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Why do dogs go mad for foxes?

Dogs have an instinctive reaction to foxes that is deeply ingrained in their DNA. While our canine companions have been domesticated over thousands of years, some of their wild instincts remain, especially when it comes to interacting with creatures like foxes that would have been part of their ancestral environment.

Foxes Trigger the Prey Drive in Dogs

For dogs, foxes represent prey that would have been part of their diet in the wild. Dogs are descended from wolves, and like wolves, their natural instinct is to hunt. When dogs see a fox, it triggers their prey drive – an inner impulse to hunt and chase. This is especially true for breeds like terriers that were originally bred to hunt small game like foxes.

Foxes have a very distinctive smell that dogs can pick up from a great distance. Their scent is a mixture of musky fur, urine, feces, and glandular secretions. For dogs, this smell screams “prey!” and kicks their prey drive into high gear.

In addition to their scent, the fast, erratic movements of a fox resemble the behavior of fleeing prey. This provocative motion style further triggers a dog’s urge to give chase.

It’s Fun and Exciting for Dogs

Chasing foxes provides dogs with mental stimulation and allows them to exhibit natural behaviors they would have displayed in the wild. It’s fun and exciting for them!

Hunting appeals to a dog’s senses – the scent, the chase, the reward at the end. It’s an adventure that fully engages them. Many dogs get immense satisfaction out of pursuing foxes even if they never catch them.

Some dogs will chase foxes just for the thrill of the run. High energy and athletic breeds like huskies and greyhounds love to bolt after anything that moves fast. For them, keeping up with a quick fox is the ultimate game.

They View Foxes as Intruders

Dogs are highly territorial, and foxes venturing into a dog’s backyard may be viewed as trespassers. This can make some dogs aggressive towards foxes.

Their territorial nature means dogs aim to protect their space and chase out any bold foxes encroaching on their domain. Even dogs that are usually quite docile may turn fierce when a fox strays onto their property.

Some dogs also have a strong prey drive aimed at protecting their family and home. To them, lurking foxes seem like a threat, so they react by barking, chasing, or even attacking.

Lack of Socialization Plays a Role

Insufficient socialization during puppyhood is another factor that can make dogs more reactive towards foxes. Dogs that aren’t exposed to a variety of sights, sounds, and animals when young haven’t learned what stimuli are safe to ignore.

Unfamiliar creatures like foxes become much more intriguing and frightening if a dog was undersocialized. These dogs are more likely to obsess over or even aggressively chase foxes due to inadequate early experiences.

Breed Instincts Influence Behavior

A dog’s breed plays a significant role in how intensely they react to foxes. Breeds developed for hunting like terriers, hounds, and gun dogs are naturally more attuned to giving chase. Sighting a fox sends their hunting instincts into hyperdrive.

Herding breeds are also more prone to running after foxes since steering erratic moving objects is part of their inborn skillset. They can’t resist trying to round up and control a fox’s movements.

In contrast, companion breeds that were never used for hunting have lower prey drives and are usually less compelled to chase foxes. But if they are undersocialized, even these dogs may obsessively react to the sight of an unfamiliar fox.

They Perceive Foxes as Fellow Canids

An interesting psychological factor may also contribute to dogs chasing foxes. Dogs recognize foxes not just as prey, but also as distant cousins in the canine family.

Foxes and dogs both belong to the biological family Canidae. They share a similar anatomy and scent that distinguishes them from other types of wildlife.

This may be why dogs seem to take special interest in foxes compared to other furry creatures. Their evolutionary link generates fascination, curiosity, and sometimes aggression from dogs.

How to Stop Dogs Chasing Foxes

While chasing foxes may be entertaining for dogs, it’s risky for both animals. Foxes can bite and scratch, and determined dogs may wander into hazardous areas. It’s best to train dogs not to chase wildlife like foxes.

Start socialization early to minimize obsessive reactions. Expose puppies to sounds and images of foxes in a positive, structured way.

Use secure fencing, tie-outs, or runs when outside to physically prevent chase opportunities.

Teach a solid recall so dogs will disengage from a chase and return on cue. Always reward recalls to reinforce reliability.

Work on impulse control by teaching dogs to wait at thresholds before going outside. Thisbuilds patience to resist the urge to bolt.

Provide plenty of exercise and enrichment. Tired dogs are less likely to become over-stimulated and chase at the sight of prey.

Use desensitization and counterconditioning to build positive associations with foxes at a distance.


Dogs have an instinctive reaction to chase foxes due to their evolutionary link, territorial nature, high prey drive, lack of socialization, or sheer excitement. Certain breeds are more prone to fox chasing depending on the job they were originally bred to do. With proper management, training, and desensitization, dogs can learn to ignore foxes and coexist peacefully, even if they find them intriguing.