Dog Science Series: Why Do Dogs Chase Garbage Trucks?

4 min read
Dog Science Series: Why Do Dogs Chase Garbage Trucks? - Animals Matter, Inc.

As the garbage truck approaches, your dog barks. The noise of the garbage truck may elicit growls or even scared behavior from your dog. The closer the truck grows, the more agitated your dog becomes. Then, as the truck starts to pull away, your dog may chase it out of the driveway and even down your street. What's causing the behavior? Keep reading to learn more about why dogs chase garbage trucks and what you can do about it.

Big Trucks May Upset Your Dog

If you notice your dog growing agitated when a big truck, such as a garbage truck, goes by, it could be that your dog is actively distressed by the presence of the truck. You may notice your dog lunging in the direction of the truck, growling, or barking aggressively.

Garbage trucks are, unfortunately, a perfect storm of stimulus that could agitate and upset even the best-behaved dog. They are loud and large, and they often directly approach your home, which your dog may feel bound to protect. Your dog's behavior may reflect that distress.

Why Dogs Bark at Garbage Trucks

Dogs may bark for a variety of reasons. They may be trying to draw your attention to something: "Hey, Mom or Dad, the big monster truck is here! Hey! Do you see it?!" They may be trying to threaten what they see as a predator or threat away from their home. "Hey! Get away from here! This place is mine!"

That behavior can, in many cases, progress to actually having the dogs chase garbage trucks.

On the other hand, some dogs chase garbage trucks for fun. They may see the garbage truck as a big thing or creature they can play with. Chasing the truck helps burn off energy, and your dog may see it as fantastic stimulation. Unfortunately, that doesn't eliminate the danger posed by that chasing scenario.

Why Dogs Chase Garbage Trucks Despite Their Fear

When your dog is afraid of something, you may notice them running from it. You may know your dog's fear response fairly well. He may pull away, hide, or go back into the house when he encounters something that creates a fear response. Unfortunately, in the case of a garbage truck, that may not help. Your dog may chase big trucks to charge at it, convincing it to get away from the house and its property.

This fear-based response may also become self-fulfilling training. Dogs quickly learn that when they bark at the garbage truck, it goes away. Most garbage trucks don't linger for long on the property, which means that as your dog starts chasing, they're likely to move on. Unfortunately, your dog may assume this is because of their behavior, which means they will continue to engage in it.

How to Stop Your Dog From Chasing Garbage Trucks

Dog owners often want to stop their dogs from chasing garbage trucks. After all, when dogs chase garbage trucks down the street, it could result in your dog ending up lost or, worse, under that truck's tires. You may also want the dog to stop barking at the sanitation workers (and the mail carrier and anyone else who comes near your home) since you don't want them to avoid your property. Follow these tips to get started:

1. Identify the reason for the chasing behavior.

Before you can train your dog not to chase garbage trucks, you need to understand why your dog is chasing it. Pay attention to your dog's cues. Are his ears up and excited, his tail wagging, or is he growling, barking, and angry? Consider working directly with a dog trainer if you have difficulty determining the reason behind your dog's reaction.

2. Change the game.

If your dog chases the garbage truck for fun, try teaching your dog to chase something else, like you or a toy, when the garbage truck is around. You may need to start this in your own yard, then gradually progress to doing it when the garbage truck is nearby. Also, you may want to keep your dog on a leash or in a fence when the garbage truck approaches so that you can be sure to maintain control of your dog during training.

3. Change the association.

If your dog chases after noisy garbage trucks out of fear, change the association with the garbage truck. Avoid loud noises or harsh reprimands during your training sessions since those may further increase your dog's anxiety or distress.

Start a long distance away from the garbage truck when it approaches: ideally, inside, where your dog can see it through the window. Introduce treats and lots of pets while your dog watches the garbage truck. Try to start far enough away from the truck that it does not trigger the response. Then, over time, gradually work your way closer by relaxing outside with your dog. Take your dog away from the situation when you see signs of fear.

Preventing your dog from chasing garbage trucks can be challenging. But keeping your furry friend safe and comfortable is worth the effort. At Animals Matter, we understand how important that can be. Contact us to learn more about our dog beds and other options for your furry friend.


Why do dogs chase garbage trucks?

Oftentimes, dogs chase garbage trucks and other big cars out of a fear response. They may charge at those big trucks to threaten them away from the property.

Why do my dog's ears perk up when he sees a garbage truck?

Your dog's ears may perk up when he sees something that he wants to pay attention to. Perking ears in response to the approach of a garbage truck may indicate that your dog has noticed something coming and that he is waiting to see if it is a threat. Your dog's ears may also perk up because he associates the coming garbage truck with fun.

Is it normal for a dog to chase garbage trucks?

It is normal for dogs to chase garbage trucks. However, chasing garbage trucks can be dangerous for both your dog and the sanitation worker. Providing the right dog training, including counter-conditioning, can help improve chasing behavior.

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