Why Dogs Chase Cars

A drive through a quiet suburban neighborhood on a beautiful, lazy Sunday afternoon can be idyllic.

It’s all peaceful and relaxing—until you see a dog dart off the porch and run toward you. Worried you might hit him, you check your mirrors hoping to see that he’s okay. You not only run the risk of hitting the dog, but since your attention is diverted, you could be involved in an accident.

It’s a sad truth that many dogs chase cars. But why do they do it? The reasons can vary from dog to dog depending on their breed and circumstances. But here are a few possible explanations:

Playing a Game

Many dogs enjoy fetching a stick, a ball, or even jumping in the air for a Frisbee. They will start running as soon as the object is tossed, speed after it, and then bring it back to their masters, eager to do the whole thing again. With their happy faces and wagging tails, it’s clear to any observer that the dogs are thoroughly enjoying the game.

So when this big thing goes racing by, some dogs think, “Oh, boy!  We get to play chase!” and they run after a car just for the fun of it.

Herding Instinct

Some dogs were bred to herd animals. Even though your dog may never have herded anything other than a group of loose treats off the kitchen floor, that instinct can be very strong.

So when a car goes by a dog with a strong herding instinct, the dog may chase after it in the mistaken impression that the car is leaving the herd, and the dog needs to guide it back home. Since dogs that herd livestock instinctively nip at the heels of the livestock, the dog may attempt to nip at the tires of the car.

Stalking Prey

Wolves hunt prey for food. This often involves lying in wait, stalking, and chasing down animals to be killed and consumed.

This instinct is pretty hard-wired into the brains of canines, and as with all instincts, the prey drive is stronger in some dogs than others. Some dogs will even wait in ditches for cars to go by so they can chase them.


Cars are loud, smelly, rumbling things that go by with no regard whatsoever for a dog’s territory. Some dogs fear cars, and they react to this fear by chasing them off their property. This can be particularly true of mail trucks or other vehicles that routinely go by.


People tend to forget that most dogs were bred to do a job. Dogs that were bred to herd or retrieve may not get enough stimulation in their day-to-day lives and may go after cars just to break up the monotony. Since dogs wants to please their masters more than anything else in the world, they may be inclined to spend their days as couch potatoes, watching TV with you and hoovering up the occasional crumb. You may not realize that your dog needs more exercise and more excitement in his day to be truly content.

Concerns and Suggestions

Car-chasing is a risky behavior for all concerned. A driver can cause an accident swerving to miss a dog. The dog himself is certainly at danger either from the car he’s chasing or from oncoming traffic as he’s entering or leaving the street.

You can be in danger if you have your dog on a leash and he pulls you into traffic to chase a car. Or you can be liable if your dog causes an accident.

Give your dog a safe outlet for his urge to chase. Throw a stick or a ball. Take him for long walks or runs. Consult a professional dog trainer for help if your dog insists on chasing cars.

Your dog is your best friend and companion. There are so many things over which you have no control that can take him from your life too soon. Don’t let chasing cars cause a terrible accident or take your dog from you before his time.

Meet the Author: Pam Hair

Pam Hair is a pet industry copywriter with Fuzzy Friends Writer, where she combines her three passions: a love of animals, a strong desire to help other people, and the joy of writing. She has been a pet parent over the years to dogs, cats, and a variety of rodents. Currently she and her husband share their home with two guinea pigs.

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