We play with our dogs in so many different ways, from tugging on a toy to a beloved game of fetch!
Chase is a game many dogs tend to love, primarily being chased by their owners. But what may appear as just silly fun to us can actually be a problem in the long run.
Dogs love being chased because it’s an instinctual puppy game. However, chasing your dog can cause big problems; if your dog gets loose, they may think you’re playing the chase game, which can cause them to run away or get lost. Instead, play a game where you are chased, play fetch, tug, and enroll your dog in luring sports.
In this article, I will explain why our four-legged friends love being chased so much and why we should think twice before encouraging this behavior.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
A game of chase isn’t just something your dog came up with out of the blue - chasing is an instinct that can track back to your dog’s wild ancestor: the wolf. Wolves are predators. Predators chase their prey. So… why does your dog like being chased rather than just chasing?
To answer this question, we must go back to when the dog became its own separate species from the wolf. Our domestic dogs result from thousands of years of selective breeding, where certain traits were chosen to be passed down. One of these traits has to do with your dog’s brain and how it works.
To keep our furry friends obedient, safe, loyal, and our best friends, we had to somewhat freeze their brains in puppy mode. What I mean by this is that although you certainly see a mental maturity between a young puppy and a fully adult dog, the way their mind works continues to remain in puppy mode by a wild wolf’s standards. A wolf pup will act a lot like our domestic dogs up until their brain matures in the wild sense of the word, and they abandon all of the traits that we value in our dogs.
How this relates to being chased is this: wolf pups play chase with each other all of the time to explore various instincts and biological behaviors. Our dogs do the same thing, except they don’t grow out of this game as wolves do. Our dogs continue to love being chased and expressing this innate instinct throughout their entire lives.
Chasing and being chased can be a self-rewarding behavior for your dog! The more they enjoy this game, the more they want to be chased and will keep baiting you to do it.
As much as this game seems innocent and cute on its face, encouraging the behavior can be really problematic. As dog owners, part of our responsibility is to mitigate risk and keep our dogs safe.
If your dog slips their collar, runs out your door, or the gardener forgets to lock the backyard gate - you’d want your pup to come back to you, yes?
Unfortunately, the game of chase teaches your dog that they need to run away from you every time you move towards them. Trust me, your dog will be much faster than you, even if you were a sprinting athlete!
This scenario can cause your dog to run away and get lost, run into oncoming traffic and be hit by a car, and other horrible situations. I hate saying it because this is such a grim thought, but that is the reality of teaching your dog that being chased is a good thing.
Luckily, you can fulfill your dog in ways other than chasing them! As much as this game can bring so much joy to your dog, these alternatives are also stimulating for your pup (and may make them even happier).
The issue with chasing your dog is that it teaches your dog to run away from you whenever you try to catch them, yes? Well, why not do this in reverse?!
Instead of chasing your dog, encourage your dog to chase you instead! Start creating the habit of wanting to come towards you to “catch” you rather than run away from you. This can definitely help if your pup ever (forbid) ends up loose.
Sometimes, being chased is simply a quick and easy way for your dog to get all of their energy out. Instead of stimulating exercise this way, why not play a classic game of fetch or tug! Both of these games provide great movement and exercise for your pup, have your pup engage with you as well (so you’re a big part of the game), and don’t encourage poor habits like running away from you.
If your dog isn’t too interested in either of these games at first, it may be because you haven’t found the right toy for them. Try a few different toys and see what ends up working well!
Dogs that like being chased are usually wanting to exert their full running potential. They love to run at full speed. More often than not, these dogs have a strong prey drive and desire to chase something (as much as they may want to be chased). Luckily, there are sports available for your dog to safely participate in this game!
Lure Coursing, and Fast CAT (Coursing Ability Test) are two sports available from the American Kennel Club that allow your dogs to run at full speed in a safe environment. Both of these sports have your dog run after a mechanical lure, encouraging them to stimulate their bodies and enjoy the chase!
Allowing your dog to participate in this can be a great way to keep your pup fulfilled, allow them to still chase, and keep them from wanting you to chase them.