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Help! My Dog Lunges At Cars!

Dogs have a tendency to chase fast moving things.  German Shepherds and other high drive dogs can easily get excited and want to lunge at a car that passes at a high speed.

Even though this is a natural impulse, it is a very dangerous behavior that can hurt your dog and cause serious injury.

Luckily with some training, we can stop this behavior.

Why Do Dogs Chase Cars?

The reason behind this behavior is their inborn instinct.  It’s an instinctive reaction for high drive dogs to chase anything that moves quickly.

A high drive dog is one who has a lot of excess energy and requires both physical and mental stimulation to thrive.  This type of dog requires a lot of exercise to get them to be able to calm down.

Accordingly, a higher drive dog gets very easily excited by ANYTHING.  When Allie was a pup, we were out, and a plastic bag was floating in the air by us.  You would have thought it was something special!  She pulled and barked and just got all worked up trying to chase a plastic floating bag.

If a bag can get a high drive German Shepherd excited, a fast-moving vehicle certainly will.  When Allie was younger she wanted to chase cars on our walks and would pull me every time one was about to pass.

Usually, if the vehicle stops or slows down, the game of chase is over so they are no longer interested in the car.  The key is to get your dog to not be interested even when the car is still moving.

Breed Matters

Almost all dogs enjoy chasing things, but some breeds, developed for particular kinds of work, can become more obsessive than others.

Where some dogs stop at chasing small objects like toys, for other dogs it translates to anything big or small.

German Shepherds are one of those breeds likely to chase after bikers, cars, animals or any other moving object or person.

How To Train Your Dog To Stop Lunging At Cars?

In order to prevent your dog from lunging at cars, you have to break that habit.

If your dog already lunges at cars follow the steps below to learn how to manage this behavior.  Over time, consistently following these steps will stop your dog from lunging and/or chasing cars.

Before you start, make sure your dog is introduced to the basic commands and knows how to walk on a leash properly.

Step 1

  • Before you start training with an energetic dog it is best to get your dog tired first so they can better focus.  To get all of that energy out, play fetch, tug of war, or some other game, and then start the training sessions.

Step 2

  •  Put your dog on a leash and go to a street that is not very busy.  At first, stand at a safe distance, around 15 feet or more from the road.

Step 3

  • Get your dog into a sitting position and wait for a car to pass, while keeping an eye on your dog to notice how far away the car is the moment it catches your dog’s attention.
  • If you don’t have time to wait for random cars, have a friend or family member pass slowly with a car. This is a good option if your dog is hard to handle because it gives you better control of the situation.

Step 4

  •  Now let’s say that your dog gets excited at cars that are 15 feet away from you.  This means that you should catch your dog’s attention while the car is 20 feet away. If your dog starts barking or lunging, it is already too late.
  • You need to distract your dog at the right time!  You need to catch that exact moment when your dog sees the car but before the car gets close enough for them to get excited.
  • At that moment, redirect your dog’s attention by giving your dog the “watch me” command or another command you dog knows very well (like “down”), and when your dog turns towards you or performs the command give praise and a treat.

I prefer the “watch me” command to another command, but if your dog doesn’t yet know the “watch me” command other commands can work as well.

Step 5

  • After mastering Step 4, reduce your distance from the road and repeat the same steps until your dog makes no mistakes.
  • Remember to always reward your dog when he/she doesn’t chase a car, and never reward your dog after it lunges at a car.

Step 6

  • When your dog is no longer interested in the passing cars, repeat all the same steps again, but this time do it while walking.
  • After your dog has mastered not lunging while on a walk, you should practice in different situations and on different roads, until your dog obeys 100% of the time.


Watch this video to see these steps in action:

What not to do:

  1. Don’t skip steps and expose your dog to a high traffic area before teaching him to behave.
  2. Don’t be too hard on your dog. Yelling and getting frustrated will not help solve the problem and may cause your dog to get skittish on walks.  Remember many times our dogs don’t know the reason why we are so upset.
  3. Never let your dog actually chase cars.

It might seem difficult at first, especially if your dog lunges at cars all the time, but patience and consistency is the key here.  With time and practice, your dog will learn to enjoy their walk and not get excited at every passing car.  Allie is the perfect example!


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