how to deal with natural prey drive in dogs

Prey versus Play: How to deal with your dogs natural prey drive

Recently, I’ve had many cases involving dogs that have extremely high prey drives. “Michele, my dog won’t stop chasing the cat!” Or, “Michele, I found another present at my back door that my dog brought me” (i.e..deceased rabbit or bird.) Dogs have a natural hunting instinct for hunting prey. The smell and motion of other animals will instantly attract a dog to its instinctive prey drive. Of course, with domesticated dogs, we feed them, so they don’t have to hunt. To ensure your dog views your family cat as a “pack member” and NOT a “pack prey toy,” follow the below simple tips:

  1. “Leave It” command. In ALL my programs, I teach a life saving command dog training command called “leave it.” This will train the dog to leave (not eat, chew, or bite) a specific item or food dropping. This will also teach your dog the basics of “stopping” or “halting” if they are tempted to continuously move toward an unwanted item. Certain dogs have a much higher prey drive (i.e., hunting and scent retrieval breeds), but with the right training, they can limit the energy to decrease their drive.
  2. Alternate activity. I often tell customers that the saying is often true about cats and dogs. I can show them how to “manage” the environment, but there is no guarantee that the animals will live in complete harmony. It is just the true nature of the animal drive and the animal hierarchy. In reference to “alternate activities,” I want the dog to begin to view a cat, bird, newborn baby, or any other motion-sensory object as a “pack member.” Begin to introduce a succulent meat item, a favorite toy, or an agility exercise to divert the dog’s attention AWAY from the moving object and onto a different activity. Over time, the dog will learn to seek out the alternate activity and eventually decrease its desire to stalk the inappropriate object.

Frequently humans forget where dogs come from. They are derived from Gray Wolves and still, on occasion, will exhibit some instinctive forms of wild behaviors. Even though they NOW eat from our food bowls, keep a sharp eye out just in case Bugs Bunny stops by for a visit.