Why do collies chase shadows (How to help them to stop)

Collies chase shadows because of a lack of mental stimulation or physical exercise. It can also be an indication of obsessive behavior due to frustration or anxiety.

Unfortunately, collies are prone to obsessive behaviors, so if you notice your collie chasing shadows its best to modify their environment to prevent it from becoming a more serious problem.

In this article, we’ll look at why collies chase shadows, figure out if it’s something you need to be worried about, and also learn how to train them not to.

Why do collies chase shadows?

Collies who chase shadows are usually lacking in either mental stimulation or physical exercise.

Your collie sees the shadow as something to play with and may take on the impossible task of trying to catch the shadow if they have nothing else to occupy them and keep their minds busy.

1: Lack of Stimulation

Collies who spend a lot of time in a small space with little stimulation may chase shadows as a form of amusement.

This can happen if your dog spends too much time alone in a confined area. They become board and try to make their own fun by playing with the shadows.

2: Attention Seeking

Shadow chasing may also happen if your collie is seeking attention. If chasing shadows provokes a reaction form the owner a collie may repeat the behavior to simply get more attention, regardless if this attention is good or bad.

To your collie, any attention is good and if you work long hours or they spend a lot of time alone they may be feeling neglected and will do anything they know gets them some attention.

3: Prey Drive

Collies were bred to herd flocking sheep and so are drawn to anything that moves. Their inherent prey drive makes the shadows appealing to chase and their obsession with trying to catch them can be a collies outlet for their ancestral prey drive.

4: Herding Instincts

Before they became common household pets, collies had one job to herd sheep and what’s more…they loved it! If your collie is chasing shadows they may be feeling instinctively compelled to round them up and may display their herding instincts by chasing shadows to try to bring them under control.

This may be especially noticeable if the shadow moves, for example if the shadow is created by curtains which blow in the wind.

5: You made it a game

This may be a hard one to swallow but if you have pointed out shadows to your collie and encouraged them to chase after them, chances are you created this problem.

Collies are creatures of habit and if you have encouraged them once to chase a shadow they will repeat this…a lot.

If owners make shadow chasing fun (especially in puppyhood) it’s likely your collie has become addicted to the thrill and excitement of shadows and may even look for them everywhere they go.

Is it a problem for collies to chase shadows?

Chasing shadows can be bad for your collie’s mental wellbeing if they do it regularly and it becomes a habit.

It’s like a game of catch they will never succeed at and your collie can become frustrated with themselves and will drive themselves crazy since no matter how hard they try, they will never be able to catch a shadow.

When collies are chasing shadows their mind can not focus on anything else.

Shadow chasing is not considered normal behavior and can indicate a problem with your collie. A collie obsessed with shadows will not have a good quality of life since shadow chasing is usually a response to stress, anxiety or frustration.

Shadow chasing is a problem for collies as it can develop into obsessive disorders so it’s best to modify this behavior as soon as you notice it to prevent any further damage to their mental wellbeing.

Luna sometimes like to watch the shadows on the wall. She is especially entertained if they move because of a breeze.

How to stop your collie from chasing shadows

Early intervention is key to preventing your collie developing an obsessive disorder from their shadow chasing. Below are some tips to prevent your collie from causing chaos by racing after shadows.

1: Exercise more

A tired collie won’t have the energy to chase shadows and if their exercise needs have been fulfilled chances are they will want nothing more than a nap.

Collies are a working breed and require at least two hours of off-leash exercise every day in order for them to live a happy and healthy life.

If your collies exercise schedule doesn’t include daily opportunities for off leash play then its time to mix it up! Providing consistent daily outdoor adventures for a minimum of two hours a day could eradicate your collies shadow chasing.

After a long walk they will be physically tired (hopefully in need of a nap) and the opportunity to sniff interesting scents will be great for their mental stimulation. The result? A happy, content collie who does not feel the need to pounce at every shadow!

2: Mental Stimulation

Collies get board easily and they require a lot of mental stimulation to keep them happy and their minds busy. Providing you collie with a ‘job’ will help keep their mind focused on the task and off of chasing shadows.

Read our ‘Mental Stimulation Ideas For Collies’ which provides a whole host of fun and engaging ways to keep your collies mind occupied and make them forget all about even the slightest shadow.

3: Distraction through action

Distraction through action is exactly that, distracting your collie with something else as soon as they even notice a shadow. A good distraction is often playing with their favorite toy.

This means you are diverting your collies attention away from the shadow and onto something else. Eventually your collie will forget why they ever chased shadows in the first place as they can have much more fun with you either through playing or learning a new trick!

4: Planned Ignoring

Sometimes the best way to deal with shadow chasing is to ignore the behavior. However, this will only work if your collie is shadow chasing for your attention rather than for their own amusement.

Ignoring them means they will soon learn that chasing shadows does not result in any attention (good or bad) from their owners and will likely stop.

It’s highly likely they will simply deploy another creative tactic to get your attention so it’s best to prepare for this and make sure your collie is not feeling neglected or left out by spending some quality time with them.

About the author:

About the author:

Hollie and Border Collie

 Stuart MacPherson

Colliepedia Editor

 Stuart MacPherson

Colliepedia Editor

I'm an experienced collie owner from Scotland. I started Colliepedia to share everything I know about collies. All the pictures you see on colliepedia are of my beloved collie Luna

Learn More about me and Luna's story on the about page!