For some dogs, walks are tough. After all there are lots of distractions: people, other dogs, roaming cats, strange smells and loud cars. A reactive dog hardly has a chance against so many potential distractions. That’s why it’s so important to set your dog up to succeed on walks — remember, skipping walks is not the solution. This reader has a dog with a dangerous habit — chasing cars.

Your Question:

I have a 4.5 year old sheltie. She is generally very well-behaved and smart. She has earned her canine good citizen medal. However, she has one very bad habit — chasing cars. It is impossible to take this dog for a walk because she will try to chase and attack every car that passes by. She has no aggression to people or other dogs, nor bycicles, just cars. I think the noise frightens her.

We have tried for months to take her out each night for about 1-2 miles; putting her in a sit-stay whenever a car approaches and using high-value treats to reward her for remaining calm as the car passes. It works as long as we have the treats handy, but if we don’t catch her at a certain point once she sees the car, she goes into attack mode despite the treats being offered. And there is a certain point near the end of our walk where no matter what the treat, she will not pay attention and jumps, pulls, barks, twirls and strangles herself at the end of the leash.

I do not use a retractable leash and I do use a harness with a martingale (or is it dale) ring to protect her neck. Is there anything else we can do? Thank you!

– Duke Nurse

My Answer:

You are more than likely starting off by getting her way too close to the cars in your attempt to desensitize her. If she is that reactive, then you need to move way back up the driveway or even the yard. It’s a slow process.

I recently answered a reader’s question about chasing after other dogs while on walks. I recommended she try a proofed down, which is a “down” command that a dog has proven she can hold until released. Practice this inside, with no distractions, until your dog acn do it successfully every time. Then add one distraction, like another family member  or loud noises  before moving to the yard, then closer to the street, etc. Be patient and work on this every day, but for only a few minutes a day. Good luck!

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