Written by Anna Hollisey
Over the years, dogs have been bred to work, hunt, and provide companionship for their owners. These traits are in their biology and are often part of their charms! However, sometimes a strong prey drive can cause behavioral issues – here’s how to manage it.
It’s your dog’s instinct to pursue and kill prey. It is present in many dogs, and some have a stronger instinct than others.
The prey drive is more prevalent in dogs which were bred to hunt or flush out prey.
Their prey drive once helped them to be keen and useful hunting companions. Spaniels were often used to hunt or retrieve birds, while Beagles and Labradors usually accompanied game hunters. But many other breeds – from Pointers to Spitzes – had hunting in their history.
Did you know that some dogs were bred to hunt particular species? For example, the tunnel-shaped Dachshund was originally bred to chase badgers. The Norwegian Lundehund was specially reared to hunt puffins. Its paws are adapted to enable it to climb rocks in search of nests!
Humans have used the prey drive from some animals for their own benefits. Greyhounds are naturally very fast and being sighthounds gives them a good sense of sight. By training them to chase after a lure, their prey drive is activated and they run. Although most states have now banned greyhound racing, any hound that used to race, can still be prone to chasing after anything that triggers their prey drive.
Of course, these days very few dogs accompany their owners on a hunt. So their prey drive is usually dormant – until they see a squirrel or a crow.
Playing ‘fetch’ or tracking animals on a walk is OK. But sometimes, a strong prey drive can lead to behavioral problems. You won’t be able to (and probably shouldn’t) amend your dog’s personality; but training can offer your dog an alternative outlet for their urges. Here are some tips for managing your dog’s prey drive.
In some cases, the prey drive is just part of who they are. Whether you’re buying a puppy from a breeder or adopting from a rescue center, make sure you know everything about the breed you’re taking on. In some cases, the rescue center or breeder might advise they’re never let off leash or they might need to be muzzled. Don’t let this put you off, so long as your dog is loved and well cared for, they’re not going to mind walking on a leash or wearing a muzzle. It’s just going to be something they associate with going out on adventures with their favorite human!