Prey drive in dogs is a natural, innate urge to chase other animals or objects. Almost every dog has some level of prey drive, but dogs with high prey drive … well, they’re in a class of their own. Dogs with high prey drive live for the chase, whether it’s squirrels, cats, rabbits or other critters.
What is prey drive in dogs, and which breeds are most likely to run away? Which breeds are least likely to run away? Learn about prey drive and how to train your dog.
What is Prey Drive in Dogs?
If your dog tends to chase after other animals, you have a dog with high prey drive. You understand the chaos that ensues, like something out of a cartoon.. One minute you’re strolling with your dog on a leash; the next, you’re chasing your dog who’s chasing a critter down the street. Why must your outings become mayhem? Blame dogs’ predatory heritage.
That’s right, the dogs of today, although evolved, remain the ancestors of wolves. Even breeding over the centuries cannot rid dogs of the hardwired behavior of chasing other animals. The desire or need to pursue is inherent. However, not all dogs take to chasing or running away, all in the name of getting whatever it is they’re after.
For some dogs, the prey drive is so strong they will chase cars or ignore your commands, putting themselves, other animals, and potentially people in harm’s way. To help prevent these scenarios, you can train your dog not to react in such a manner.
On the other hand, a high prey drive can prove effective if your dog is a hunting companion, livestock herder, or working with the military or police.
Related: A tired dog is a good dog. Tire out your dog with a toy that keeps him busy for hours. Check out our suction-cup pull toy, built to withstand even the most enthusiastic chewers and chasers.
Dog Breeds With High Prey Drive
High prey drive dog breeds are adept and quick to predatory behavior like spotting, stalking, and chasing the prey. Without intervention, high prey dogs can attack and consume their kill. Here are some of the worst dog breeds off-leash:
- Alaskan malamute
- Border collie
- Siberian husky
Dogs With Low Prey Drive
Although any dog can fancy a chase, there are plenty of dog breeds that tend to stay close to their owners. If you’d rather own a dog with a low prey drive, here are a few you should consider:
- Bichon frise
- Cavalier King Charles spaniel
- English toy spaniel
- Great Pyrenees
Tips for Training Dogs With Strong Prey Drive
Although controlling your dog’s instinct to chase down critters can be difficult, you can take a few steps that can help reduce the chances your pet will go crazy next time he sees a squirrel.
To help train your dog to ignore the urge to bolt, you can practice some counter conditioning; this type of training is referred to as “open bar/closed bar.” In a contained area like your backyard, walk around with your dog leashed/harnessed. Anytime your pet notices prey and doesn’t lunge offer him treats. Continue to offer treats as long as he sees the animal but refrains from chasing after it. As soon as the animal is out of your dog’s sight stop giving treats.
You can also incorporate an ultrasonic training device. Each time your dog sees “prey” and starts to get excited, press and release the button that activates the ultrasonic sound to get your dog’s attention and distract it away from the trigger.
Practice daily to improve your pet’s self-restraint.
- Pay attention to your surroundings when out in public with your pet. You can help your pet avoid his triggers.
- Avoid reprimanding your pet for instinctive behavior.
- Know your dog’s triggers and be watchful of his body language. When dogs are relaxed, they’ll hold their ears naturally; however, when alerted, their ears raise, they become still, and you might notice the hair on their back stands on end. The sooner you get your dog’s attention, the better. Make eye contact with your dog and offer positive reinforcement and treats.
- Always have your pet on a leash or more preferably a harness if your dog lunges to prevent tracheal collapse.
- Never allow your high-prey-drive dog to interact with children or other animals without supervision.
- Never let a dog with high prey drive outside without a leash. Ensure your yard is secure to prevent your dog from sneaking out. And, never chase your dog as he may think it’s a game and continue to run.
- Teaching your dog basic commands like “stay” and “come” can prove helpful in controlling your dog’s impulse to chase. Train your pet in an area with zero distractions. Once he’s mastered them, you can introduce distractions into the environment. Other commands that can be invaluable include “leave it” and “drop it.”
- Satisfy your dog’s prey drive with some controlled activities like fetch (ball or Frisbee) or a flirt pole or prey stick. Even blowing bubbles can help your dog enjoy the chase without the consequences.
- Exercising your dog before you walk can further help deter your dog’s prey drive. Remember a tired dog is a good dog; and in this case, it may reduce this type of impulse behavior.
- When leash walking a large dog with high prey drive, protect yourself from injury. Sometimes, it’s better to let go of the leash than to risk injury to your shoulders, arms, and other parts.