How To Play Chase With Your Dog

A Natural Favorite

It is natural that dogs should like a game of  chase because in their distant past their survival depended on their ability to chase prey. Those who were not good at this “game” went hungry. While most dogs like a good fast game of chase, it is best to limit it to them chasing you. This seems a bit unnatural, but it is important for safety reasons that your dog not learn that running away from you is fun. If you chase your dog for fun, there will come a time when you want to catch him and he may assume it is the start of a another great game of chase.  Imagine that happening when you want to get him away from a dangerous situation such as a busy street.

How To Get Started

Where or where should play this game? The answer is anywhere. Although a nice big backyard is nice, it really isn’t necessary and playing it in the house might actually provide additional fun as you can combine the chase game with Hide ‘n Seek if you are fast enough.

Watch how dogs play this game together to get some idea of what they like.  The looks on their faces seem to just beckon the other to play this game and their body language says the same. Try mimicking what you see. Notice that when  dogs starts this game, they often plant their front paws far apart and dip their heads. They also may act as if they are going to go in one direction, only to dart off in the opposite. Often their mouths may be slightly open and they may even appear as if they are smiling slightly. Having a treat in your pocket isn’t necessary but of course it won’t hurt either. Take a look at the dog above and you can see some of these elements in his face and posture. Doesn’t it make you just want to run off and start a game of chase with your dog right now? It does me!

To get this game started, try making a “kissy” noise or clapping your hands excitedly. As soon as you have your dog’s attention, dart off a ways though not too far at first as you don’t want him to get discouraged by not being able to catch you. When he reaches you praise him, give him a biscuit, or roll on the ground him happily. Or do all three!  And the fun begins again. Rinse and repeat. Be sure to quit before your dog tires of the game. You want him to always be wanting to play a bit more.

It Isn’t For Everyone

There are several groups for whom this might not be a good game.

  • Children under 12 – Some dogs get overly excited and may become nippy. Best to avoid engaging children in this game until you know that “chase” won’t escalate into “chase and nip.”
  • Dogs who eascalate this game into grabbing pants legs, shoelaces, etc. If this is the case, you might try having a treat or toy handy. When he gets within pouncing distance stop running, turn towards him and offer the treat or toy. This should break the momentum of the game momentarily.
  • Those dogs who are just not into it.  Some dogs just don’t see what all the fuss is about. Although you might be able to teach them this game, they may never really get it. I have one of those. Not matter the body language, voice or treats I use he simply remains a bump on the log. His siblings may be running around like fools and his still doesn’t see the point in it.

Chase and Train

I always look for opportunities to intersperse a little training into the fun and this is the perfect game to practice “come” if and when they are fully engaged in the game. After all, why not take advantage of the fact that he will be heading towards you happily and quickly? Simply add your recall cue (here, come, aqui, etc.) as he is heading in your direction. If your dog is small enough, try tossing a treat or toy between your legs as he gets close. This tactic helps accustom them to coming close to you when you call them rather than slowing up as they approach or, worse, darting off.

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