How to Stop Your Dog From Chasing or Attacking Other Animals

Updated on July 23, 2017
alexadry profile image

Adrienne is a former veterinary hospital assistant, certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

Success is the result of determination and lots of practice.
Success is the result of determination and lots of practice. | Source

Certain Breeds Are More Likely to Chase and Attack Other Animals

To understand why a dog loves chasing and attacking squirrels, chickens, cats, birds, or, in some cases, small dogs, you must look into the history of the breed. There are breeds that are bred specifically to hunt and/or retrieve. I once had a client who came crying to me because her Kerry Blue terrier had attacked and killed her hamster. I told her to go home and read about this breed. She then called me and told me how sorry she was for not knowing that the Kerry Blue terrier was bred to hunt vermin!

To be a good hunter and retriever, a dog must have a certain level of prey drive. Of course, all dogs have a good level of prey drive, but, in hunting breeds, the drive is much stronger. Before you can train your dog to stop chasing, you must understand that your dog's prey drive is in his genes. You can't take away the drive, but you can certainly manage it.

How to Stop Your Dog From Chasing and Attacking Animals

I would advise against removing prey drive, and instead orient the dog's attention towards you. You must, therefore, become more interesting than a squirrel, rat, mouse, or anything that crawls. How do you accomplish that? Offer things that are more interesting or at least as interesting as rats, mice, or squirrels.

In the following step-by-step guide, I will teach you the ''leave it" command and show you how to get your dog to focus more on you and learn to leave crawling critters alone.


My Experience

I have two Rottweilers that I trained using the ''leave it" command, and they live with 16 chickens. One day, I forget them outdoors, and when I went back out to the yard to get them, I saw them lying peacefully by the chicks. I was so proud of them! Of course, I would never purposely leave my dogs alone and unsupervised around chickens. Those buried primal instincts might suddenly appear!

8 Steps to Keep Your Dog From Chasing Small Animals

1. Preparation

  • As a first step, you must train your dog to stop pulling towards other animals when she meets them on walks. I really like using the Easy Walk Harness by Premier, and I highly recommend it. This harness has a front attachment that helps prevent pulling and lunging behaviors. It can be a great training tool.
  • Invest in tasty treats that your dog loves. These can include slices of hot dogs, freeze-dried liver, steak, boneless and skinless chicken, and oven-cooked chicken livers. Keep small bites of these foods handy by putting them in a fanny pack or treat pouch worn around your waist.

2. Train Your Dog to Focus

  • Make a sound with your mouth. This sound can be anything — a whistle, a smacking noise, etc.
  • Place a treat at your eye level and give your dog the treat as soon as she looks at you.
  • The sequence is as such: You make a sound with your mouth with a treat held at your eye level. The second your dog looks at you, the treat is delivered. Timing is very important with this exercise, so make sure there is no delay between the moment she makes eye contact and the moment you hand her a treat.
  • Do this 10-15 times until your dog gets the hang of it.
  • Now, every time you make the noise, your dog associates it with receiving a treat and will come running to you with anticipation. This is a classical conditioning exercise that teaches your dog to focus on you.
  • Once your dog gets the hang of it, try to do it from across the room. If she drops everything she's doing and comes running, you can then practice the exercise around other animals.

3. Train Her Under Threshold

  • Keep her at a distance from a cage with an animal in it (a rat, hamster, chicken, etc.). Keep her muzzled if you cannot trust her.
  • Find a distance from which she does not react (this distance is "under the threshold"). Then, make the noise with your mouth.
  • If she looks at you, give her a treat.
  • If she is too aroused to take your treat, then she is too close, and you will need to work with her from a distance that is farther away.

Work gradually under the threshold.
Work gradually under the threshold.

4. Train Her With an Animal in a Cage

  • Bring her closer and closer to the cage over the course of a few days while performing the same routine.
  • When she gets too close to the cage, say "leave it'' in a firm voice, accompanied by a small tug of her leash.
  • Then, make the noise with your mouth and the moment she looks at you, give her a treat and shower her with loving attention (e.g. lots of belly scratches). You need to be the most entertaining thing in that room — more entertaining than the animal in the cage.

5. Train Her Using a Stuffed Animal

  • Get a squeaky toy that looks like a rat or a stuffed animal that resembles the animal your dog loves to chase.
  • Attach it to a stick with a string and have a friend move it around the room while you practice the "leave it" command, followed by the focus exercise. You will know that you are successful when your dog listens to the command and focuses her attention on you despite the distraction.
  • Always enthusiastically praise her for listening to the "leave it" command.

6. Make Your Dog Think You Are Always Watching

  • Now, try leaving the squeaky toy in the middle of the room and step away from it.
  • When you see your dog getting close to it, say ''leave it'' and make the noise with your mouth from across the room.
  • You can also try to leave the toy unattended. Then, hide somewhere in the room and secretly watch her. The moment she sneaks over to the toy, say ''leave it,'' followed by the noise. If she comes to you, praise her and give her treats!
  • If you do this often enough, she will begin to think that you can always catch her even when she thinks she is alone. Ultimately, she should feel like you are omnipresent!

Important Note: Never let her play with this toy. It is for training purposes only and must be treated as if it is a real mouse/cat/squirrel/small dog.

7. Try the Exercise in a Real-Life Situation

  • If she is doing well, then you can decide if you ever want to expose her to a real animal. You should keep her muzzled and on the leash if you decide to practice this.
  • You can also use the ''leave it'' and focus exercise when going on walks. If she does not listen, simply wriggle the treat in front of her nose, then drop it on the ground.

Disclaimer: Please consult a dog behaviorist if your dog is displaying aggressive behaviors. Only a dog behaviorist is able to offer the most appropriate behavior modification program tailored for your dog. Use extreme caution and make safety your top priority. By reading this article you accept this disclaimer and assume full responsibility for any of your actions.

Words of Caution:

-Never leave your dog unsupervised with other critters or animals.

-Never trust your dog around any animals.

My Rottweilers love being around chicks and chicken!
My Rottweilers love being around chicks and chicken! | Source


Do not try the e-collar or citronella spray collar to train dogs that attack other animals. These training tools only tell your dog what NOT to do, but do not give him/her something to DO instead. This is setting your dog up for failure.

Questions & Answers


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      • alexadry profile image

        Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

        What breed is this puppy? it might be your puppy just wants to play. Training a "leave it" command my be helpful, but it's always good to practice caution as it's very easy for a bird to injure a bird even non intently.

      • profile image

        CATHERINE METZLER 2 years ago

        my puppy is very hyper she has seen my pet bird up close many times we have only had her for 1 month she has been told not to hurt the bird most times she leaves him alone he is used to dogs, for no reason she tried to bite him she only got his tail, if she does it again the dog will be put up for adoption or sold!!!! the bird was here first he loves dogs i will not tolerate this type of behavior!!!

      • dahoglund profile image

        Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

        We have a young Siberian Husky. She wants to chase squirrels and other things. I think it is an instinct to just chase things.

      • Teylina profile image

        Teylina 6 years ago

        Hope some people besides me who need it, read this! Good info! Well done!

      • suejanet profile image

        suejanet 6 years ago

        Thanks for this good information.