Why Do Dogs Bark At Cars?

Dogs are our happy, loving, playful companions. So what's with all the barking? Do you have a dog that barks at and chases after cars? Ever wonder why he does that? Whether he's claiming his territory or just plain bored, there can be various reasons why your dog chases cars and barks at them.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel out for a walk, barking
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Dogs chase and bark when they are hunting.

When your dog barks at other dogs or humans, there can be a number of factors at play. He can be claiming his territory, barking for attention, feeling defensive or simply saying hello! A dog that is barking at a moving object, like a car, however, is not trying to say hello.

Barking and chasing after a car can simulate a dog's natural hounding instinct to hunt prey. A dog's predatory aggression will drive him to chase anything that passes at an accelerated speed. In the dog's mind, this is escaping prey that must be captured! Because of this, barking and chasing can surely ensue when a car pass by.

Dogs typically end their pursuit at the boundary of their territory.

Ever notice that when your dog chases a car, he will only chase up until a certain spot and then suddenly stop? This is because the car, or perceived threat, has exited your dog's territory. Your house and yard are included in your dog's territory. When a car approaches the home, your dog will start barking to send the car a warning that it's entering his territory. Because the car drives away, your dog believes his warning worked which reinforces the behavior.

Cars often carry strange, new smells.

Cars also carry the scent of other humans and other dogs. Your dog can go as far as peeing on your tires in order to mark the territory. If a new scent comes whizzing by, your little guy is going to want to chase it off of his turf.

Dogs often bark because they're bored.

If your dog is barking at not only cars but everything and anything, this can be a sign of boredom. Dogs need to be mentally and physically challenged in order to live healthy and fulfilled lives. Cars are enticing stimuli for dogs: They are loud, smelly, and fast! Cars mimic the behavior of prey in the wild and your dog instinctively will fight his boredom with a good ole' fashion hunt.

yawning black boxer with brown spiked collar lying
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Ways to prevent dogs from barking at cars.

Barking at cars is one thing, chasing after them is downright dangerous. Dogs that run after a car or enter the street can get hit by vehicles or cause accidents between cars. It is important to do everything you can to prevent this behavior.

From the first moment your dog shows interest in a moving car, redirect his attention to something just as fun. Before taking your dog on walks, bring treats and a toy with you. When your furry friend looks like he's getting distracted by a car, pull his focus. Call his name and if he turns to you, reward him with the treat or toy. Do this every time a car passes so he will naturally associate them with turning to you and hopefully getting a goodie!

Make sure to train your dog from an early age. Let him know you are the pack leader, and it is your job to protect the home and surrounding territory. This way, he won't feel the need to warn off perceived threats. Your dog will bark less at others and at cars if he knows you have everything under control.

If it all comes down to boredom, provide your dog with copious physical activity and mental stimulation. Keep him working and playing in positive ways so he's not getting into dangerous situations like chasing after cars.

How to stop a dog chasing a car.

Don't stress too much if you already have a dog that loves to bark at and chase cars. There are some helpful tricks you can use to get the behavior to stop.

  • Keep your dog secured in a kennel or a fenced yard, creating a safe barrier between him and passing cars.
  • Teach your dog how to reliably come when called, whether you use his name or a different word. Reward him with a toy or treat if he comes when called.
  • As a last resort, you can teach your dog to associate barking at cars with a disturbing experience like an unpleasant noise or repulsive spray. Note that this should be a very last resort and you should always begin any type of training with positive reinforcement.

Whether your dog is protecting his territory or simply has nothing else to do, you may find him barking at and chasing after cars. There are always ways to stop this behavior or luckily prevent it from beginning at all!