Biting tires is a dangerous pastime for a dog. In addition to injuring themselves, they could also injure the person driving or riding. Of course, if they damage the tire, you are responsible for repairing the damage. All of these are reasons to understand why your dog bites tires and how to stop them.
Why does my dog bite tires?
Dogs don’t just bite car tires. Bikes, motorcycles, and even skateboards are all targets for overenthusiastic canines. They are oblivious to the danger it presents, and seem completely focused on catching and biting the tire.
Some dogs are born and bred with a strong herding instinct. Shepards, collies, corgis, and sheepdogs are bred for herding. If you notice your dog attempting to herd you or other members of your family by nudging your legs or nipping at your heels, this is likely the cause of the fascination with tires.
The dog’s intention isn’t to bite through the tire. Instead, they want to nip at the moving object due to their herding instinct. The behavior is extremely satisfying for a herding dog. It’s quite literally what they were born to do. They simply have an inappropriate herding target.
This instinct is common in herding dogs, but it can occur in other breeds as well. Some dogs are simply predisposed to have a stronger herding instinct than others.
This is another instinct that is ingrained in dogs. Canines in the wild survive based on their prey drive. They stalk their prey. They see prey running. They chase it. They kill and then eat it. Your domestic companion might seem far removed from wild dogs, but the truth is they have the same basic instincts.
Just like with herding instinct, some breeds and dogs will have a stronger drive than others. Dogs often have a strong instinct for part of the prey cycle. Some dogs may be drawn to stalking potential prey. Some dogs can’t resist the chase. Most domestic dogs don’t have the desire to kill or eat their prey, but some do.
Herding is technically a specialization of the prey drive. It focuses on the stalking and chasing aspects, while minimizing or eliminating the kill instinct.
If your dog enjoys a good game of chase, this might be what’s occurring. Some dogs can’t resist chasing things that move. If your dog is generally playful or high energy, this is a likely culprit. Dogs often play as a way to fulfill instinctual drives. This comes from dogs learning through play as puppies, and can extend well into adulthood. In many ways, play is a rehearsal for future events that were once necessary for dog’s survival.
Some dogs are simply scared of vehicles. Cars, motorcycles, and ATVs can be loud and unpredictable. Particularly for dogs who weren’t frequently exposed to them in the early weeks of their life from 3-16 weeks, they can be very intimidating. Some dogs will run away in fear. However, others will go on the attack. Your dog may attempt to bite tires because they are scared of them and feel it’s the best way to protect themselves from this unknown threat.
Unfortunately, once a dog begins chasing or biting tires, they are likely to continue out of habit. It’s fun and fulfilling for them, and they see no reason to stop. Dogs, like people, tend to repeat enjoyable experiences.
How do I stop my dog from biting tires?
It’s important to stop the behavior as soon as possible. In addition to potential injury each time it occurs, it becomes harder to stop the more often your dog does it. This is true with any behavior, but it’s particularly concerning when the behavior itself is dangerous.
One way of stopping your dog from biting tires is to make sure they can’t get to them. Leashes are one option. You can leash your dog anytime they are outside. You’ll need a firm grip on the leash in case your dog tries to bolt after a tire.
You can also fence your dog in. This keeps your dog and drivers safe. As long as your dog can’t get through or over the fence, you don’t have to worry about them catching the tire.
However, stopping the behavior isn’t as simple as not allowing them access to the tire. If they are still able to chase the tire while on the leash or inside the fence, this reinforces the behavior. As soon as they are not confined, they will undoubtedly go for the tire full steam.
When you are trying to stop the behavior, keep your dog away from tires whenever possible. Especially during the early stages, the best way to stop reinforcing the behavior is to avoid the trigger. Of course, this can be easier said than done. When someone is coming to your home, put the dog inside the house.
When you walk them, avoid main roads. The less traffic you encounter, the easier the process will be. You may also want to walk your furry friend when there’s less traffic, and avoid high traffic times. Morning and evening rush hours should be avoided.
Many dogs aren’t selective and will bite any sort of tire, particularly once they’ve found the process enjoyable. Avoid areas with bikes, skates, and skateboards. You may need to avoid parks, or certain areas of parks and trails. Skate parks should be avoided completely.
Training your dog to stop attacking tires isn’t just about avoiding exposure. It’s about controlled exposure. You’ll need to start slow. This may involve allowing your dog near a parked car or bicycle. You may also allow your dog to hear a vehicle, but not see it.
Once your dog has surpassed his tolerance level, he will react by trying to chase or bite the tire. The key is to avoid this threshold with slow and careful exposure. It should occur for small periods of time.
Once your dog attempts to chase the tire, regardless of whether or not they are confined, it will reinforce the behavior. You can’t move too slowly through this process, but you can easily move too fast. Watch your dog’s behavior. If they seem about to give chase, go back a few steps.
As your dog gets accustomed to the stimuli, slowly move closer and increase the speed of the tire. You might expect that resistance to one tire would equal resistance to all tires. However, you will need to work on each type of tire that your dog chases or is exposed to individually.
Know the Signs Threshold is Near
To avoid going over the threshold, you’ll need to know the signs your pooch is nearing it. The most obvious sign is often a complete focus on their target, the tire. They may stiffen their posture, hold their tail straight up, and move their ears forward. This pose indicates intense focus and readiness to take action. They may also lean their body forward. Other signs include a wrinkled forehead, a tightly closed mouth, and shaking.
Depending on your dog’s threshold level, you may need to begin with desensitization before you attempt reward training. You’ll need your dog to be within seeing distance of a tire but not at risk of biting or chasing. It’s best to begin with a car that is parked.
Say “Yes” when your dog notices the car or other wheeled object but doesn’t react to it. Give them one of their favorite high value treats. Keep repeating this until the dog looks at you as soon as they notice the trigger. Instead of rewarding when your dog looks at the trigger, begin rewarding them and saying “yes” when they look back at you.
This gives them a choice and an alternative behavior. They can either chase the tire or they can look at you for a treat. This only works if you provide special treats for this training situation. It should be something your dog wants enough to overcome their instinct.
Can a dog bite through a tire?
There are many stories of dogs biting through a car tire. Their teeth are sharp, and some dogs have very strong jaws. Tires seem very strong. They have steel belts inside them which helps them stand up to the wear and tear of a vehicle, but they can be punctured. If you’ve ever had a flat caused by a nail or a piece of glass, you know that a sharp object can quickly go through a tire. A dog’s teeth can puncture a tire, particularly a sidewall, fairly easily.
Unfortunately, instead of intimidating the dog, biting through a tire might actually encourage them. Many dogs who bite through a tire are repeat offenders, suggesting that biting through a tire is quite satisfying for most dogs. Smaller tires like those on a bicycle offer no challenge for a determined canine.