How Can I Get My Dog to Stop Lunging at Cyclists and Runners?


Q. When we're out on a walk, my dog gets stressed when runners or cyclists go by. He lunges and tries to run after them. What can I do?

A.It’s natural for dogs to want to run after an object that’s moving at high speeds away from them; this is the “chase” part of the predatory sequence. While the desire to chase is manageable in most dogs and is seen only in play, for other dogs, this instinct is so strong that they go after anything that moves, with cyclists and joggers being favorite targets. If your dog has never bitten anyone and is relatively calm when he's out on a walk, there are ways to redirect his chase behavior to appropriate outlets.

It is important to redirect the urge to chase; the consequences of your dog continuing this behavior can be serious, especially if he were ever to get off his leash. While most dogs would stop as soon as they caught up to the runner or cyclist, there are dogs who would nip or who may inflict major harm with deeper bites or a full-on takedown. Keep in mind, too, that the cyclist or runner being chased doesn't know if your dog is friendly or threatening, and may respond by kicking or hurting your dog in self-defense. Putting an end to chase behavior keeps your dog and the people he's sharing the road with safe.

Dogs who chase should always be secured on a sturdy leash set at a certain length and never on a retractable leash or long line. Head halters are beneficial for redirecting your pooch’s attention away from the swiftly moving person. An alternative for flatter-faced dogs is a front-clip harness.

If your dog has a history of biting people or if his behavior seems truly aggressive or predatory, the situation is much more serious. You should consult with a veterinary behaviorist or a certified dog trainer for strategies on handling this situation.


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