Our Cavapoo is obsessed with chasing leaves and all other senses seem to completely shut down the moment she sees one fluttering in the wind. She literally becomes lost in the thrill of the chase. And whilst this can be quite cute to watch in the safety of our own backyard, at the local park when she is running blindly around after a leaf, she is completely oblivious to any forms of danger.
So how do you get your dog to stop chasing leaves? Dogs love to chase – it’s instinctive behavior. To stop your dog from chasing leaves, you need to implement ‘leave it’ commands, encourage them to play interactive games and be able to redirect their attention should a leaf try to blow it away.
Chasing after items, such as leaves and shadows, can become an obsessive condition in dogs. The instinct to chase a moving object is inherent within dogs, yet it can develop into a problem situation. Your dog sees a moving object as something they have to have. With items like leaves, however, they rarely ever manage to catch them so they just keep going until they do!
Ways to stop your dog chasing leaves
I love walking in the fall, when the leaves flutter from the trees leaving a carpet of colour on the floor.
Unfortunately, however, my Cavapoo is crackers about chasing leaves, so on a cold autumn day when there is a breeze in the air, my relaxing stroll turns into a tug of war fight as I am pulled in all directions in pursuit of a leaf!
There are some simple ways to remedy this behavior, but it is important that you practice activities that not only prevent your dog from losing focus whilst on walks, but encourage calm submission. These include:
- Learning to walk before you can run! To teach what not to chase, your dog first needs to master how to walk nicely on a leash. This is essential as it allows you to stay in control of your dog at all times. If you have a puppy, make sure that they can understand commands such as “sit and ‘stay” first as this will help you to direct them on the leash. By being able to control your dog through voice commands without pulling, not only allows you to keep your dog safe from danger but enables your dog to focus on you and not what is going on around them i.e/leaves wafting by!
- Leave it training. It is important that you teach your dog how to ignore leaves using a cue word. This will prevent your dog from chasing leaves in the first place rather than trying to stop your dog once they have started their pursuit. We use the simple phrase ‘leave it’ and reward any good behavior with an immediate high-value dog treat. The earlier you can implement ‘leave it’ training the better, so if you have a puppy, then you should try and teach it from day one. But remember, puppies from low attention spans so it will take time and a lot of patience.
- Expose your dog to leaves. This may sound counterintuitive, but the more familiar your dog becomes with being around leaves, the less excited they will get upon seeing one. Just make sure that it is done in a safe and staged situation, such as your backyard, so that you can practice your commands, safe in the knowledge that your dog won’t come to any harm.
- Introduce interactive play. The more your dog is engaged with you whilst out on a walk, the less inclined they will be to want to look for leaves. Interactive games such as fetch, alleviate the urge to chase and provide a bonding experience for the two of you. Relieving your puppy’s boredom with a toy can also help avoid chase behaviors that arise from frustration and loneliness.
Ideally you want to work with your dog to help them build focus and teach them how to remain calm when exciting things, such as leaves, start to appear. By rewarding your dog for staying with you and ignoring these fauna distractions, will help your dog gain more confidence and self-control. This can then be applied to all kinds of situations.
Why do dogs chase leaves?
Dogs chase leaves for the same reason that they chase cars and cats. It is a natural behavior to follow something that is moving. But chasing leaves also triggers a number of emotional, physical and mental feelings for your dog such as:
Chasing leaves makes dogs feel good
The thrill of a chase is not only exhilarating for a dog but it enables them to release pent up energy. If your dog’s exercise and mental stimulation needs are not being met sufficiently, then they will decide for themselves how best to be entertained – and chasing leaves across a courtyard can pass for hours of fun.
Dogs were born to chase
Chase behavior is instinctive in many species – but especially dogs. This instinct is what makes them such good hunters. But not all breeds are prey dogs. Although herding dogs such as Border Collies, Terriers and Sheepdogs like to stalk and chase sheep and other small animals, some dogs; such as our Cavapoo; much prefer to chase leaves.
Dogs are territorial – even when it comes to leaves!
Dogs are incredibly territorial and if they feel something is invading their space, then they will do all that they can to protect it. Whilst a leaf isn’t particularly threatening to a dog, it is in their nature to chase them away.
Chasing leaves helps sharpen the senses
If your dog is stressed or anxious, then a chemical response kicks in and your dogs senses becomes heightened. The effects of these hormones make dogs more reactive and they are therefore more likely to chase things such as leaves.
Games for dogs who like chasing leaves
Instead of fighting your dog’s natural desire to chase leaves, why not channel their super smart reflex into chasing toys instead. Here are a few tried and tested toys that we recommend:No products found.
We have one of these Chuckit! launchers for our Cavapoo and she can spend hours at the park chasing after the ball instead of looking for leaves.
This launcher makes ball throwing so much easier – especially for the kids as they are unable to throw that far by hand – but the real benefit of this is that you don’t have to handle a slobbery ball when your dog returns it.
The mere flick of your wrist sends this tennis ball flying, which means that you can just stand around and watch your dog bound off into the sunset.
We thoroughly recommend this fetch toy, especially if you regularly exercise your dog in a park or field where they can cover large distances.
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For dogs that not only enjoy chasing leaves but eating them too, this roller dog toy can be stuffed with treats for an instant reward upon collection.
Great for indoor entertainment as well as outdoor use, you simply roll the ball along the floor and watch as your dog goes bounding after it.
The open design not only looks great but allows your dog to breath safely whilst its nose is buried deep inside and the treat dispensing action really helps intelligent breeds (such as Cavapoos) increase their mental abilities.
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This HIVE Disc offers an alternative to chasing leaves and is great for dogs that like high-flying retrieving games.
The HIVE’s bright yellow color makes it easy for dogs to see and the plastic material is not only tough enough withstand the chewiest pup, but floppy enough for your dog to shake around.
This frisbee is unique in that it can glide effortlessly through the air and float serenely on water, whilst the back transforms into a lick-able pad. Perfect for rewarding your dog for a chase well done.
For more inspiration on the best toys for your dog, take a look at our recent reviews.
Why your dog should stop chasing leaves
Your dog may look cute when they are running blindly across the play park after a loose leaf, but they might actually be putting themselves at risk of being injured or killed if it runs in front of a car, falls from a height, or bangs into something sharp.
Therefore as a responsible owner, you need to be able to redirect your dog’s urge to chase leaves through plenty of mental and physical exercise and training.
If your dog continues to chase, even after you have implemented the methods detailed above, you may want to speak with a canine behavioral specialist as they may be able to help identify issues, breed habits, or something else that is causing your dog to constantly chase leaves.
Why does my dog eat the leaves they chase?
Not only does our Cavapoo like to chase leaves, but if she is lucky enough to catch one or find a pile on the floor, she will eat them too!
This condition, wherein dogs feel compelled to eat non edible items, is known as ‘pica’. Although for most dogs eating leaves is just part of their primal instincts, it could also indicate some underlying medical conditions, nutritional deficiencies or even be a sign of boredom.
While leaves may be a good source of fibre, they are not particularly nutritious, and offer no additional benefits to your dogs diet.
Some dogs simply enjoy the texture of crunching leaves, and if this is the case with your Cavapoo, then you could try adding some crunchier vegetables to their food such as carrots or celery.
You may want to consider planting a herb and spice garden for your dog so that they can happily chomp away on easily digestible greens.
Basil, cinnamon, coriander, mint, parsley, oregano, peppermint, rosemary, sage, thyme and tumeric, can all add a healthy dimension to your dog’s diet, and in some cases even freshen the breath at the same time!
As you can see whilst it quite normal for a dog to chase leaves, it is not something that we should be encouraging. In fact, if we can distract and reward our dogs through command training, playing games or by using high value treats, then walking in the woods (especially during fall) can finally become fun and not feel like a chore.