance techniques and she had good recall when they aren’t running but as soon as theres movement its another story. She isn’t in to toys and may chase a ball for 4-5 times but gets bored, other days she will play tug of war for short periods but she has no favourite (and we have tried many different types of toys brought and home made). She loves to chase and play wit other dogs somedays but other days flatly refuses even with her best running mates. Not sure how to get in her head to know what is the best training technique or way to increase her neural links to a positive play/run not a dangerous prey chasing one? Any help or advice please?

Hi Lucy,
A deer popping up ten feet away is likely to prove tempting to all but the most professional of dogs, so I’m not surprised yours lost it at that point. If you are serious about training for the 10% control you say you are lacking, you will need to buckle down and re-educate your dog to enjoy toy play. Chasing a ball for 4-5 retrieves is the start, not the end, so go back to basics and start ramping up the excitement factor for your dog. I can’t be specific as to what might work for her because I haven’t met her, but there are suggestions in the book – as you say, movement might be the key. Experiment and see what works for her, then run with it. If you are having difficulty getting inside her head, a consultation with a local trainer might be helpful, as an independent opinion often is.
Good luck,

Hi David, I’ve just come across this article and I found it very interesting, but I’m struggling with my dog, as I’m not sure why he is behaving as he is. I have a 20month old dobermann, he is a rescue and I don’t know much about his previous life unfortunately. At home he is the sweetest, loving dog, he likes lots of attention, but not so much that itbecome uncomfortable, he will obey basic commands like sit and stay, you can even make him sit put his dinner on the floor and he will wait until you tell him to go before going to the food. We have a cat and although he will sniff at him and sometimes make that play behaviour when they go down on the floor with their front legs?? at the cat he does not chase him and when given a stern “no” or “leave him” he does just that. When we first had him he had some guarding issues but we seem to have moved passed this now. He is very hyperactive though if you praise him in any way he goes nuts, tail wagging running round the house etc, he can tell when you are annoyed with him because he instantly hunches over head and ears down and he looks up at you sideways. When we play with him tho his go to play is to mouth you and when he’s over excited and licking you in the face sometimes he nips you. he’s also a jumper as in he will jump up on you. I know he has separation anxiety because I cannot leave the room/house without him getting upset and when I get back he goes mental even if I’ve only been gone 2min. When we go for a walk I have to take him places where there are as few people as possible, that’s just people,if those people have dogs that’s fine no problem at all, but if they are just walkers he’s off after them like a shot and won’t come back until he’s had enough or I have managed to catch him, which often is really hard, he will run full pelt and when he reaches them he will jump up at them and bark. He’s the same with joggers, livestock, kite surfers, and cyclists, but it’s not consistently one day he will chase then maybe the next he won’t. When we are out he will range quite far out, usually chasing rabbits, but he will come back when called, unless he’s spotted something really exciting then he returns when he’s ready. Games are difficult to engage in as he will chase a ball, stick or toy but he won’t bring it back or release it even for a treat. I have tried changing our walking environment but I live in cornwall all I’m likely to see those triggers everywhere. We have tried some basic training, sought advice from behaviourist…I’m at my whits end! What am I doing wrong???

Hi Sam,
You’re describing a very complex set of behaviours that probably sit around his perceived need for attention. It is not unusual for rescue to dogs to form strong attachments, but yours seems to be demanding attention a bit too much. The nipping/biting is a way of keeping the attention going because it’s impossible to ignore, and he also seems to be playing an attention game with strangers he meets. There are ways of teaching a retrieve in the book and I think that would be a good start point
Then you are going to have to go back to basics because what you have is a dog that hasn’t grown out of puppy behaviours. He’s an adult dog that is still acting like an uninhabited puppy. You are going to need to treat him like a puppy by providing guidance for him in everything because he hasn’t learned to act like an adult. This booklet will help at
I’m not sure what advice you have been given, but a properly qualified behaviourist should be able to help with a programme to change him for the better. You can find one at at
Good luck,

Thanks for this excellent article. We have a Cavalier-LowChen X who is OBSESSED with water birds and small prey – rabbits and rats. Yesterday I lost him, he took off on a walk, jumped into a pond, swam for over an hour then disappeared into a field to chase rabbits. One very angry, wet and stressed owner, trying to find him in the dark vs. one oblivious dog. He was eventually found by a kind person who read his collar tag and rang us. We can’t walk him at his favourite spot any more: it has a tidal harbour on one side (lots of wading birds) and bushes on the other: cue rabbits and rats.

Had never thought of Cavs as predatory dogs, but the article even mentions spaniels, so I feel relieved that it’s not just us.

Am off to try and find a bird-like toy to start the training. Wish me luck!!

Thanks for the useful information. My rescue (Carolina dog?) does not actually chase cars, but tries to get in front of them seemingly because he wants to get into the car. I will try your suggestions; I am fearful he will get run over or actually get into a car and be taken away! He has been a real problem child, but has conquered many negative behaviors.

Did somebody ever try that method successfully on a sighthound with high prey drive? I have a whippet with a high chase drive (that‘s what they were breed for unfortunately) and he ignores all toys or treats as soon as we‘re outside. He‘s actively looking for squirrels or rabbits and in case he spots one, I don‘t stand a chance. Unfortunately we don‘t have an area anywhere here where off leash time would be possible without the risk of either squirrels, rabbits, deer or foxes and I somehow can‘t imagine having him on the leash for the rest of his life. He also injured himself plenty of times romping through the bushes at 35mph, he‘s simply mad. If he sees prey on the lead, he doesn‘t pull, if I call him back from other dogs, even bitches in heat: no problem. I just can‘t seem to find anything that interests him more than chasing.

Hi Bonnie,
Yes it has been successful with many different breeds, including whippets. You need to be a little more inventive about the toys you introduce to make them more lifelike. If you don’t have anywhere you can take him without prey, you simply stand less chance of succeeding. The book explains in more detail.

We desperately need something to control our 22 month old Smooth Collie Shadow. Despite being a herding breed we have never had a dog with such a high prey drive. She is obsessed with rabbits and squirrels and becomes uncontrollable if she sees one when we our out walking. We successfully trained her as a puppy to ignore joggers, cyclists etc. But we live rurally and despite being heavily fenced our large garden is a rabbit thoroughfare, so Shadow’s neural connections are being continually reinforced. There is no way we can avoid this. She has even had the thrill of catching baby rabbits in the garden too and inadvertently killed them by jumping on them (although she had no idea what to do with them then). I can’t see how we can completely divert her prey drive while ever the rabbits continue to sneak into the garden or adjacent fields. Any ideas? We are desperate.??

Hi Maggie,
On the positive side, you have a 22month old smooth collie so she should be bright and trainable. It shouldn’t be too difficult to train her to enjoy a special toy with you. Without knowing your garden it is difficult to be precise, but are their options for fencing off a ‘training area’ for her or tying her out on a long line for training? Long lines are very useful for allowing her to make some decisions but ultimately providing guidance so she makes the right one.
I would be investing heavily in obedience and toy training – it will take many hours, but they will be great fun. Basically you are looking to focus her chasing drive onto you as a preferable option for her. Most people aren’t able to totally exclude the unwanted targets, but the key is to out-weigh those with access to the preferred one. Reduce unsupervised access to the garden and increase play-time.

My one-year-old Mini Australian Shepherd is OBSESSED with chasing cars. He can sense them coming from down the street and prepares himself to lunge and bark at them. I was able to control him slightly by offering a treat, but this doesn’t seem to work all the time and if i don’t have a treat on me then I can forget about it.

Several months ago, we got food delivered and he ran to the front door to greet the delivery man, and at that exact moment a car happened to fly by out in the street, and he lunged after it. He ran across the entire neighborhood and almost got killed in traffic (a car drove over him, but he ducked in time and was not hurt at all. I quickly scooped him up and carried him home). I live with so many people, and it’s hard for them to make my dog the priority in keeping him away from the door when they have to open it, so it’s really made me desperate for a solution because I feel like I’m one unlucky day away from him running out the front door again and this time getting ran over.

Does this method work on cars? I will try it, but I’m worried that cars may be too tempting for this kind of training. I would really appreciate your input.

Hi William,
Yes the method will (and has) work with cars, but you have to be there. You can’t just let him loose and expect to be in control, whether by design or accident. I suggest the first thing you do is fit either a safety chain to prevent the door being opened unless you are there, or fit a full length safety gate as a double barrier. There are other solutions such as training him to sit on his bed for a reward before anyone opens the door, but they will all take time and effort, as does anything worthwhile.
Good luck,

Hi David, I have 2 sister dobermans 5yrs and they both love to chase, obviously the problem is doubled, how would you suggest dealing with this issue as they react to each other’s response of chasing?


Hi Paul, Most dog training is best done by separating the dogs and once the training is accomplished bringing them back together again, however there will be some aspects that will benefit training together, such as encouragement to transfer their desire to a new toy.It should be intuitive -see what works together and if it doesn’t, train apart then bring together later. BUT, the first step is to get them listening to you rather than each other…
Good luck,

Hi David,

I have a 12 month old springer spaniel cross viszla. He is already ball obsessed and will retrieve, drop and sit for it to be thrown again as well as sit and stay when asked before being released to fetch with ‘ok’ as release word. He behaves like an absolute dream in a field or open space, perfect recall and would do anything for the ball, it’s hard to Imagine he could be any more obsessed. In wooded areas his recall can be very good or sometimes he will be too involved in the chase as you have described. Sometimes throwing a ball for him in a wooded area is enough but other times he will run off ball in mouth chasing something else? Is it necessary for us to do the second ball training for ‘dead and alive’ as I’m worried this will stop his current fetch rhythm and cause him to leave balls for me to go and retrieve myself? Would it be just as effective if we associated the word ‘toy’ or ‘ball’ when we get the ball out ? And use that as distraction? I feel we are half way there but want to perfect it before he gets too old and gets into it as a habit! He almost got lost today (lost for an hour) after chasing something and then getting lost and not being able to find his way back to us.

Hi Jordan,
If you manage the two-ball game properly there is no reason why he will stop chasing for you to fetch the ball yourself, or if he does it will only be a temporary training blip, over in the next couple of throws.
The point of the two-ball game is to train your dog to stop chasing something he finds attractive when you ask, as you always have something more attractive. You build it up over time and practice so that he always responds to you because he believes you have something better than whatever he is doing at that time.
Associating the word with producing the ball from your pocket would be a cheap and cheerful method but if you don’t do it when he is chasing something else he won’t learn to respond then. And if he’s chasing something he probably won’t respond when you produce the ball from your pocket.
If he believes you always have something better he will always respond.
Good luck,

Hi David, I am interested to try this with my dog. He is a 4yr old Springer spaniel cross German shepherd. His drive to chase had always been high and he loves to chase a ball and bring it back, we can go for an hour and he still does not get bored with the game. In fact we play with 2 so that I throw the second one once he brings the first one back to me. He has always chased small furry creatures but has not been able to catch them, until recently. He has had 3 squirrels and a rabbit in a short space of time. I’m petrified in case he catches someone’s pet cat. Is the toy game likely to work after he has got so much reward from chasing animals? Will it be possible to teach him new commands given his age and that he is already used to chasing and bringing back 2 balls? Thank you.

Hi Victoria,
Yes there is no reason why it wouldn’t work, given either his age or the facts that he has caught and killed and is used to a two-ball game. In fact the two-ball game is a good start on the road to controlling him already. It will take a bit of time and you’ll need to keep him from catching anything else in the meantime, but you should be able to get there with him.

Hi David,

My 1 year old cockapoo was tragically taken from us on Xmas Eve while on a morning woodland walk with a family member. She ran off into the woods and went missing for several hours until her body was found by the side of the road by the woods, possibly run over. These woods were familiar to her as my brother in law often walked her there. She had a very strong chase drive but always eventually returned to me via the whistle. We searched the woods and vicinity for several hours shouting her name and using the whistle but she never appeared. We think she picked up the scent of the deer that are found in these woods and went off on a hunt. On one previous occasion she shot away from me on a walk near our home and I eventually found her standing over a dead deer wagging her tail. She totally ignored me and that’s when I bought your book on how to stop this behaviour. She was getting better and on our more recent walks she would constantly check to see where I was and meet me at certain points of the route. She was such a beautiful, intelligent and independent dog and I am heartbroken at losing her this way at such a young age. During fetch training at home in the garden she was great at retrieval. However, when we used the balls out in the fields, she lost interest quickly and was only interested in what animals were in the bushes and woods, even if I had special treats with me. I just don’t understand why this has happened as she was coming on so well in her training.

It is always tragic when a loved-one passes before their time. It seems like you were progressing the training but it wasn’t yet complete, and is a salutary warning to others in the same position. You have my deepest sympathy.
Regards, David

Hi David

I came across your article whilst searching the net on ideas to solve my problem. I’ve had dogs for 40 years but never had one with a high prey drive. I am planning on buying your book but until it arrives am I doing the right thing?

My dog is a rescue from Cyprus who was a street dog. I think he Is Rhodesian ridge back. He is a hunter and a chaser I suspect he caught his own food whilst he was a stray, he is also an opportunistic thief, so I’ve reduced his opportunities to steal food and he now gets the idea more or less. He is fine when there are no distractions But if he gets the scent of a rabbit or a hare or he sees birds in the distance he will either track the scent or will chase the birds.

In a controlled situation he is very well behaved, I have taught him the wait command so he stays in the car until I’m ready to let him out, he knows to wait until I’ve gone through a door ( I established this to stop him knocking me over)
He has also learned lots of other things some necessary and some fun.

I have gone back to using a long line when out with him and have found that he listens to a squeaky toy if I squeak it frantically enough to change his focus back to me. I don’t speak to him at first as he doesn’t hear me but eventually he hears the squeaky and will come back to me for big fusses and a treat, however I’m a bit concerned about using a squeaky as I know it is what gets a lot of dogs excited. My boy also likes to hunt for things so I try to satisfy that need by hiding his stuff in the house and garden and we have a game finding it. He is 18 months old and I’ve had him for 6 months p

Hi Jacqui,
You’ve made a great start and after six months you are about where I would expect, if not a little ahead. He’s got a lot of learning behind him that you have to counter, so it will take a while yet, but you are going in the right direction. The book will provide you with more ideas, but in the meantime everything you are doing is great. Whilst I agree that using the ‘squeaky’ is not ideal, you need it for now and can phase it out later as he switches on to you more. Keep up the good work!

hi, i hope you don’t mind me asking a question;
i’m halfway through the book and notice that repetition is meant to increase the preference for chasing the toy over the (animal). however it’s also stated that occasional reinforcement strengethens their response even more (eg occasional visit to the rabbit field).

just not sure how to manage it, i need my dog (6 months) to not chase sheep, he has done so “properly” once, but is ALWAYS interested when he sees them in a field (but same goes for cattle and horses which he has never maaged to chase). we live somewhere where you can’t avoid going past fields of sheep. we have 2 sheep in the garden that DON’T run so can’t be chased- they just have a passing interest in one another and the sheep are very confident.

the stimulus is probably either “living things” that he doesn’t know intimately or “running living things”.

would it be better to accept that he will sometimes see sheep, expose him to sheep all the time so it’s the norm, or rehome him for a few months (not really considering this but hypothetically)?

thank you.

it’s such an interesting book, we’ve had another problem in that he’s killed two chickens, not by chasing but because he likes pulling feathers out. one person advised taking him to see chickens on a lead often but does this reinforce the desire? thinking along the lines of replacing the behaviour, can he pluck a cabbage or something? i assume it’s still part of the predatory composite?

thank you (again).

Hi Inga,
With regard to your first question, so long as he isn’t allowed to chase sheep whilst you are working on increasing the value of the alternative (toy) he won’t be reinforcing the ‘chase’ aspect of the predatory behaviour and you will be able to get away with low-level exposure (seeing them whilst passing). It won’t be as quick as removing sheep from the picture altogether, but I know that sometimes we have to work with reality. Continuing to work with him in the context of your own environment (even if that includes low-levels of sheep) is probably better than temporarily rehoming him as all training is context specific to some extent.
It’s true that some dogs need the stimulation of a running animal, and that familiar ones may be less attractive to chase too.
With regard to the chickens, that is an interesting one. Certainly ‘plucking’ is part of the predatory sequence of disrupting the caught prey in order to eat – many dogs will pluck tennis balls (not recommended in case they ingest tennis ball). I’ve never come across a dog that has a desperate need to pluck in the way that some seem to need to chase, so redirecting the behaviour has never been an issue before.
On balance I think I would probably go with teaching him to walk away from chickens. Take him on a lead (as your friend suggests) and then call him away from them to you for a reward (you can incorporate the new reward game into this). When he doesn’t bother with them, try him on a longer line (and call away for reward) and ultimately free. If you need extra security you could arrange to be on the other side of a fence from the chickens.
There are alternatives for ‘disruption’ behaviours such as cardboard boxes with treats inside, but I’d be worried about encouraging a dog to destroy all cardboard boxes.
You’re obviously giving his training a great deal of thought – well done and good luck for the future.

Hi David. I have 2 beagles. We have a safe area bordered by a river and I let the dogs chase rabbits. (I don’t shoot the rabbits). The older one gets tired and comes back to me. The younger one would chase till it drops!The endorphins must be huge for him. I usually have to catch him after he gets tired. What do hunters do to get the beagles to stop? It seems your advise and book is how to stop the chasing. Since I have the area for them to chase, I don’t mind them chasing rabbits. The pleasure and the rush they get from this is truly amazing to see. Is there a way to get them to listen or come to me in this situation? Or maybe use the methods in your book and occasionally let them chase rabbits. Thanks.

Hi Nick,
That’s an interesting one. The problem in trying to stop the behaviour is that you don’t have anything that the dog wants more than what it is doing, so you have nothing to exchange for the behaviour. As the chasing continues theoretically the dog will tire of it and stop after a period of time, but as you’ve noticed that could be a very long time. I would concentrate on simple obedience training to come back, out of context for the reward of a game (squeaky toy?) – maybe start indoors – and then use that towards the end of the ‘tired’ phase so that when he gets tired he comes back to you, like the older one. You can’t compete with the behaviour when he is in high drive, but you should be able to as the drive diminishes.
Good luck, David

Hi David

I have just read your article, very interesting and useful information. I have a7 year old novascotia duck retriever teller. She is obsessed with chasing balls, she can’t be let off the lead if anyone has a football as she will get it and ‘kill it ‘. If the children are playing with a ball in the closed inbarea of the playground she will run round an round the perimeter of the fence. If she is on the lead near a ball she will tug trying to get to the ball. If on the lead near a cat or a squirrel she will also quickly try and make a dart for the animal and will need to be pulled away. If off the lead and she spots a bal, there is no chance of a recall. She loves to chase a tennis ball when thrown but not over keen on returning it. She will usually collect it and lay down with it waiting for the thrower to come to her.
Any ideas to stop this behaviour?

Kind regards

Sue Bee

Hi Sue,
No, you won’t stop the behaviour, but you can control it. Teach her to retrieve YOUR ball. Keep YOUR ball special and control access to it so she will do anything for it, including leave other balls alone. Full details are in the book.
Good luck,

We have 2 springer pups, one is obsessed with hunting leaves, dandelion heads, blossom anything that blows! It’s all he focuses on in the garden and out on walks to the exclusion of any command. I want to be able to positively direct this behaviour so he still gets his fix but under a controlled situation, do you have any suggestions? Thank you

I have a 4 year old German long haired pointer with a very high prey drive. She catches and eats rabbits and squirrels! I am just back from a very upsetting walk where she managed to catch and injure a sheep. I have only had her for a few months, indoors she is very well behaved and obedient but is of a very nervous disposition (I think she has been badly treated in the past ). My problem with the training suggestions above is that she has no interest at all in play if any kind, no interest in balls or toys and doesn’t even play with my other dog. What can I use to to train her not to chase? When off lead she is completely out of control and will not come back until she is ready. I am at my wits end and considering having to rehome her as I can’t keep a dog like this on a lead forever. Also whilst trying to train her should I never be letting her off lead? Please can you help.
Thank you. Joy

Hi Joy,
For a four year old high-prey-drive German Pointer that you’ve just acquired you will have to go right back to basics. She clearly has a great deal of learning how not to behave behind her and you are going to have to counter that. You should certainly keep her on a lead until you have control of her. If you don’t have verbal control you must have physical control (for the sake of the local sheep if nothing else).
If you’ve had her for only four months you will not have a stable relationship just yet, so that is the place to start. You can’t train until you have the right relationship. I would suggest a very strict Guide and Control (see my book). It doesn’t matter if she is well behaved indoors, that’s the place to start. Once you have your relationship you can start with basic obedience exercises, for reward.
When you say she doesn’t play what you mean is that she doesn’t play on your terms – she is playing on her terms with wild (and farm) animals. Don’t just throw a ball and expect her to know what to do, or even be interested – she hasn’t been taught how much fun it is yet. You need to stimulate her into playing with you. My ‘Stop!’ book will give you ideas on how to interest her in toys, but be inventive. For example start with a ball with a squirrel-tail attached (you’ll need two), or use a flirt-pole. It’s a long hard road to getting her off-lead again, but it should also be great fun.
Good luck,

Thank you so much for your guidance, I will get onto the book now. Your calming words have made me feel there’s hope. I have tried a flirt pole but again she has no interest, I will look at other options. I bought her a squeaky toy yesterday which she actually took in her mouth and seemed to like but then immediately buried it! I will do as you say and her back to basics. Many thanks. Joy

Hi David, I’ve just come across your article and I wonder if you can help.
We gave a 15mth old Vizsla Pointer cross who is obsessed with butterflies and birds.
She used to recall but as she’s gotten older her drive to chase (only these animals) has gotten way worse, to the point we’re now not letting her off lead, although she does have a long line.
She’s not treat/food driven at all, even when just road walking and will play chase with a ball but only if there’s another dog to compete with.
I know she needs to run but also has no road sense and there’s never anywhere that doesn’t have birds. Is there anything we can do?
Many thanks, Sue

Hi Sue,
Yes there are lots of things you can do, but you are going to need to put in the time and effort. At the moment your dog is chasing things that you have no control over. You need to change that so that she will play/chase with you, so you become more valuable to her than the birds.
To start with you will need to encourage her to play with a toy with you. Start in a place with no distractions and if need be keep her on the long line. If she is really distracted, start indoors. If she favours birds I would probably change her toy to a mini-frisbee. There are too many refinements to go into here but the book provides a complete explanation.
Good luck and enjoy your training,

Hello. I came across your lovely site and I have a questions. You said “Dogs have a limited number of ways of improving their emotions and if we temporarily deny them an opportunity their emotional balance may plummet, leaving them stressed and anxious.

The first step therefore is to scan your dog’s environment for anxiety; take out as many challenges as possible and introduce as many emotional improvers as you can. Challenges will include any fears that your dog has, for example noise phobias, separation issues and social concerns. Emotional improvers will include things like chew toys, a dog walker, or Dog Appeasing Pheromone, where appropriate. Reward based obedience training invariably improves relationships and the opportunities for positive interactions.

ImageIt seems strange that to stop your dog from chasing things you first need to address something that appears as unrelated as a fear of fireworks, but think about it for a moment. The fear of fireworks makes a dog miserable, and the anticipation of that fear causes deep anxiety. Chasing is a way for the dog to cast off those anxieties and enjoy huge pleasure, improving their emotional bank balance. If we remove the challenges, the need to dispel the anxiety through chasing reduces accordingly. If we can’t totally remove the challenges, and sometimes that just isn’t possible, adding other things that improve the emotional balance will go some way towards reducing the need to chase.”

This caught my interest as I can see that in my dog and through helping her anxiety, she gained control regarding her prey drive. BUT my question is where is the resource that backs this up? Any science behind it? I’d love to know more about this. Thank you.

Hi Kima, as you won’t find this written like that anywhere else I guess I am the source, but it is based on well-established first principles. If you want to know more I suggest you look at Robert Faulkner Taylor and Peter Neville’s work on emotional equilibrium (published in Vet Times I think but probably available elsewhere), Jaak Panksepp on affective neuroscience (and anything else he wrote) and maybe Gray on The psychology of fear and stress.
Happy studying!

Hi David
I am just starting reading through your book Stop which makes very interesting reading. I contacted you before about my German long haired pointer who has a very high prey drive. I have immediately come upon a huge problem with the training plan as it says to remove her from all areas where she can even get scent of rabbits, squirrels, etc. I live in the middle of the countryside and have absolutely no idea how this can be achieved, we even get squirrels in the garden (she caught and killed one recently!) . What on earth can I do? I am currently lead walking only but there is the scent of animals everywhere and she is constantly distracted.
Can you help please.

Hi again Joy,
The bottom line is that the more your dog is allowed to chase (catch and kill) squirrels the less chance you have of controlling her. If she never sees another squirrel you will achieve your goal sooner; if she sees squirrels all the time it will take much (much) longer, if at all. If you allow slight squirrel access (eg smell only) it will be somewhere in between.
It is difficult for me to advise because I don’t know your individual circumstances. Options that come to mind are: don’t allow her free access to the garden; keep her on a long line so you have physical control of her; drive her to a squirrel-free area for exercise (there are people who rent secure areas – if you are UK based look at otherwise google is your friend); go into the garden and chase the squirrels away before you allow her out. Be inventive!
Good luck and happy training,

My Dog Penny very Small ( Pom and Pappion)we live on a Farm 100+ ac ..Rabbits and Squirrels every where ..She just takes off like a Rocket ..Got her a Harness and she got out of it ..Have done and still doing all the above training ..Do I have to just keep her inside ?? She is the sweetest girl and my fear of Coyotes and Snakes ..kill me ..She thinks she is a Big Dog ??????

Hi Linda Marie,
Yes, keep her inside in the short term. If she can get out of the harness it doesn’t fit properly, but you can take her outside on a long line and properly fitted harness until you master the training. Inside most small dogs is the perception of a much bigger one. Keep going with the training and you’ll get there – it isn’t worth the risk not to.

I have a sighthound who loves squirrels but has no interest in toys. We have tried balls, food filled balls, flirt piles, squirrel skin toys etc and nothing interests her. Do you have any suggestions on how to do this training to satisfy her chase? Many thanks

Hi Sally, Well done for trying so far, but don;t give up yet. If they toys alone aren’t enough to stimulate her interest it may be the way they are being presented. In the book I suggest ways of anumating the toys to make them more lifelike, for example hiding a furry toy attached to a long line in leaves and wiggling it as she passes. Making the toys move in ways that simulate real animals should stimlate her interest and then she can switch on to enjoyiong playing with them. Short, jerky movements in long grass often help.
Good luck,

Yr comments were very interesting , i have a 5 yr old bouvier bitch does not like cars bikes tractors etc,she nearly once pulled me under the wheel, s of a car she was on a lead and harness ,we were about 6 foot away but she suddenly went taking me off my guard ,i finnished up inches from the wheel, have had dog trainers , treats etc. but now can only walk her in woods fields,even here she goes if rabbit etc is around eventually comes back to call and whistle. Do you have any suggestions as to how i can enjoy walking without fear of been wondering what s coming next. Thanks

Hi Pearl,
I’m not completely sure what you are asking, car chasing or rabbit chasing, but the answer will be too complicated for a web-based conversation. Much car chasing is commonly fear based rather than predatory, and rabbit chasing is covered comprehensively in my book. In either case you need a full behaviour modification plan rather than ‘trainers and treats’. You can find a professional behaviourist in the UK through
Good luck,

We found our dog in Bulgaria whilst we were on holiday, she is unlike any dog i have ever had and i’ve had a few. She will not take treats, doesn’t like to be petted and has absolutely no interest in toys. She is 4 years old now and all her training has taken plenty of time, baby steps with no pressure. She is nervous and fearful of most things. Her parents most certainly had to hunt to feed themselves to survive and this is well and truly ingrained into her and she will chase most of the wildlife including deer which she will kill if she gets the chance. I am at my wits end now, our walks are not at all pleasurable, i keep her on an extending lead but if she sees a deer she forgets she has it on and runs full pelt after it, causing me shoulder pain and probably pain for her as well. I do try to take her to places where i can let her off and relax and enjoy the walk but i can’t take her everyday so we have to go through the woods and fields near me, where i’m afraid the chasing is the worst. I did contact a dog behaviorist for advice as i’m desperate for help, but because my dog doesn’t like treats, fuss or toys she was at a loss as to what to suggest i do. I need some help please.

Dear Janet,
I’m sorry to hear you are having such difficulty. The problem is that you do not have a pet dog, you have adopted a feral dog. She has the brain and mind-set of a wild animal, because that is how she was brought up by her mother and learned to survive. It is extremely difficult to turn a feral dog into a pet beyond the age of eight weeks and I hear many tales of woe from people who have tried. The difficulty is that you have nothing she wants to reinforce her behaviour in a normal pet dog home environment, so your options are extremely limited. There will be foods that she is willing to work for, such as raw liver, especially if she is hungry, that you can use to reinforce behaviours you like for training, and that would be the start point for increasing your own value too.
I would recommend not using a retractable lead as, as you have noticed, it can cause injury to you both. A strong six foot lead attached to a flat collar or harness would be more appropriate. Taking her to places where she sees prey to chase is counterproductive and you would be better to avoid them completely. Instead try to find a secure place where you can walk her and start to train, initially on the lead and progressing to a long line, tied out to something solid. You can search for secure dog parks in your area on google or through websites such as this If you let me know where in the country you are I may be able to recommend a qualified behaviourist to help.


Thanks for that great article, I feel for the first time I have advice which might help our 9 month old spaniel break his rabbit chasing addiction!

I wonder if you could advise however as I have a golden retriever also who is obsessed with tennis balls but doesn’t tend to retieve them and instead will run away with them and drop them so they are lost in undergrowth. I can train my spaniel as above to retrieve but he will have competition. Would I be better trying to make the retriever better at retrieving then they can compete? Will having the reteiver involved interrupt the spaniels chase and leave me open to rabbit chasing becoming more popular again?

I would value your opinion.



Hi Jill,
Glad to be of help. Sorry it has taken me longer to reply than I would have liked – I’ve been away. The focus on the ball should break at least some of your young spaniel’s focus on rabbits, but it will take a bit of time and effort on your part. With regard to your GR, I would retrain a decent retrieve with the dog on its own, until it is dependable, before bringing the two dogs together to compete as you say. There is a chance that if one dog constantly wins the ball the other will find something else to do (rabbits again?) but if they each win every other time that should be enough to keep their interest. If it doesn’t you can get clever by using two balls and sending one dog at a time. A little more work but teaching them to stay before going for the ball would help. A little tip for the ‘stay’ training is to slip a very light line through the collar (I sometimes use a shoelace but it might need to be longer depending on your relative heights) and ask the dog to sit as you throw the ball. If they set off the line stops them and they have to sit back down. As soon as bum hits the floor say ‘fetch’ and release one end of the line, which slips easily out of the collar as they go. That way they learn that sitting makes you release them. Mix up your training so it’s not predictable for best effects – maybe throw one ball for one dog in one direction and another for the other – other times throw one ball and send both dogs as a competition. The best thing about it is that it is great fun!
Enjoy your dogs,

Hi David
Like many other owners I have an adorable 20 month Golden retriever bitch who becomes totally deaf when She sees a cat or a deer and she will be off in a flash. She is also reactive to ponies and cows but never chases them
I know she needs more training and I’m fully prepared to do this but my problem is toys. She destroys all soft toys and totally eats them. As a consequence she only allowed balls and bones ( much to the dismay of her aunt who now has no toys to play with.)
How do I get her to engage in the double toy game if she destroys the toys she gets to play with ?
Also should I keep her on a long leash when we are out to prevent to chase and reactive ness ?

Hi Christine,

First you need to teach your dog to retrieve. There are several different methods outlined in the book, but she needs to think of toys as a game with you rather than a game by herself. Then you can build on using that as a recall game. The toys are yours not hers, so come out when you want to play rather than leaving them with her to destroy. I’m not quite sure what you mean by ‘reactive but doesn’t chase’ cows and horses, but if she barks at them it is probably fearful behaviour, which you also need to address (barking at could be considered ‘worrying’ legally). Keeping her on a long line is an excellent way of controlling her until you have verbal control.
Good luck,

Hi David.
I have an almost 1 year old border collie. He just does laps of our garden chasing birds, preferably seagulls. We back on to a field so they’re constantly flying over and around. He literally sits at the patio doors watching and getting excited at the thought of getting out there. I do use distraction techniques when he’s like this but as soon as he goes in the garden he’s seagull hunting. I do take 2 balls on the field and it’s worked there, although he does still have 1 eye on the sea gulls lol. The excitement of the ball game seems to be winning tho. I can’t seem to win in the garden tho. I literally have no grass left. It’s a muddy mess. I’ve even tried putting him on a lead to just toilet but that doesn’t work as he’s still looking and won’t toilet as he thinks he’s going for a walk. He loves being in the garden and so do we but it’s constant chasing at the moment.

Hi Helen,
Whilst your dog is able to watch the birds through the patio doors he will continue to want to chase them. He’s like a drug addict looking at his next fix. It is being able to see the birds that drives the behaviour of chasing them. The anticipation of the chase game increases the desire, thus sitting watching increases the likelihood of him chasing once he gets outside. The only way I can think of reducing the desire to chase the birds in the garden would be to prevent him from watching them through the doors. You could then go back to the two-ball-game as a method of control. If toileting is the issue, you could teach him to go on request.
Good luck,

Some really useful ideas here, thank you.
We rescued a 6 year old b/c nearly 4 years ago – a really sweet natured dog, whose worst habit was car chasing whenever a car went past quickly (slow cars are boring). Wearing a Halti and making her lie down at the side of the road rally helped. If she stayed still she was rewarded with food.
We moved to a farm 3 years ago and she is perfect with sheep but actively seeks squirrels, rabbits and, at night foxes. 99% of the time I can prevent it if I watch her closely enough (I have learned her pattern – head down, stalk mode and then fly). Cars are no longer a problem as we don’t see any and can walk her without going off the farm.
My bigger problem is that when we go home, or even back down stairs, she cowers and looks as if we have beaten her. We know her previous owner was very harsh – the first day we had her, my daughter picked up her food bowl and she dropped to the floor! She prefers to go to my neighbours house where dogs do as they please.
We are moving from the farm this summer and will no doubt come into contact with cars again, where ever we go. To help her settle in the new home, should I give her more freedom? Eg allow her upstairs and on the furniture, as my neighbour does, or do I stick to my rules? She sheds masses, which is part of the reason I don’t like her upstairs.
We also have a Tibetan Terrier who was a complete pain up the **** until I bought a shock collar. She went from a hell’s angel to a true angel after just a couple of zaps. She now goes off the lead, doesn’t chase and is no longer aggressive towards other dogs. She is now a happy dog.

Hi Poppy,
Thanks for your interesting post. I think that when you move house it is a good idea to keep your rules as close as you can to your current ones. The move can be stressful for dogs adapting to the new environment and new rules to boot could complicate things for them.

Hi David, we have a 9 week old cocker spaniel, who is a little beaut! We have had her almost two weeks and she has settled in really well, toilet trained and a delight. Our issue is the pet rabbit, which runs free in the garden, needless to say Bella loves nothing more than to chase the rabbit around the garden. We introduced them up close (controlled) and Bella was not interested at all! The rabbit is not the only thing she chases, she chases pretty much everything (balls, toys etc.) She retrieves the balls/toys but runs past u so does not bring them back. Would it be possible to make chasing a ball/toy more interesting than chasing the rabbit? She will be able to go out next week so won’t be in the garden as much but it would be nice if they could both enjoy the garden at the same time! The rabbit is not bothered by being chased, does not run to hide when Bella is let out, she used to spend most of her time in the bushes but is more present in the garden since we got the pup, which is strange! Any advice would be great.

Hi Louise,
I think you are doing the right things. Controlled introductions with lots of praise for not chasing or showing interest are the road to go down at this young age. Plus build up the desire for the toy you control. But don’t forget to also build in some calmness. It’s a balance with the emphasis on controlled enjoyment. It is great that the rabbit is cool with her too!

Hi David, thank you for all of your tips throughout the article!
I have a 6 year old Kelpie/Labrador (Beau) and he started chasing small sparrows around 1 year ago and now is chasing flies.
When I am playing fetch with the younger puppy and trying to include Beau to distract him from the birds he does not listen. He keeps his eyes fixed on the birds and does turn to look at the toy being thrown around but doesn’t seem interested at all. We live on a farm and as you said there is no real way to ‘stop’ animals from being around. When I call out his name while he is watching birds he does not respond and continues to stare and chase. I think we will attempt your suggestion of buying new and more exciting toys so he is more interested in the toy than the animals.
Any other tips you may have for me would be greatly appreciated!

Hi Rachel,
I know it can be difficult but the fact that he doesn’t respond when you try to distract him means he is getting a huge fix from the birds & flies. Try to play with him where there are no distractions so you can focus him on the toy(s) and build up from there – you will find it all laid out in the book.

David, we have a golden retriever /pitbull with emphasis on the pit. Let me 1st say she is a very sweet girl 3years old- we are 60 yrs- so we’re already unable to give her the exercise she requires- how ever we walk her several × a day and we also go to an open field to allow her to cut loose- she is a cat chaser and a rabbit chaser- and so far she comes back to us but we take her where there are horses in the next field. No problems so far but I am naturally concerned- all the things I’ve read from you are spot on – when she is in chase mode we become invisible- she is smaller than a golden and very trim but I am working very hard at training her. Only one word commands and I am not a smack your dog for “misbehavior” because I agree that this is just how her nature is thanks for your advise- if you have any other tips about her and the horses I am open to it- I must have a semblance of control because I am small built and it is difficult to hold her back- is there a favorite type of collar or harness that you prefer for optimal control??

Hi Melissa,
That’s an interesting mix you have, but she should have inherited some brains and trainability. Keep going with the principles (you’ll find more in the book) and keep her focus on you rather than the objects in the environment. If she is strong I would probably go for a harness to prevent damage to her neck, and maybe if you are having trouble holding her, with a head harness. Different types suit different dogs and owners, so shop around for the one you like.
Good luck,

Hi David
Thanks for blog and the great tips on toy training, which I’m looking forward to trying out. I have a two year old border collie rescue dog who likes to chase sheep (or would if he could), and who lunges at cars (and would chase them too if he could). He’s getting slightly better with cars after lots of positive reinforcement when he behaves well, but I could never trust him off the lead anywhere near them.
Luckily we live in a very rural area where there aren’t too many cars, but there are lots of sheep. They sometimes appear unexpectedly, including in the field close to our garden, which the dog can see from the window of his area in the house. To get to most of his walks we have to walk through a field of sheep (always on a lead). After reading your blog I worry that by exposing him to sheep almost every day, he’s getting a bit of a fix and being reminded of the joy of chasing? Should I simply stop taking him through the sheep field so that he doesn’t have the constant reminder, or might the exposure in a controlled way be helpful? He’s had three real sheep chasing episodes over the last 18 months and I’m terrified that another one will lead to him being shot.
I’d be really interested in your views.

Hi Nicola,
The answer is a bit technical, but it depends on how he walks past the sheep. Does he watch them avidly and pull towards them, or does he watch you? If you can retain his attention you can use it as a training exercise to ‘come away’ from the sheep by offering him something better (which is the goal of chase-training by building up emphasis on the toy). If he focusses on them totally you should avoid them where you possibly can as he is mentally chasing them and getting a fix from doing it.
Good luck,

Hi David

Thanks for the really helpful info. He tends to watch the sheep avidly when walking through the field, and if he’s close he’ll sometimes pull towards them, especially if they start moving. Approaching the field he sometimes shows stalking behaviour, but relaxes if he can’t see them or if he’s sure they’re not in his range. In fact, he seems really eager to get out of the field so he doesn’t have to worry about the sheep – it’s as if he knows he’s not allowed to chase them, but desperately wants to.

I reward him if he stops focusing on the sheep and looks ahead instead, but I’ll see if I can get him to focus on me more when we go through.

We’re moving house soon so I hope the problem will be gone with our new home!

Best wishes. Nicola

Hi Nicola,
He gets a positive emotion from looking at the sheep, so the idea is to replace it with another positive emotion, which he can access by looking to you, rather than just taking him down to neutral by ‘not looking’. You build up the positive emotion with you through the toy-games together. Good luck with the move.

Hi David

We have a 7 month old lurcher we’ve had her from 10 weeks old! Most of the training has been good.
The problem we have with her at the moment is that when we let her off lead usually when the coast is clear she will burn off her energy and loves it! But if she sees another dog running off lead she will chase it and want to play she’s very friendly but I worry that the other dogs aren’t, she gets very excited and over powering and loses it! And goes deaf! She gets bored with the retrieving games after a while too! Any advice would be much appreciated.

Regards Julie

Hi Julie,
At seven months old your lurcher is still very much a puppy and is indulging in puppy behaviour by wanting to play with other dogs. She will grow out of it eventually once she matures, but for now I’m afraid the answer is simply to redouble your efforts in training and control. I find a long line useful (I use 30 feet of para-cord) so she has a degree of freedom to run in the open, but feels like you can prevent her from running off if you need to. You don’t have to catch her, just the end of the long line. In short, it will get better but you have to take control in the meantime.

Hi David,
We have a six year old short haired pointer called Luna. The problem with Luna is she will chase other dogs, if she’s not corrected by the dog or we don’t grab her in time she will continue to chase. If the other dog wants to play and enjoys the chasing game then it’s not a problem as eventually she’ll get fed up and come away having had a great time getting chased and chasing. The problems occur when the other dog is timid and nervous and doesn’t want to be chased. The other dogs get so frightened and often starts squealing. If they stop running she will push, nudge and on some cases grab the dog to get them to run again. We did try a muzzle and a vibrating collar which were unsuccessful. If we see a dog in advance her recall is good and she’ll come straight back. If she’s in chase mode she doesn’t respond straight away. Any suggestions greatly received as poor Luna and us are getting a bad reputation. In a highly populated area is very hard to avoid other dogs and I would hate to walk her on the lead all the time as she absolutely loves to run.
Thanks in advance.

Hi Mark,
This technically isn’t predatory but a play behaviour, however the principles to control it are the same. Luna isn’t getting sufficient stimulation in her life and is providing a source of excitement for herself through a chasing game with other dogs. In order to change that you have to be the source of a similarly stimulating game for her. The principles in the blog will work but you will have to adhere to them very strictly to begin with. If you need more, the book expands upon them.

Hi David, really great advice. I have a pointer / hound mix from Cyprus. She’s a rescue, got her around 3 years or so not exactly sure. She came with extreme anxiety, which has massively subsided, though I’ve never been able to get her into playing with anything other than a cardboard box with treats inside, tearing it open is a great game to her. Her drive is small birds, wagtails or starlings, the type that flock on the ground with low flight. She looses her self completely and has no recall when this happens. To the point of running in circles for a hour or so in a state of complete high, so intense I can’t seem to break the pattern. EVER. I’ve tried a flirt pole, She’s interested but looses attention after a bit. my question would be, how do I deal with this issue with a dog who hasn’t had play from puppyhood. And which really isn’t on the agenda. She had been mistreated before I got her, very shy, and has zero interest in a ball, no matter how hard I try. Fetch – I don’t think will ever be a thing. Is the flirt pole one to try and push on with? Or is that similar bird like chase stimuli?
Currently I’m walking her away from the birds as often as poss. Making a shhhh sound And then sit command to redirect the whining which comes with the tail wagging, pulling, and general visual intensity of seeing the birds. Then good. Treat. And move on. It’s really tough though. She seems hardwired. The dream of course would be perfect recall ?

Hi Camilla,
This is, as you realise, a tough one to call. In many ways your dog is similar to retired racing greyhounds that have had little in the way of an ‘ordinary’ life but have focussed massively on the chase. They can be so driven that the only solution is to keep them on lead and muzzled. This isn’t so much a problem as they can live completely happy slob lives chilled out on the sofa – they don’t need the chase to achieve emotional balance.
In your case a lot would depend on how emotionally balanced your dog is. The thing about the ‘chase’ aspect is always to fix everything else first, so the dog is living a happily balanced life. If we then find it needs the chase to achieve that we direct it into something we can control. In your case I guess that would be the flirt pole.
Your training regime is good, but a treat does not satisfy the same neural pathways as a game (chase), so I would suggest that rather than reward not focussing on the birds with a treat, go through the same calming process, then reward that calm with a short flirt-pole game. Yes, it is a bit bird-like, but it is your bird-toy, to use as a reward for her. But before that stage you need to avoid the birds and build up the flirt pole as much as you can.
It’s tough to try to change behaviours that have been wired-in for such a long time, but some improvement is nearly always possible. You probably need to persevere for at least the time she spent practising her previous behaviours.
Good luck,

Hi David
I’ve relished your article and like a lot of commentators my dog doesn’t do treats or toys! I have a 9 yr old springador who is wonderful and I allow her to chase squirrels and rabbits in known safe areas. I now also have a two yr old American bulldog Staffie cross who I’ve been slowly introducing the basics too. My springador has introduced him to the joys of chasing squirrels rabbits and balls. I was fine with this as they played together and had a good ‘dynamic’ He has shown interest in sheep and has chased but would come back to call almost immediately. We’ve all since been on a month long road trip around Scotland and it’s been a disaster? sheep everywhere ?my ABDx has gone feral! Hes gone off piste even though I’ve scoured the area looking for targets. Recall totally out the window. It’s like the trip was a sensory overload and he’s reverted to the call of wild. I suspect he maimed a sheep. It was a lone sheep and off its legs. It may have been like that before and attacked by crows but I found him barking at it and bunting it and tugging on its wool. To be fair I don’t think the blood on his face was representative of the damage to the sheep so I can’t be certain if he caused it. Of course I hope to ++++ he didn’t so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. But then we were on a secluded beach a few days later. I’d searched the area looking for sheep dnd saw nothing so let them both off the lead. Both were fine hunting rabbits in the sand dunes but he’d managed to pick up a scent and off he went!! A few minutes later I heard him barking. He was onthe waters rocky edge below a low cliff with a dead sheep barking at it and bunting it. But As soon as he heard me call he came straight to me as if that was the endgame

Thanks for the insight Nikki – it’s a good description of how the behaviour escalates over a relatively short time if you do not have control of the dog or the target. In almost every case I have come across of a dog causing serious injury (either to people or to other animals) the initial stages of the behaviour have been ‘forgiven’ or the dog has been given the ‘benefit of the doubt’. In every case unless there is an intervention the dog will continue to worsen the behaviour, heading towards disaster. There are things you can do for your dog and the book will help you formulate a plan, but I assure you at the stage you describe, where the dog is seeking out opportunities, it will be far from easy.
Good luck,
PS, he does do toys, it’s just that his current toy of choice is a sheep.

Enjoyed ready your interesting article. I have a 16mth old Labrador bitch who has respiratory fed well to all training aspects, including elementary gun dog training. Is, by & large, very good with recall both verbal & whistle. How er, her (well, mostly mine!) is chasing other dogs. Has been getting much better & with a lot of dogs will just sniff m, say hello & come away. BUT a little dog who runs & yaps is game to her. She is relentless! Always ends in the little dog being frightened as my dog is big, strong & very excitable. Invariably I get shouted at by the dog’s owner (quite right). My dog doesn’t chase anything else but is so excitable around like minded dogs . I am trying hard with toys etc to hold her attention to me but if I take my ‘eye off the ball’ she’ll chase if opportunity arises. Never runs off out of sight. Is this puppy excitement that will diminish or something I can train out of her. Such a darling dog apart from this.
Advice/suggestions would be greatly appreciated

Hi Gill,
It’s always difficult to diagnose behaviour from a brief description, but your case certainly sounds like exuberant puppy play behaviour. There is a transition into adult behaviour where the attraction of other dogs reduces but the risk is that if your Lab continues to enjoy the play she will learn it as a fun thing to do and the attraction of playing will outweigh your attraction. So, my guess would be that it will diminish by itself, but to make sure you will have to take control of her. If you were able to attend classes this would enable you to practice calling her away from other dogs for reward, but in England in lockdown that isn’t possible (check your local rules wherever you are). So, DIY training would be to keep your pup on a long line so that she has no option but to comply with your recall, to ramp up your attraction with treats/toys/games and practice more obedience training when there are dogs in the distance, and gradually she will mature into the behaviours you want.

Hi there,
I live in Perth Australia and am very interested in reading your articles in relation to dogs chasing this. I have just rescued an Australian working dog who seems to still be a puppy, possibly under 1years old. He is very sweet, affectionate and doesn’t run off… other than when at the beach. I have taken him twice in an attempt to enjoy a beach walk. Sparky goes absolutely crazy and wants to chase the waves along the beach to the point where he swallows a lot of salt water. We initially thought we might let him just “go wild” but I am now understanding that this is not a solution. Other than the “toy” and retrieving excel use, which I will commence today, do you have any other tips! My other dog is mainly off lead anywhere we go and so chilled (wolfhound x). We managed to train him well but Sparky is next level around waves. Hoping you can help.
Thank you kindly

Hi Martina,
This is an unusual one! But the principles will work for anything. Basically you find something preferable for him to chase. He’s a working breed so will likely be high motivation and activity levels, but will also be keen to play with you. You’ll need to get in a lot of obedience training, but that will be fun for both of you. He’s never going to be a chilled wolfhound X, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to control him. If you get stuck the book expands the ideas in the blog.
Good luck,

Hi David

I have a 3yr old Golden Retriever that is developing a chase problem. She chases squirrels and birds, if they move. She’s not interested in stationary targets. Lately she has started chasing birds on water – she will easily swim >50m out after birds and I cannot recall her. She completely shuts down.

I’ve read your methods above and I am keen on starting to try them out.
She loves toys, but couldn’t care less for treats. Tennis balls are her absolute favourite, followed by tug toys. I stopped playing fetch (balls) with her 18 months ago, as I was worried about her elbows and the constant impact on them.
Thinking back, that is also the time she started chasing as much – something I didn’t connect before reading your article.

My question now is – I am sure I will have some success when using the training methods you described, but I am concerned about the impact on her joints when I throw objects – she goes in very hard and always has a very hard stop, putting strain on the elbows.

Any ideas how I can counter that?
Thank you

Hi Elsabe,
I can see your concern, but her enthusiasm for the ball-game certainly underlines the importance it has for her. The issue of joint impact is really a veterinary one and I’m not qualified to provide veterinary advice, but I would be looking at changing the toy to one she can take at head height, such as a Frisbee. And whilst I’m not sure that swimming is appropriate all the time she clearly enjoys that, and it is low-impact on the joints, so throwing the Frisbee into water could work for you.
If there is any reason why you think her elbows may suffer you should probably see a vet, but if it is simply general concern, I had a Labrador that did the same whilst he was young – as he got older he slowed down a little but it never seemed to do him any harm.

Hello and thank you so much for this fantastic article.
I have recently rescued a 5 year old sprocker whose prey drive is very high (poss a gun dog prior to going into the rescue centre -background unknown)

Her love is to flush out birds, so it’s not obvious what she is chasing as she is switched on if there are bushes etc- living in the North of Scotland, that’s pretty much everywhere so avoiding them is difficult!
She had no interest in chasing balls or toys etc even building up the retrieve at home she has little interest, but I have finally managed to get her interested in tennis balls covered in rabbit fur which I put various scents on (deer, duck or pheasant). She loves it coming out on a walk but as soon as she gets a scent of something (which is almost constantly) she drops the ball and goes for the scent.
I’m really reluctant to put her on a training line as iv tried that and it hasn’t removed the drive and she definitely doesn’t get the exercise she needs (she gets lots of mental exercises outwith walks) if you could suggest anything I would be sooooo very grateful as I totally get why your method works, and I believe it will work for her as she is pretty switched on.
Your thoughts/advice would be immensely appreciated.

Thank you so much.

Hi David
Further to my last post I just realised you are the author of the book ‘Stop’ which I am 80% of the way through. I have been unable to use an area which has no scent/bushes for her to flush as where we live in the North of Scotland is pretty much wildlife haven so it’s almost impossible to go somewhere without scent. I have been able to follow all other steps and am at the stage of finding the low value and high value toys for her to fetch but as per my last post she has little to no interest in any toys. The only 1 in the toy Basket I found that she loved (which I went looking for again after reading that chapter again tonight) was one of the cat toys which fell in…….its a small grey furry mouse that squeaks! She went nuts for it but I think it’s because it’s probably like a small bird to her and I understand from your book that I will just be reinforcing the problem if I use that.
Your help in this would be much appreciated, thank you so much for your time.
Ps your book is amazing and to anybody reading this I HIGHLY recommend it – it’s written in such an easy to understand way that you totally get why you are doing what is asked of you at each stage in the training and you can see that it will work… cant not work if you follow each step as described.

Dear Yvonne,
Re this and the last post: a five year old sprocker that has been used as a gundog has a lot of learning behind her, so any change is going to be a massive undertaking and long term project. If you can’t use a long line you relinquish control of her and allow her to make decisions you would rather she didn’t. That will put your training back every time it happens. The line doesn’t remove the drive, it provides you with a means of controlling the dog in the meantime.
Working your way through the book is a good idea, but it sounds like you are still at an early stage. Whilst the ideal is to use a toy not reminiscent of game, some dogs are just so switched on that you have to use what you have to use. The good thing is that as she switches on to playing with you, the toys should be easier to switch too. If you have to use a toy squeaky bird, then you have to. It’s not the end of the world, you just have another stage to insert when you change over.
Good luck,

Hi David
Thank you so much for your response – I really appreciate it. I will keep on keeping on and stick with your methods as I can definitely see how they are designed to work.
Thanks again, take care and stay safe and thank you for all you do to help our animals. Yvonne

Thank you for an in depth insight to how to start distracting and training away from the situation. I just need a little answer if you know… My parents have a two year old male cockapoo who is un neutered. Up until about maybes may last year he was amazingly flawless off the lead, just came naturally, he wouldn’t run off and when he did do a little hunt around he was only gone a couple of mins and came straight back in just one call. I think it must have been his first proper desire for a female when I first lost him and we’ve must have lost him off the lead about six time or maybes even more. He goes after rabbits, sheep, deer. Obviously this is natural. He is so in the mode he is literally covered in saliva when you get to him and when you do you have to snap it out of him. He a lush dog and I’ve always reckoned its because he needs neutered? He’s not going to be using his little things and I think he still has them due to my parents previously owning a border terrier male un neutered who also wasnt a stud, but he was totally different and never had this urge.

Hi Emma,
Thanks for your interesting question. So far as I am aware there is no correlation between predatory behaviour and neuter status. Genes ‘switch on’ behaviours as dogs mature and it is quite possible that your parents’ dog matured into hunting behaviour at the same time as he matured into sexual behaviour. If he’s two now he’d be about sixteen to eighteen months when you first noticed the change, which could be about the right time for a dog to start displaying some of their adult behaviours. I have never come across a dog that has changed its hunting/chasing behaviour when neutered.

Hello David
We live in a rural area where Roe deer run free.
We have 2 spaniels,cocker 2 and springer 6.
They both love the chase when they come across the deer and if we catch them early enough can use a whistle recall. However, sometimes they are in full flight before we notice they are on the scent.
They love ball play on the walk but this is forgotten if the deer are on the scene and off they go! A lunge lead is no good as they need so much exercise being working strain.
Can you help?

Hi Helen,
There are some basic tenets of dog training and one is that you have to pay attention to what your dog is doing. If you don’t, and your dog runs after a deer there will be a point at which you are not able to break their concentration to call them back. ‘Full flight’ is too late. A lunge line isn’t supposed to be for ever, but used as a training aid to make sure that your dog cannot ignore you when you call. Integrated into a training programme it can be discarded when it has served its purpose. The process is explained more fully in my book ‘Stop!’

Hi David

I have a border collie who is 7. He has always been a chaser; he chases birds, squirrels and cats. When he was younger we stupidly thought it was fun to shout ‘pigeon’ and watch him peg it after birds. Fast forward 5 years and we got a kitten during lockdown. We have kept them totally separate because we knew it would be a long process for him to relax around a cat. We put cardboard against the adjoining door of their ‘areas’ so the cat didn’t get stressed and the dog didn’t go mental. We never let them in the same space without supervision, and we use stair gates to keep them apart when we need to. We just don’t seem to be getting anywhere. The cat used to run away immediately but now he’s a bit bigger (5 months) he’ll stand his ground before legging it. However his ultimate aim is to get away from the dog ASAP. We have to keep the dog on a lead if the cat is in the room, and even when he’s lying down he never seems totally relaxed. As soon as the cat moves then he’s up with eyes like saucers.

We really want to try and help the dog in the best way possible. We have done him a disservice by encouraging him to chase; however he has always had a high drive to do so. We don’t want to get rid of the cat, the kids love him and he’s nice to have around. We are worried that when we come to actually let the cat outside then he’ll never come back!

We have two small children and we both work so we need to find a way of helping the dog to control his urge to chase. We’re not sure we could see the programme through that you’ve mentioned above. We need help!

Best wishes


Hi Lisa,
A couple of points for you to ponder. The first is that if you can’t adhere at least minimally to a programme you will not change the behaviour of your dog; a dog which incidentally has been practicing the unwanted behaviour for seven years, which is always going to be a tough one. The second is that this is not a programme to introduce a dog to a new cat. Such a programme would probably contain elements of this, but would need to be tailored to your own specific circumstances. For that you would need a qualified behaviour counsellor to come to your home to design a modification programme that suits you, your home circumstances, your dog and your cat. You can find your nearest counsellor at
Hope this helps and good luck,

HiCan you advise me please we have adopted a little rescue from Spain and he was a street dog rescue.My issues Are he chases people who are Running or walking fast . I have tried Recall on which he is excellent but he won’t respond to this . He has come such a long way , he is mostly good and this plus being aggressive when on a lead with other dogs even over the road I am having no success with . We have had training sessions but he is not responding to them.He does Watch me really well and I think as I had a16 month old bitch Cavachon he is possibly being over protective .

Hi Anne,
There could be several reasons why your little rescue is chasing people, but it is extremely unlikely they are related to predatory behaviour. The most likely are fear, or as you suggest, resource protection. It sounds like you have some fear issues going on with other dogs too. I’m afraid it is just too complicated to both diagnose and suggest a behaviour modification programme via the internet. You need specialist help from a qualified behaviourist, which you can find at

I am thinking of rehousing a 1 year old neutered male beautiful temperament
But he’s got into a habit of chasing deer and comes back on his terms the owner also concerned what goes on when he out of sight she feels he would chase sheep
If I give him a home I don’t want to have worries every time I walk if he’s off the lead
Is he domed for walks on a lead we live in rural Somerset and are surrounded by woods and deer hares
Have I got a chance

Hi Donna,
You don’t give me a lot of information to go on, but at one year old there should be a reasonable prospect of changing a dog’s behaviour. He certainly shouldn’t be allowed to chase animals such as deer and sheep freely, so there will be a training period of keeping him on a lead to start with, but with time and effort it should be possible to exert verbal rather than physical control over him. If you need more details a complete behaviour modification programme is in the book.

Hello, I have a 27 month old whippet lurcher x and a 9 month old lurcher. Both males, both neutered. 9 months ago my oldest boy was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and had a forelimb amputation. At last scan his lungs were clear, although we have chosen not to pursue further treatment, but rather enhance the quality of his life. We decided to get our younger boy to add to the family and possibly perk up my older boy as he loves other dogs. He had always been so friendly and would not leave my side when out on walks on the field. They both get on well but play quite rough several times a day. Initially, when I took them out, the recall was nowhere near as good as it was with just my older boy. They started running up to other dogs and trying to play too rough. They chase, nip, roll and sometimes growl.. exactly how they play together.. however, other owners understandably see this as aggressive, especially when they bark and chase. Even more so when they are both doing it. I’m aware that they have formed a pack and aren’t listening to me. At home they listen to everything and are very well behaved. I took them to a group trainer when lockdown allowed and worked on recall and we got on great..the on lead socialisation with other dogs helped them both. However, despite me continuing the training, I feel that I’ve lost control. I worry that they need a good off lead run but can’t trust them unless I’m sure the coast is clear. Should I stop letting them ‘hunt’ each other? Do you think your method could work with 2 dogs? They really are lovely, I just don’t want to worry that others will feel threatened by them. Thank you

Hi Keely,
I’m afraid there’s much more than ‘hunting’ each other here and technically, although there is some crossover, play and predation are not the same. Having said that what you need is to divert your dogs’ attention from each other onto you, and much of the predatory programme involves increasing owner value, so from that perspective it will work.
Having said, ‘having said that’, because there is so much more going on I wouldn’t like you to rely on the solution for predatory chase to sort it all out for you. It is about the value of the play and access to it in maintaining emotional equilibrium in both dogs, and what you really need is a professional to develop a specific behaviour modification programme to address your requirements. You can find your nearest qualified behaviourist at

Hi David,
We rescued a Afghan Saluki cross about a year ago from a local dog rescue centre. We know little about his background other than he’s about two years old, has scaring down his back (presumably from being beaten) and took the dog catcher about a month to catch him. When he came to use he wasn’t house trained, didn’t respond to any commands and was extremely nervy with other other people, especially teenage boys. Since then he has slowly responded to house training and responds to sit and lie down commands. It has taken some time to sufficiently trust that he will come back when off the lead. He’s become pretty good at this now when we walk in nearby fields. However, if he sees another dog, he will give chase and want to play. This has become particularly bad on a local dog friendly sandy beach, when as soon as he is off the lead, he will give chase to the nearest dog and his recall become non existent. As you can imagine, this can become quite stressful, especially when other dog owners disapprove of my inability to keep him under control; it often takes our other dog, an intelligent whippet cross, to ‘distract’ him by allowing him ton give chase and, in doing so, ’round him up’ close enough so that I can put a lead on. I was really interested in your thought provoking article and was wondering whether you would consider this predatory behaviour and if your training strategy of using a favourite toy would be the most appropriate method of to follow.
Kind regards,

Hi Tim,
You have an interesting dog (not that they all aren’t interesting in their own way, but some are more interestingly complicated), but the behaviour of chasing off to play with other dogs is unlikely to be predatory in origin. Of note, however, is the solution provided by your other pet, of being more attractive than the distraction.
First though, some credit where it is due: you’ve persuaded an adult, scarred, hand-shy, nervous, un-house-trained, stray dog to trust you enough to respond to your requests to sit, lie down and come back to you when called (most of the time). Well done for coming so far, you have my admiration.
Whilst I don’t think your dog-chase game is predatory, it seems to be of high value in itself, and consequently the solution is to raise your own value so that you can compete for his attention. The ‘predatory’ solution does that by investing value in a toy, which you then in turn control – playing with the toy then becomes more important than playing with the other dog, and you control access to the toy, which becomes your ultimate recall tool.
I’m sure having come this far that you understand that it isn’t a magic wand, and it will take time and effort to train, but it is very possible. If you want to implement it, full details of the programme are contained in the book.
Good luck,

Hi David,

I really appreciate you taking the time to respond to all these questions… Naturally I have one of my own.

I have a 1yo Norfolk Terrier… She’s always loved squirrels and up to now I’ve been happy to see her happy and enjoying the chase. Recently she’s started pond diving, chasing ducks and not coming out and I’m really worried about her getting caught on something and drowning or going after sheep etc. Can you give me any Terrier specific advice/ reassurance that behaviour modification might be possible? Her prey drive is super high and she’s v stubborn!

Thank you

Hi Charles,
At one year old your Norfolk terrier will be flexing her independence and probably not responding as well as she did when she was a puppy. She certainly sounds like she’s enjoying herself. In order to compete you have to increase your value too. You can do this by playing obedience-type games with her, for little treat rewards, but treats are unlikely to compete with games when she’s completely absorbed (if you need to know why, ask Mo Salah if he’d rather score a goal or eat a biscuit).
You can increase games-with-you value by varying the game from straight ‘fetch’ with extended ragging (playing tug with rope-type toys) or with toys such as flirt-poles (whip-like toys with a furry on the end), or even squeaky toys. Make the game exciting enough and she’ll come back for that in preference to over-indulging in her own games.
Good luck,

Good evening

I’ve been reading your article. We have a 3 year old Labrador who this week has run off 3 times chasing deer. She has always gone off and explored and usually the whistle is enough to bring her back. This week two of the times due went missing she was gone for almost an hour and lucky people found her and called me, she’s had traveled some distance.

I think we need to go back to the training method you have suggested with a toy. Is this something we would need to bring in every walk in the future? Also as she is 3 is this going to be very difficult to train out of her?

Thank for your week written article I’ve been feeling quite worried and anxious about taking her out.

Hi Rebecca,

The method will work for a dog of any age, so her being three isn’t really an issue. Having practiced the behaviour for a long time, however, does fix it in her so it is more difficult to counter. It is not by any mean a quick fix, you will need time and patience to practice in order to make the toy preferable to chasing deer, and yes, you will have to take it with you (or more accurately she must believe it is always on offer) on all walks where you think it may be required. Having said that, it is great fun, playing with her and you should both enjoy it. You don’t need to use it constantly, in fact that would be counter-productive, but it needs to be there for the times where you need her to make the right decision so you can reward her with it.

Good luck,

Thank you so much for your insights, this piece is precisely what I’ve been searching for online.

We have a 6 month old cockapoo who generally has good recall and is treat oriented. When off lead in the park we’ve used a clicker and high value treat and this has been effective with recalling her until recently, when she’s started to chase joggers, cyclists and small children. If she sees them before us, she’s off and the clicker has no effect. If we see them first, we call her and put her on her lead until the ‘target’ is out of sight.

The joggers and cyclists are bad enough but chasing children is concerning. She chases them and barks which scares them into running and screaming, which I’m sure just encourages her more.

Other than chasing after her and using the clicker to try and recall, I’m not sure what else we should do. Should we be keeping her on a lead until she’s sufficiently desensitised to any moving ‘objects’ that she wants to chase after? I’m loathe to do this because she has so much energy to burn off during her walks but we want to do what we can while she’s young enough that we can mould her behaviour!

Hi Vickie,
A six month old cockerpoo should be a joyful experience for you, but I can see how it might be causing you a little concern. Running up to and barking at people could amount to an offence under the Dangerous Dogs Act in the UK, as could causing a cyclist to fall off, so you are right to take the behaviour very seriously.
There could be a few things going on but for any of them six months old could be the start of her stroppy teenage years, when she stops listening to you and starts to flex her individuality. That’s just a developmental thing and if you continue to plug away at your training (or even better if you up your game for a bit) she’ll come back round. There’s a tendency to get to a level of general obedience you are happy with and then ease off with the training. Sadly this often coincides with the stroppy-teen-years. Buckle down (considerately) and it will come right.
Next thing is that I’m not quite sure why your pup is chasing and barking. It could be predatory (but less likely given the targets), it could be fear (bark at them and the problem is removed) or it could be a shear exuberant joyful game.
However, the solution is first to get your relationship right, so she understands you are worth listening to, and then start to focus her on you, rather than the things she finds in the environment.
The article and to a greater extent the book will provide you with the ideas you need to implement, but first of all you need to take her under control.
I agree that confining her to a lead may not help, or even be counter-productive because it will cause frustration. But you do have to stop her from getting you and her into trouble by chasing.
In the short term, as you work through the longer term training, you can take control by using a long line. This is just a long 20-30ft piece of cord (or a lunge-rein if you are horsey) that you attach to her collar and let drag on the ground. It takes a little bit of mastering the manipulation of it but it helps in two ways. In the first she feels the drag on her collar and it reminds her that you are in control – she doesn’t have freedom to make all decisions. The second is that you are actually in control. If she spies something she would normally chase, take hold of the line and using your recall gently guide her back to you. Reward her massively and let her go again. If she goes back, do it again. If she doesn’t come, you now only need to take hold of the line, not grab hold of a runaway dog.
This will have to be refined to tie in with your new reward strategy (treats are ok, but often don’t compete with the opportunity to chase because food is not on the same neural reward system), but confining her with a long line is the solution to preventing her from running off in the meantime. Eventually, as your new training kicks in she will be more and more compliant and you can discard the line.

Good luck and enjoy your pup,


Hi David,

Thank you so much for this wonderfully informative article, part of me always felt very conflicted about chasing because while I can see how much they enjoy it, my partner and I are nature-lovers with a general dislike of irresponsible dog-owners who refuse to control their dogs when out in the countryside (when I was a kid my cousin’s dog was shot for chasing sheep and ever since I’ve considered proper training the single most important aspect of adjusting to life with a dog). You’ve perfectly captured why the need to chase is both essential and something potentially fatal and destructive which gives us owners a lot of extra stress.

Unfortunately, a couple of months ago our Samoyed puppy developed an obsession with chasing gulls and crows which now seems to have extended to other birds, even tiny ones. Unlike the cocker spaniel I grew up with – who loved flushing out birds but quickly lost interest once they were in the air – she will try to pursue them until they are almost out of sight and we had a bit of a wake-up-call this week after an incident where she got a bit too close to working farm machinery. Though she’s an intelligent dog there must be an element of basic common sense in realising something with wings that’s moving both higher into the sky and further away isn’t something you’ve got a hope in hell of catching! But as you’ve pointed out, the more she does it, the more determined she becomes and the further she wants to chase. There was a short window in which we were able to recall her quite effectively if a bird had only just caught her attention and if there were other dogs around she was far more interested in them but now whether she’s on-lead, off-lead or on the long-line, the second something flies close enough, she fixates on it.

‘Selective hearing’ is a common problem with Samoyeds and though I adore them more than any other dog, their need for constant reinforcement and repetition in training means they can be pretty hard work. Do you have any breed-specific advice that could help us? They were bred more for herding than hunting but I’ve noticed some Samoyeds still have quite a strong prey-drive (ours gets on okay with the cat but if he runs she’ll try and pursue so we want his life to be a little easier too)

We have a 10ft longline which we use either in unfamiliar (but generally safe) environments or when there are loads of birds on the beach but she walks off-lead in enclosed parks, familiar bits of the countryside and a few other local haunts and until recently her recall has been really good. She’s only 6 months old but a quick learner and already knows ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘lie-down’, ‘shake’, ‘drop’, ‘leave-it’ and ‘speak’ (she’s quite vocal so I wanted to try and channel it into something she could switch on and off). I have a sinking suspicion this is just the teenage phase kicking in as she is pretty stubborn and has only gotten more so lately, but I don’t want to restrict all of the things she enjoys because I’m finding I have less and less control over her recall. She is a high-energy dog and though she’s slept through the night from when she was four months old she seems to need about 2 hours of exercise a day to do so which (even with the long-line) is a lot harder to facilitate without giving her some time off-lead.

The most difficult aspect of it is that after half an hour of chasing gulls up and down the tide-line and completely ignoring me, she comes back with a big tongue-lolling smile, chilled as anything and is completely biddable for the rest of the walk. I’ve tried using some of the methods you’ve suggested above to get her into fetch or another game but as soon as something stops moving she loses interest. While capable of completely locking her focus onto something she wants (treats, chasing gulls etc.) I guess she’s still a puppy and has a very short attention-span the rest of the time. Lately I’ve even been thinking about buying a drone or some sort of motorised remote-control car to provide her with continuous enrichment while out (I know it sounds unconventional but I saw a video of someone using a ride-on mower to alleviate a beagle’s prey drive and it seemed to work well) is there anything similar you could recommend?

Hi Ingrid,

I think you’ve pretty much got this sussed out – where the behaviour is coming from and where it could possibly lead. You’re right inasmuch there are breed-specific tendencies although there is also wide variation in behaviour within breeds. I can sympathise with the ‘selective deafness’ of Samoyeds as we have a Lhasa Apso. It seems like they’re ignoring us at times, but rather than being a wilful disobedience, try to think of it as being lost in the moment. When they’re doing ‘that thing’ they’re so consumed with it that nothing else matters. As you point out Samoyeds were originally herders, but there’s a lot of potential prey instinct in herding (think of the border collie), so you could have just randomly found one high up the scale. That’s not necessarily a problem (and can be great fun) long as you control it.
You are also right that at six months she could well be going through those ‘stroppy teenage’ years where paying attention to Mum and Dad becomes less important, and that if you knuckle down and go back a few steps in your training programme things will improve. She is very much a work in progress rather than the finished article.
There are a couple of possibilities for you to consider. Firstly I like that you’ve had the idea of a drone, but it’s likely to reinforce the chasing-with-no-end – which will reinforce the bird-chasing.
What you have is a dog that likes to chase airborne targets, but little interest in catching and holding (the next parts of the predatory hunting sequence). You can either give up and accept that, and provide her with a target you control, such as a flirt-pole (a fluffy-onna whippy-stick), or you can stimulate the catch-hold behaviour – after all, she’s only six months and it may not have kicked in yet.
I would go with the latter, which may be a bit more labour intensive, but will yield more control eventually. Find something she likes (even a toy bird on a string if you have to) and play very short throwing games with her indoors. Get down with her and stimulate her interest until she mouths it, then make it move. Show he that she can make the game happen by first touching, then mouthing, then picking up and finally, bringing it to you. You’re breaking retrieving down into tiny steps over many days. Once she realises that bringing the toy to you makes it fly through the air she will develop the game with you. If she needs two hours a day, spend the time doing that, in small batches.
In the meantime prevent her chasing birds by using your long line (30ft might be better than 10 to give her more scope to run but remain under your control). As her training progresses you can increase the environmental stimuli by playing the game outdoors and reducing reliance on the line.
The book explains it a little more fully if you need some more guidance.

Good luck and enjoy your puppy!


We have a Springer spaniel who will be 3 in April. Her recall is good BUT once she is in a chase/play mode with other dogs it is impossible to get her back. Even when the other dogs are no longer playing/running she just continues to charge round and round. High value treats etc have no effect on her and we just have to wait until she gets weary and someone can grab her collar!

Hi Jane,
This sounds more like a play issue than a chase problem – she’s enjoying the play and doesn’t want it to stop. The solution is to make yourself more interesting so she enjoys playing with you more than playing with other dogs. Whilst the principles explained in the article are primarily for predatory chasing they will work equally well for play. Treats don’t work because the enjoyment of play isn’t on the same neural reward system as the desire for food. The book explains the whole thing in greater depth if you want more information, and provides the behaviour modification programme you need.

Hi David,
Thank you so much for your response, I’ve been practicing getting her attention with a flirt pole and it seems to be working. I also tried bolting away from her in the opposite direction the other day when she spotted a bird and tried to go after it which switched her focus from one target to another, it worked a treat but we have a lot of joggers in our area and I’m wary of her seeing other runners as exciting things to chase. There’s definitely been an improvement in the past few days though so thanks again,

Hi David,

We have a collie x he is 16 months old. We have had him now 7 months now and he is a rescue. For the first few months we kept him on the lead apart from in a secured area or dog park. He is absolutely fabulous with other dogs and loves playing with them and chase being his favourite game. After 3 months we started to let him off at the Beach and he was fantastic with other doggies and people even if people were on their own he would run up to them walk beside and say down but over the last month we have had trouble letting him off the beach as he has been chasing people on their own and jumping up on them from the front and behind it can be both walkers and runners. If someone is walking alone with a dog he won’t bother them at all other than socialising with their dog.At the start it was mainly runners but rhen it became walkers too so obviously we have had to put him back on the leash apart from off the leash dog areas. Im wondering is it a herding issue or something else and is it something he will grow out of or what is the best training for him. Any help is greatly appreciated.

Hi Noreen,
From the description I’m not sure what is going on – I’d need to see his body language at the time. It could be that he’s worried about people and is checking them out, or he could be super-friendly and looking for interaction. Either way it doesn’t sound like herding (which would be circling and maybe some nipping) and it’s unlikely that he will grow out of it on his own. It appears that he’s making decisions you would rather he wasn’t, and to rectify that you need to take control of him. Simply training him to come back would be a start so that you can recall him before he does anything inappropriate. I’m not sure about letting him run up to play with every dog he sees either – many dogs don’t welcome being ‘played at’. Any qualified dog trainer should be able to help you train him in the basic obedience that every owner should have with their dog, but I would recommend increasing your value through games so that he sees you as being more important to him than everyone else. The ‘fetch-toy’ game described in the book will do that for you. Being friendly is good, but he shouldn’t see other dogs and people as being more interesting than you are. He’s a collie and values interaction with people – if you want to have control over him, make sure you are the people he values most.

Hi David,

Thanks so much for all your helpful advice it is very much appreciated. I was thinking myself recall would be the best place to start and the toy game you suggested is a great piece of advice. He loves playing, so a new game will be brilliant and it will also challenge him at the same time.

Thanks again for he tips and I’m really enjoying reading the other owners stories and advice.

Hi David.

Thanks for the write up. I will try those methods.
I have a springer staffy cross, for the most part we can control him with a ball, he has had an operation for elbow dysplasia and if we play fetch too much his legs get sore and he begins to limp again. Also sometimes he waits until you give him the ball and then decides to go hunting. I have tried taking out multiple balls to entice him back but it doesn’t seem to help. We have also tried gundog whistle training which didn’t help.

Any suggestions instead of throwing the ball and any suggestions about when he has the ball and then goes hunting?

Thank you again for the write up hopefully it helps

Hi Aaron,

Springer/Staffy cross is an interesting mix – hunting combined with determination! There are some things you might try. First is to make to game interactive so that the play is with you – that would involve a tug-game with the retrieved toy (might need to change the toy). That would keep him interested in you and also reduce the amount of running he does to take pressure off his elbows. Second would be to revert to the two-ball game, but secrete a squeaky in your hand (you find them inside some toys) and use that to persuade him that the ball you have squeaks. You throw one ball and lure him back with one that squeaks, but in reality the squeak always stays in your hand.
Final thing would be to play searching games rather than straight retrieving – start off at home and build up to walks – could be useful for him as he gets older and his elbows get worse as it is good mental stimulation that can be done in a small space.

Good luck,

Hi David,

Thanks for this extremely useful article. I have a 12 mknth old border Terrier which we brought home just before the first lockdowns began last year. As you can imagine this is not the ideal scenario for socialising a young dog and as a result he has seen rather less than we would want at his age, and has quite lot of anxieties which we are working through with him. He is VERY high prey drive and unfortunately for us this manifests in a desire to chase and catch our neighbours poultry. As the poultry free range around our house we have very little chance of avoiding them, and his drive is such that he has now managed to seek out, or create ways to escape from our garden to get at them. Obviously one of the answers to this is to reinforce our garden security which now seems to be a constant project as he finds new ways to try and get out, but as he has to live somewhere surrounded by these animals we need to make them less enticing for him. How would you suggest we go about removing contact with the stimulus in this situation? Would it be enough to put up fencing he has no way of seeing through, or is the smell of them outside the boundary going to thwart our efforts?

Hi Lauren,
This is a tough one as you are trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted. You describe that your pup has anxieties – anxious dogs look for opportunities to raise their emotional balance, and chasing makes them feel good. If you read the book it describes that you have to remove the anxieties to increase the baseline of that emotional balance – so he doesn’t exist in permanent deficit. Then controlling his desire to chase will become easier. So long as he remains in emotional deficit he will look for opportunities to chase, hunt or any other instinctively rewarding behaviour. Once you address that you can start with the actual training. You must have a secure garden to start with, and I wouldn’t let him free in it anyway – too many temptations to transgress. The book also describes using a long line in places of temptation. I would include the garden in that. Yes, it seems extreme but you have an extreme situation. Blocking sight could well help to reduce the trigger of movement, and make him easier to recall, but you can’t get away from the fact that he knows they are there. Whilst I would encourage toy-play with you to give him another opportunity to increase his positive feelings, you are also going to need to apply some good old-fashioned obedience training too. Teach the game and use it as a recall, whilst he is on the long line, but this will take a while – weeks not minutes. Again the book explains you need incremental training by breaking it down into manageable chunks. He should always get it right – and if he doesn’t, we asked too much.
Make a plan so you know what you are doing and where you are going at each stage. It’s basically devising a scheme of playing the right games with your pup to direct him into the behaviour you like.
Good luck – and don’t forget that this can be fun!


I have a 3 year old female cockapoo who has always been excellent off the lead. She never goes more than a few feet away. However lately we have had 3 incidents where we have completely lost her due to her seeing a duck and not stopping chasing them. She’s not an anxious dog as she’s never left alone and has exciting walks every day. I am having no luck with training her to stop the duck chasing ( your article has made sense now I realise you can’t train it out of them with treats etc) she loves her toys at home but no matter what i take with me on a walk she shows no interest. its got to the point i dread taking her for a walk.

Hi Alyx,
This isn’t a simple fix – there isn’t one. It takes time and patience to train an alternative response, starting with the training out of context. It’s good that she likes her toys at home – you have to slowly progress that to her walks, in small increments. First thing to do is to use a long line to control her whilst you walk – if you don’t have verbal control you need physical control until the training takes over. The book takes you though it step by step.

Hi David, this article makes so much sense. My 18 month old female cockapoo is ball obsessed and I’m on high alert to anything that moves because she has legged it a couple of times. My husband thought it wasn’t a good thing her being so ball obsessed though. If I have the ball in the thrower she is fixed on it so we can pass people, cyclists and dogs without a second glance. We like her to interact with other dogs though but if she has her ball she doesn’t want to know. We’ve recently stopped taking the ball on the long afternoon walk, partly for this reason and partly because it’s been warm and she’s waiting for her lockdown groom. She is still good and responds to ‘this way’ if she’s wandered a bit far but she has chased deer who already had 2 cockapoos chasing them. Luckily they went down a steep, brambled slope so she just sat and waited for the cockapoos to climb out. She also flushed a pheasant out and ran into woods after it but I whistled and called and she came back after a couple of minutes. Should I bring the ball back into our walks? Long walks will move to the mornings as it gets warmer so more chance of rabbits etc. I must admit that I find not having the ball on walks more stressful. We are having an intro into Cani-cross next week and thought this might be another outlet for her. ??

Hi Rachel,
You are so nearly where you want to be. The ‘ball-attention’ doesn’t need to be all-or-nothing, but you need a word that says, ‘your ball is on offer’ that you can use in the right circumstances. In dog training circles this is known as the ‘cue’. Your cue at the moment is the visibility of the ball, which means she thinks the possibility is on offer the whole time. You can change that cue to a verbal one (a word for example) by linking the word to the ball. Set it up as a training exercise. Take the ball with you, concealed in a pocket. When pup is doing nothing in particular (you don’t want the ball to be associated with behaviour you do not like), say your cue word loud and clear and throw the ball towards her. If she becomes a bit obsessed with the ball, put it back in your pocket and walk on; she’ll get bored with nothing happening eventually. After several repetitions she will look at you when you say the cue word because she expects the ball. The ball-in-the-pocket is always there but not always on offer. You can either leave it at that, so she expects the ball when she hears the cue, or you can develop it further with the two-ball game explained in the book (which she would be brilliant at). She sounds like a fun dog, and you are so nearly there…

I have a 9 month rescue from Serbia I have no idea of her breed as mixed!
I am at the end of my tether and wondering if I have made a terrible mistake in getting her. I have a Flatcoat and I have had Border Terriers in the past so I am very use to dogs with a prey drive. But my rescue is something different she is obsessed with chasing, birds especially. I can manage if in a field away from trees or bushes but as soon as you enter any sort of area with trees she goes into a zone and nothing distracts her, I cannot engage at all. I live in the country and cannot see how this is ever going to be resolved. I have tried toys and the only thing that she is really interested in is a squeaky ball, but again nothing distracts her in woodlands. Do I just not walk her in these sort of areas which is going to be incredibly difficult? And how long do I not walk her in these areas? I have also heard conflicting advice on the long line. I am so confused and at the moment cannot see this ever being resolved. I would so appreciate some advice on this.

Hi Kate,
The initial problem with a 9month old Serbian rescue is that you don’t know what you have. In almost all cases of this type of rescue you need to treat them as you would a puppy. Assume they know nothing and start to teach them from scratch. Back to basics, establish some house rules and walk on a lead until she is reliable. The book ‘Stop!’ gives a complete breakdown of how to control predatory chasing, but you would have to apply the principles to a puppy in an adult form. Add to that at 9months old she is probably going through the ‘stroppy teenager’ phase as well, and you have your work cut out. The ‘in’ to her mind can only be achieved before she is in the zone, not afterwards, so you have to take her away from anything that stimulates her to ignore you so that you can at least gain her attention, or you can’t work with her – trying to get her to focus on you once she is mentally elsewhere is doomed to fail. There will be something that stimulates her interest that you can use, but you have to find and work with it initially away from distractions.
Good luck,

Thank you so much for your response and all definitely makes sense. I get her full attention when away from trees so I guess I have to stay away from woodland if I can. do you know at what point I will know that I can go back into that environment? Also what type of lead should I use in this situation to stop the pulling? Thank you

Hi Kate,

I’m afraid the progress you make depends on too many factors to give you an exact timeframe -worst case I would guess about six months – best would be within days. It all depends on how well you manage the training, as well as her genetic and learned predispositions.
I would use a long line to make sure you have control, probably with a body harness, when you are training, but pulling on the lead other than in relation to chasing is a separate issue and you would need to factor in training sessions with that alone to address it.

Good luck,

Hi David, your article is absolutely fantastic and so informative.

I have a 7mth old German Shepherd who is making walking so distressing, because he chases, lunges and barks at cars. Unfortunately this is not something I can avoid as I live on a fairly busy street with cars passing constantly! He does also chase birds etc, but the car chasing is so distressing and I am so worried for safety reasons. Could you offer any advice on this please, the trainers I have had have told me to use a slip collar and prong collar, as they say “positive reinforcement doesn’t work”
Thank you so much

Hi Annmarie,

In my experience chasing cars is quite often a fear-based activity (if you chase them they go away) but nevertheless the principles in the article, which are expanded in the book, will work either way. At the moment he’s making wrong decisions and by taking his focus away from the environment and placing it back on you, you can take the control you need to guide him into making the right ones.

Good luck,

Hi David, thank you so much for your reply, it’s definitely not fear based, I am going to buy your book and hopefully I will be able to control this better

Thanks for your thoughtful answers Dave. I have a Greek rescue who is a mix of hunting dogs (looks like a small red setter but working cocker size with some Hellenic hound around the head and ears).

She’s been with me for 8 months and is around 14 months old. We have a very close bond and have been work/play/training consistently for that whole time. Small bursts, poz reinforcement.

Every lunch is a mix of high value treats (beef/chicken/salmon jerky) and her dried food which she loves, sometimes small bits of cheese or primula spread. And then we go out on a walk. Min two hrs a day, couple of times a week a long ramble of a few hrs.

She likes doing complex retrieves in the garden, scent work in garden and around house (clove oil in spice jar in a small canvas bag, well hidden). ‘Look at me’ before door ways and before release to food. Her recall is practiced for food, for tug and retrieve games and between my husband and I at a distance on walks. It’s rock solid until… walking in woodland.

She’s almost always in a 15 metre long line to cut back self rewarding hunting. But we’ve tried a few times to give her ‘space’ by dropping end of line. Mostly she returns and checks in. But three times now she’s taken off, disappeared and only come back after about two mins, in her own time. She can get quite far away in two mins.

We have to walk in woodland. I’m in Belgium and only the forests have rights of way. She has no interest in games or scenting with the target in that environment. I have tried training her up to prize a knotted tea towel for tug/out/get it retrieves. But while really into it in garden, it’s no competition at all for tracing/chasing in woodland.

So, how to keep a healthy fit ‘working cocker’ who has no interest in toys and not much in food, engaged on walks in woodland? All our walks are taken over by the need to try and keep her engaged with us. If I hide and she can’t find me quickly she’ll yip in alarm. So her tolerance for me not being there is low. She’s got a whistle sit at 10 metres line trailing, 15 if end held.

I’ve had 4 rescues over the years but this is the first whose prey drive makes her recall really unreliable.

I just called her back by voice then sonic whistle once, the couple of times she scarpered. I don’t want to poison the cue. When she didn’t come back I just kept walking so she could track me, rather than getting ahead of my scent and getting lost. Her range when, not bolting, is about a tennis court before she comes back to heel for a quick treat, without being called.

I’m really getting depressed about this. I’ve worked consistently thro ‘perfect recall’ & ‘train yr pet gun dog’ and I’ve just found out about your book which I will buy. But the basic take away is always the same: make yrself more interesting than the environment. but nothing I can do makes me more interesting than her surroundings in a wood and I can only walk her in woodland. I’m I going to have to keep her in the longline forever?

Sorry so long!

Hi Abigail,

There are clearly several relevant points here. The first is that your dog is Greek Rescue. She may have lived wild or semi-feral and hunting is not just a ‘prey-drive’ but a matter of life and death. She may have had to hunt to survive – and that she has survived means she was successful.
Secondly, the mix seems to be directing her into the behaviour genetically – tough on you, but there you go.
Thirdly, and it is about time we hit a ‘positive’, is that you are doing all the right things – well done. A couple of things I would query is that sometimes Positive Reinforcists forget that control is also essential. A variation of Learn to Earn or my own Guide and Control, away from the control of the problem behaviour will increase her general compliance. How tight that needs to be is questionable, but a tight programme can always be relaxed later.
You say she has no interest in toys in the target environment but have you thought the transition between the garden and woodland is too great? If she plays in the garden she can play in the wood. Maybe take her to the edge of the wood and stake her out (she’s not ready for the line to be dropped yet) to play with you rather than go on a walk? Introduce woodland-play in small increments rather than expecting her to make the leap? If the edge of the wood is too great, use the edge of the edge… you know what I mean… find a place she will play and gradually work towards the wood – in weeks rather than days.
Finally, you’ve only had her for eight months, and you’ve worked a small miracle with what you’ve achieved up to now. I know it’s demoralising when you aren’t where you want to be, but with the dog you have, you need more time.


Thank you for this post and your advice. I have a similar situation to the owner above who has a dog that chases birds. We have a long lead and are working through your advice, but the biggest issue is that our dog (a 6 month old collie cross, with a very strong chase/prey drive) gets to practice this behaviour in the garden as birds fly over in the garden and he runs up and down the fence to chase them. Obviously when on a walk, he bolts after them and it is dangerous.

The puppy can’t be left in our kitchen during the day as he is destructive, and as we work from home, he is left out in the garden alone for periods of time, the alternative is too long in his crate, which we feel is not fair on him.

I feel I can’t combat this issue when he has so much opportunity to practice it in the garden, but am at a loss as to what to do with him instead. I also can’t stop other family members from allowing him to chase birds in the garden, as their view is that he will grow out of it… will he? Probably not, worried that the collie in him may make him obsessed. I’ve spent a lot of time and effort training him to stay close on walks and to train on the walks so as he is focused on us, but feel this garden chasing undoes this work. Any ideas?

Hi Sarah,
I’m afraid you are right in what you say – if he’s allowed to chase birds in the garden he will continue to want to do it. The short answer is not to allow him to play by himself in the garden. If that isn’t possible, then he will continue to chase birds when he can. He is extremely unlikely to grow out of it.
You say, ‘The puppy can’t be left in our kitchen during the day as he is destructive, and as we work from home, he is left out in the garden alone for periods of time, the alternative is too long in his crate, which we feel is not fair on him.’ Realistically this is indicative of a puppy that needs more time spending on him than you are currently able to give. Some puppies just need more time/stimulation/training. I’m sorry, but I have no easy answer for you. Puppies need time spent with them, not to be left on their own for long periods of time. And collies need more than most.
Probably the best advice I can give you is to contact a behaviour counsellor who can prepare a plan for you to implement to get you to where you would like to be with your puppy. You can find one at
Good luck,

We have an 8 month old sprocker who does well with recall etc with no distractions. However when he sees a bird in flight or on ground he is off and the usual whistle which he responds to is redundant. Hd has now managed to get to our neighbours rabbits which has been harrowing as they are pets. Unfortunately someone left the gate open. He is not bothered by balls or adjacent found a toy yet that he loves. We have him on long lead all the time now where as upto 6 months he was great off lead. We would love to get back to off lead and him not going for the rabbits but with no toy /ball preference it is tricky.

Hi Lynn,
A couple of points: firstly he is eight months old which can be a tricky age where previous training seems to go out of the window as they flex their independence as they head for maturity. Secondly, if he chases animals he’ll chase a toy, you just need to make some effort to switch him on to one. The long line is a good stop-gap as you redouble your training efforts, but using a toy-reward will also benefit you in the future. There are three types of reward you can apply: attention (praise), food treats and toy-play. Using all three maximises your control of him. Frisbees are good for bird-chasers, but try a few types. Start playing indoors before introducing the game into a place with no distractions and gradually build up.
Good luck,

Hi David,

We have a mixed breed rescue who is about 2 years old. In general, his recall is good – as long as there are no animal scents / visible deer nearby. When he does get the scent of a deer, particularly in a forest – his chase drive overwhelms him and he will chase the deer for kilometres through the forest. My problems are two fold – it is extremely hard for us to predict when he will “go”, the vast majority of time he is a good dog and just loves running around on walks. Two – if I keep him on a long lead then he just doesnt get the exercise he requires. What do you suggest?


Dear Ben,
You seem to be looking for a quick fix. There isn’t one. It’s either physical control (the lead or long line), verbal control (the protracted training programme in the book) or not enough control, as you have now. Sorry not to be more help, but that’s the reality of it.

Hi David,
Thank you so much for this great resource. And for your book which is excellent and we are currently working through.
We have a 9 month old German Shorthaired Pointer – hunting dog but also a lovely family pet. When he was 7 months old we think he chased deer twice, definitely once when he went missing for 30 minutes – he got lost and a lady found him heading back to the car park. Since then we have been managing this by going back to basics with training, improving obedience in the house and not taking him to where we know there are deer (very difficult where we live – our neighbour said she saw some in her front garden a few nights ago)- we do a lot of work in secure fields which are invaluable. We are also trying to get him to sit calmly when he sees birds, squirrel etc. He does flush and chase birds too which we are also working to prevent but that doesn’t result in him ranging too far. We are focusing on getting him excited about the ball which he does enjoy. He is always on the 10m longline and has been since he was 4 months old but was too far away from me to step on it when he chased.
Last week we had a setback when he chased deer during a session with a dog trainer. He was on a 30m longline but it just slipped under my partner’s boot. As a result of this the dog trainer said he needs to be kept on a lead forever or we need to use an ecollar (he said at a low setting). He said nothing but the ecollar would ever work. Clearly we aren’t going to use one and we are continuing to work through your book but we came away feeling very upset and worried for our lovely dog.
He also ranges too far which we are working on – we know they range as a breed. We don’t feel we’re being very successful at the moment but it’s a work in progress. The long line is quite a difficult tool to use with a fast strong dog but we know we have to persevere.
My question is how hardwired would you say this chasing behaviour is at 9 months old and do you feel we have a chance of fixing this assuming we follow the programme?
Many thanks,

Hi Vicky,
Glad to be of some help for you and that you realise you have a work in progress. I’m not sure I’d take advice from a trainer that, however inadvertently, allowed your dog to chase deer whilst under their supervision.
Yes, the chasing of game will be extremely enticing for your pup, but I know of older GSPs that have been controlled using the methods in the book. You are far from at the ‘lost cause’ stage yet.
Realistically, you should be able to make improvements to the stage where he isn’t looking for opportunities to chase away from you, but you will always need to keep your wits about you to control his urge if something pops up in front of him – the temptation will always be there, but should be controllable. The more focussed on you the better his behaviour will be, and that’s what I would concentrate on for now. The dropped long line seems to be causing you some problems. Perhaps it might be an idea to double the length and tie the end to something solid so that he physically cannot leave? Just for a while until he becomes more dependable, then go back to dropping it. Think of the session as a training bout rather than a walk. Keep going and don’t be disheartened by the odd setback – you’ve heading in the right direction.

Our 17month mixed breed (German shepherd, Gordon setter, and a few others ) dog Bonnie loves running fast and she is obsessed with chasing the birds up in the sky. She isn’t interested in catching anything on the ground. But when she chases she ignores our recall.
How do we get her to come back when we call her please .

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