Improving Interest in The Chase!

While some breeds are born with high prey drive and a desire to chase anything that moves, others are less inclined to be bothered with such a trivial thing. Almost all dogs however are motivated by something and that’s generally food related.

With sighthounds being the champions for prey drive and chasing, they aren’t the only ones with a high prey drive, nor will all sighthounds instinctively run. Fortunately, there are things you can do to improve a dogs interest in the chase, whether sighthound or not.

Most people are aware of the use of a Flirt Pole for training a dog to chase, but often stop there. A lot of dogs simply don’t have the desire to chase, whether it’s a plastic bag, a fuzzy toy, or a squirrel in the backyard. If this is your dog, try adding hi-value treats to the mix! You can try playing with your dog with the bag and mixing in treats to introduce the idea that when they see the bag, good things are about to happen! Strongly encourage any behavior indicating they’re interested in the bag. You might try placing treats inside the bag, or rubbing something sticky / stinky like goose or liver pate on the bag, but remember that if you drag it along the ground, the dog may potentially lose interest in that bag and put their nose to the ground instead, along with every other dog, cat, or other critter that happens along. Try to keep them interested in the bag. After a while, start leading them farther and farther with this until you get the sense that they’ve figured it out and know to chase the bag.

If you have good sit/wait training (and you should!), have your dog wait while you get farther and farther away with the treats and bag and always associate them with the bag. Have someone hold the dog if they won’t wait. Let them see you walking away with it and get them excited to come and get it. Intermix this with chasing.

Once you have their attention fully and they’re focused on the bag, begin working with a clean bag, but be sure to reward them immediately when they get it. With this, you’ll be able to get them off the bags more easily in the catch area. (I don’t mind them catching and shredding the bags, but not all Lure Operators feel the same... While I enjoy watching them have fun doing so, it really is best to get them off the bags and out of the catch area quickly, so the event can progress.) Eventually, they should be happy to chase the bag, since they now relate that to getting the treats they so much desire. You might want to reserve a very special item for the end, such as tuna, or pate of your choice, but be sure not to have it out or visible to the dog before they cross the finish line! In fact, waiting until you exit the catch area before treating will help you get them off the course quicker, which is best for everyone. The goal should be to get your dog interested in chasing the Lure, but if it just won’t do it, then treats are acceptable, but just don’t have them out before the dog crosses the finish line. (I know I’m repeating myself, but it’s an important item as this can result in an NQ under current AKC rules, which nobody wants to see happen after a dog has done exactly what you asked it to do!)

On the topic of treats... It doesn’t have to be a pound of steak or a whole cheese stick or hot dog each time your dog does what you ask! Give your dog the tiniest little pinch of whatever treat you’re offering. Just enough to taste and want more. You don’t want your dog “filling up” on treats. Find a balance that works, but it really shouldn’t be more than just a tiny little spec each time. Go forth and work on the chase and be safe and enjoy. Get the bunny!

One other point. PLEASE be very careful with any treats you use and pick up EVERYTHING you or your dog may have dropped. Some dogs are highly alergic to various foods or treats and you wouldn't like to be responsible for a future dog on the course getting sick or worse, due to your lack of tidiness or care. Secure your treats so they won't fall or pop out of your pockets or hands anytime onsite at an event. This is more than just courtesy.