How to tame prey drive in dogs?

Prey chase drive is a formidable aspiration to chase things such as other dogs, cats, bikes or even other people as well. The activity of the prey drifts the dog’s attention towards them, leading to a chase.

This is normal behaviour which most of the dogs are likely to do.

Dogs can be tamed for prey chase drive through the following plan of action. Keep your dog in a secure place, always use a leash, spend time with your dog, train your aggressive dog to improve his deportment, cheer him to be able to build eye contact and educate your dog to ‘Come back to you’.

Prey Drive: What does it even mean?

So why do dogs chase squirrels?

Prey chase drive is the instinct present in carnivores to capture their prey so they can kill and eat it and like all the other meat-eaters out there, dogs also like to catch their devour. Some breeds of dogs have a higher predator chase drive than others, but this category consists largely of hunting or herding breeds.

Mostly, pet dogs chase different things just to play and have fun. They do not have any desire to grab and eat their chase but if this habit is not controlled, then over time, it can cause serious problems as when not stopped, dogs tend to think that everything is its prey so they can catch and bite humans as well.

Predatory chase drive could become a nightmare for you if you have a pet dog and create a lot of problems for your family if it is not taken care of.

Dogs with higher prey drive can kill cats and other small animals around them. They do not pay attention to their owner and always want to run after other animals. When taken on a walk, they go out of control and try to run after every car, bike or even human they come across.

How to train your dog to reduce its prey drive?

Predator drive

If your canine is having a habit of chasing prey then it must be difficult for you to go on a walk with them. Imagine your dog lunging on everything which he could see. Pulling you badly and running after other cats and dogs, this moment could be quite embarrassing for you, as the owner of that dog.

But there is nothing to worry about, this habit of your dog can alter in a matter of days if you work with your dog to teach it to behave normally when it discerns other moving things.

-Keep your Dog in a secure place

If your dog has a high chase drive then you need to contain them in a secure and closed space, so your dog cannot escape and harm other animals or humans.

These dogs are dangerous and can cause damage to other creatures around them so they need to be kept in a safe place.

If a dog has bitten a human or any other animal then it is declared as a dangerous dog or a vicious dog by the government and it is not allowed to keep that dog as a pet, legally.

Crate training your dog or installing proper fencing in its area are good ways to stop him from escaping when you are not around.

You also need to put a lock on your gate, when you leave so no one else can come into your house without permission and give a way out to your dog, willingly or by mistake.

-Deportment Training

The best way to tame prey drive in dogs is through coaching them. A lot of amazing exercises are available for your fluffy to become a good pet dog.

The most important thing if you own a dog is to be able to maintain good control over them when their leash is off. And in order to obey you, they need to be trained to stay in control too. Whatever you teach your dog, always remember the 3 D’s of dog training in your mind- Duration, Distance and Distraction.

Try to teach a new command with as few distractions as possible and try to improve the timing of your dog over that command, while you stand near to your dog.

As your dog gets better over time, increase the other two things, distractions and distance.

Keep practising until the day your dog performs that particular command reliably, no matter what is going on around him, he should just be focused on your command.

It will be almost impossible to stop your dog from chasing other things if you ignore the three Ds of dog training. In the beginning of your training, your exercise can break due to big distractions such as a dog chasing a cat passing by you.

-Building Eye Contact

Before your dog starts a chase, it will show some clear signs, which are a plus point for us to break this habit. If we can identify these signs, it can become easier for us to control our dog.

Before launching an attack, he will explore the environment for the things which attract him, he will lock its eyes on the target and then as the target moves, the chase will begin.

In order to stop the launch of the quest, we must have to break this pattern. To break the first step or the second step (focusing) and to tame prey drive in your dog, you must be working to train your dog to give his full attention to yourself, when you command him to do so.

If you are unable to break your dog’s too much concentrated acute staring then you will not be able to do it later on and it will be a lot difficult to tame your dog’s prey drive.

-Teaching the Command “Watch Me”

It is very important to divert the attention of your dog to yourself when you want it to focus on you and this can be possible by teaching it the command, “watch me.”

First of all, take your dog’s favourite treat in between your fingers so that your dog can see it clearly and then slowly bring your fingers in between your eyes, wait for your dog to glance at you and when he does, click with your clicker and give a treat to your dog.

Repeat this several times and as your dog increases the time of the glance, add the verbal command “watch me”.

Practice this exercise repeatedly with more distractions and do not stop doing until your dog is completely tamed on this command and watches you with his full attention, no matter whatever is happening around him.

With this command of taming prey drive, you should be able to break the cycle of your dog staring at something and ultimately launching a prey drive.

-Teach ‘Check-in’ to tame prey drive in a dog

Take your dog to an empty park, a playground or an empty field and attach a long leash, at least 15 to 25 feet long to its collar. Now sit down and do not pay attention to your dog.

Wait for him to give you his attention and never respond until your dog is paying full attention to yourself and wants to interact with you, just sit calmly and wait for this moment to come.

When your dog pays attention to you and wishes to interact with you, give him your full attention and make him feel that he is too special for you and paying attention to you was the best thing he has done in his entire life.

Provide him with all your love and affection, give him his favourite treats, and maybe swing his pet toy at him as well.

To stop your dog from chasing other things, practice this often so he understands that paying attention towards you is more worthy than wandering on his own.

-Drop Down

You will need to break the stalking course of your dog when he is in the process of a prey chase cycle and is focused on what he wants as his prey.

Your dog should already know how to lie down.

When your dog is stalking something or someone, you should drop his preferred treat under his front feet so his attention can be diverted from its prey and afterwards drop a treat at his side so he can look away.

Then clinch the leash of your dog and move away from that place.

After going a safe distance away, reward your dog enthusiastically with his most favourite treat and play with him so he can feel that he has done something very good.

-Come Away

Through this exercise, we want to encourage your dog to come back from a chase.

For this command, your doggo should already know the ‘Come’ command.

To start this training, take a long leash of not less than 20 feet. Take a cheap toy which you can throw and your dog will chase it but do not take a toy for which he becomes too excited.

Throw the item and when he is chasing the item, call him back. If he ignores your call, gently twitch the rope (Never pull the rope with a strong force as it can cause injury to the dog).

When he leaves the item and returns to you, reward him happily and play with him, let him chase you and make him feel special.

If your dog ignores your call and continues the chase, that means it will be hard to teach him this command at this stage hence, it’s time to go home.

-Dealing with Emergencies

Taming prey drive in a dog involves the right tools that will help you on your journey dealing with any kind of emergencies, particularly when the accidents happen.

If you are going on a walk with your dog and suddenly your dog launches a serious predatory chase, this will simply be too much for your training to break through.

Due to such events, the training fails so at such point it is wise to use some training Aids which may help in these kinds of sudden situations. Only a training aid could work and redirect your dog to focus back on you.

Training tools like ‘Stop that’, which is an air canister that releases a loud hissing noise may help break the focus of your dog.

Using training collars can help tame prey drives in your dog but should not be used without the opinion of an expert dog trainer.

-Managing the drive at home

If you have other pets with your dog and your dog has a habit to chase other animals then you need to be conscious about your pets. When at times you are not physically present to monitor your dog, they might attack one of your other pets, so it is a high risk factor. You need to train your dog or otherwise, he should be contained in a particular space.

The crate training method is a very useful method to tame prey drive to your dog and ensure the safety of all the pets and people in the house.

How to get a dog to stop chasing cats?

Do Rottweilers Get Along With Cats?

When you have other pets as well and they are all allowed to interact with each other then you should always provide an escape route to the prey pets, so they can escape if the dog chases them.

Cats can escape by climbing on a cat tree, tall furniture or on shelves to get away from the dog.

Some other interesting ideas include putting a baby gate high enough that your cat can get through them. This can only work if you have a medium to large breed of dog, small breeds can pass through them easily.

Teaching “leave it”

To tame prey drive in a dog and how to get your dog to stop chasing cats can get easy by teaching the command ‘leave it’ to your pupper. To teach ‘leave it’, first put a treat on the floor and tell your dog to leave it. Cover the treat with your foot, if your dog tries to get the treat badly.

When your dog gets his attention off the treat, praise him and give him some other good treats.

Practice this technique again and again until your dog masters the trick and then apply it to the other pets when your dog is staring at them or tries to chase them.

Prey Drive vs Aggression

Sometimes, a strong prey drive can look like aggression, especially to the prey of your dog.

But there is a key difference between prey drive and aggression which you need to understand as a dog owner.

Prey drive in dogs is instinctive and has nothing to do with aggression while aggression can be a result of certain emotions, such as fear.

Another vital difference between aggression and prey drive is, that whenever a dog is chasing something due to aggression, he will want to increase the distance between him and the prey while in the case of prey drive, dogs always want to get closer and catch the prey.

-Can a strong prey drive lead to behaviour problems?

A strong prey drive in dogs can be a problem if they are chasing everything they notice moving around them but it can also be fun while playing fetch game with your dog.

It’s not such a good thing that when you go out on a walk with your dog and your dog is trying to chase everything coming in its peripheral vision.

Dogs with strong prey drive may also involve in threatening behaviour, such as chasing cars, running before people and attacking venomous snakes.

Your dog may get so focused on its prey that he may pay no heed to your call and refuse to come back.

Unfortunately, all the small pets such as rabbits, cats, small dogs and squirrels are not safe around a large dog with an overactive prey drive.

Can prey drive in a dog be a good thing?

Why Do Dogs Chase Squirrels?

Prey drive refers to the level of excitement and energy level in a dog.

It is a motivation for dogs for doing hunting-related tasks or going after a particular objective.

This instinct of dogs can be very helpful for humans, in fact in many places, dogs are serving due to their habit of prey drive.

The instinct of the prey drive is helpful in the following ways:

  • This drive is immensely helpful in training the dogs for agility or police and military K-9 jobs.
  • Prey drive is also the reason behind good herding dogs.
  • Hunting dogs can hunt due to the instinct of prey drive.
  • Dogs can be used to keep down the population of unwanted rodents and pests due to the habit of prey drive.

Which dog breeds have a strong prey drive?

Dogs used for hunting and herding have the strongest prey drive.

These include dog breeds in herding group: Australian shepherds, Border collies, Airedale, Bull terrier, Beagles, Greyhounds, Retrievers, Spaniels and Pointers.

Working group breeds include Siberian huskies and Boxers, although they are not bred for hunting or herding, they do have a strong prey drive.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can a dog kill a cat?

Dogs can kill a cat due to its predator-prey instinct, but not all dogs kill cats.

  1. What dog breeds are not good with cats?

  • The Manchester Terrier
  • The Whippet
  • The Australian Cattle Dog
  • The Afghan Hound
  • The Schipperke
  • The Smooth Fox Terrier
  • The Standard Schnauzer
  • The Irish Wolfhound
  1. Should you put a dog down if it kills a cat?

If a dog kills a cat, it should be re-homed to a place with no other pets immediately or should be handed over to the government or an NGO, working for animal rights.

  1. Which dog breeds can live with cats, easily?

These are certain breeds which have more tolerance compared to other breeds of dogs:

  • The Beagle
  • The Golden retriever
  • The Basset hounds
  • The Cavalier King Charles spaniel
  • The Pug
  • The Labrador retriever
  • The Bichon frise
  1. Can a cat kill a puppy?

No! cats just want to play; which is quite often mistaken as it trying to attack other animals.

Conclusion

Prey drive is a natural habit when it comes to dogs. However, it is under a dog owner’s preference if they want to tame it or encourage it.

Most importantly, when training your dog, never forget the 3 D’s: Distance, Distraction and Duration. They are the key to success.

There are thousands of ways to minimize the prey drive of your dog and many of them have been mentioned above.

The most affectionate way to tame the prey drive of your dog is to interact with him as much as possible, spend plenty of time with your dog and play with him in different ways.

Playing a Fetch game is also a credible way to lessen the prey drive of your dog as the dog only concentrates on chasing the things thrown by his owner and all the dogs love to play this game.

A dog is a loving creature and always admires its owner whatever the conditions are. So try to treat your dog with love and care. Most importantly never hurt your pets at any cost.