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Canine Behavior/Vehicle Danger


Hi, and thanks for offering this service.
We have a 10 month old blue heeler mix pup who is not in the least afraid of vehicles.  He adores my husband, so wants to be as close to him as possible… even when Dennis is INSIDE the car, truck or tractor!  Buddy will not only run near the vehicle… but sometimes in the case of the tractor… BETWEEN the tires while its moving!  We are constantly swerving and slamming on the breaks to avoid hitting Bud.  We tried a shock collar, and this only makes him go closer to the vehicle to be near Dennis.  We are SURELY going to run our own dog over if this continues.  Can you make any suggestions?  He is otherwise a very smart puppy…
Thanks again.
- Maggie

Some dogs are so drawn to objects/animals that are moving away from them they are compelled to chase. This compulsion is the dog's hard-wired prey-drive. Heelers are herding dogs, so their prey-drive has been coaxed and altered a bit to give chase and to round up, without usually making the kill. It sounds like your dog is trying to herd the moving vehicles. You mentioned a tractor that you or your husband is frequently driving on the property. Do you live on a working farm? Is it a livestock farm or a harvest farm? If you have livestock, it may be well worth your while to find a local herding instructor teach you and your dog how to harness his prey-drive need and teach him to herd the animals on your farm. Then you can give him a 'job' to do to use that innate eneergy and help out on the farm.

Whether or not you have a livestock farm and the ability to teach him to herd properly, there are two aspects to this issue that must be dealt with. First and foremost is MANAGEMENT .  This means that you actively prevent your dog from getting close enough to chase the vehicles. It's dangerous not only for your dog but for anyone in the vehicle as well. Management can be accomplished a few different ways. He can be kept indoors while the vehicles are being used. He can be set up behind a fence that he can't jump over. He can be enclosed in a kennel (minimum 5X10) that either has a roof or is tall enough he can't jump over. He can be put on a harness and tied out. If you're going to use a tie-out, he must always be on a harness, never on his neck. And I prefer the kind that has a line that runs between two points up off the ground (tree to tree or tree to post/house) with another line that comes from that suspended line down to the dog. This gives the dog a roughly 10-foot range of motion for the entire length of the tie-out, but it's far less likely to get tangled up on anything.

If he's confined in any way, the best thing is that he can't see the vehicles as they're working. Seeing them but being unable to chase them will only serve to aggrivate and frustrate him and this could lead to other undesired behaviors.

One other option is to bring him into the vehicles with you. Secure him so he can't jump out, but allow him to be on that side of the chase - in the car/tractor seeing the world race by.

The other half of this equation is TENDING TO HIS NEEDS, . While we can limit his ability to indulge in the unsafe behavior, we can't ignore that as a dog, and especially as a herding dog, he has a drive to chase and round up moving things. He needs to do this nearly as much as he needs to eat or breathe (not exaggerating). So, we need to find a way to allow him to burn that partucular energy on a regular basis. This can be done with actual herding games - either with livestock, or a new sport called Treiball, which is the herding of large balls (like the ones used for yoga).You'll have to do a search in your area to see if there are any treiball classes happening within a reasonable distance.

Or, sometimes just a really great game of fetch so the dog can chase the ball at high speed can be great. You can even do a multi-ball game where he gets to chase multiple tennis balls that are thrown such that as he reaches the first one, the next one gets thrown. This will then give him 3 or 4 oblects he's had to chase down and then he can 'herd' them into a group if he chooses.

I had a Red Heeler mix for nearly 15 years. Her favorite game when she was young (up until about 12 or 13 years old) was fetch. She'd have me play Fetch with her for sometimes 2 or 3 hours striaght - if I was able to indulge her. But even when I didn't have that kind of time, I'd play various versions of fetch for just a few minutes at various times of the day. Example: My bathroom as at the end of a hallway. The other end had a flight of stairs. She'd drop the ball at my feet and I'd try to kick it past her. If I did, it would fly down the stairs and she'd chase after it and bring it straight back and set it at my feet again. Her aim was to catch the ball before it went past her. I used to joke that we were playing soccer and she was the goalie (a pretty good one at that). Yes, this added 3-5 minutes to my morning routine of teeth/hair brushing, etc. but it was 3-5 minutes of focused brain activity mixed with some good fast chase and 'stairmaster". Then, in the evening when I was home, we'd play some more fetch. If I took her to the local dog park where there was room, we'd play "Big Fetch" where I could throw the ball as far and as hard as possible (with the aid of a Chuck It), I got it much further than I could on my own. This allowed her to run at top spped and really give chase and tend to that innate prey-drive that she had.

I didn't live on a farm, but in a city. She never showed any desire to chase anything other than balls because I made a point of playing that game and tending to that need so frequently that it burned her 'chase/herd' fuel tank and so she was relaxed around other things that could have triggered that need.

So by creating a safe opportunity for your dog to tend to his need to chase/herd, while also preventing the opportunity to chase/herd inapprorpiate things, you will be protecting him while helping him to burn that particular fuel reserve. And if he's getting sufficient chance to burn through that fuel tank of energy, then he'll be less interested in chasing/herding the things that aren't part of that regular game.

I hope this helps. Good luck. Please feel free to followup if I can be of further assistance.

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Jody Epstein, MS, CPDT-KA


IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 8 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If you’re looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if you’re local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members and many other issues. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.


I have been a professional obedience trainer for 9 years, and specializing in behavior modification for 8 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I own my own dog training and behavior modification business called Nutz About Mutz.

I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications ; ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

I have a masters degree (MS) in Animals and Public Policy, with a minor in Animal Behavior, from Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. I also have 3 years of graduate education in Animal Behavior and Learning from UM-Missoula and UL-Lafayette. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences, workshops and seminars. Beginning in March, 2017, I will be the Behavior & Training Manager at Second Chance Center for Animals in Flagstaff, AZ.

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