Prey drive refers to a natural instinct in dogs (and other predators) to pursue and capture prey, such as small animals like birds, squirrels, rabbits, or even toys that simulate prey-like movements.
Dogs with high prey drive are often highly motivated to chase and catch moving objects. This behaviour can be traced back to their ancestors’ hunting instincts. As it is so ingrained within these dogs we need to focus on improving their responsiveness and channelling their energy into more constructive behaviour.
Training a dog with a high prey drive can be challenging at times but when you get the results you are looking for it is the greatest reward. Here are some tips to help you manage and train a dog with this instinct:
- Channel the energy: Instead of suppressing the prey drive, it’s better to channel it into appropriate activities. Engage your dog in activities like tug-of-war, cani-cross or agility training, where they can use their prey drive in a controlled and constructive manner.
- Basic obedience training: Establish a strong foundation of obedience training with commands like sit, stay, come, and leave it. These cues can help you control your dog’s behaviour, especially when they are tempted to chase after something.
- Focus and recall training: Work on improving your dog’s focus and recall abilities. Use high-value treats or rewards (Play, toys such as flirt poles) to reinforce their attention when distractions are present. Practice recall exercises in a secure environment with gradually increasing levels of distractions.
- Leash training: Keep your dog on a leash when in public or areas with potential distractions. This allows you to have more control over their movements and prevents them from running off after prey.
- Desensitisation and counterconditioning: Gradually expose your dog to the stimuli that trigger their prey drive, but at a distance where they can still focus on you and remain calm. Reward them for staying composed, and over time, they may become less reactive to those triggers.
- Impulse control: Teach your dog to have better impulse control by using cues like “wait” or “leave it.” This helps them learn to resist the urge to chase after every moving object.
- Engagement and play: Strengthen your bond with your dog through interactive play and engaging activities. When your dog values spending time and playing with you, they are more likely to listen and follow your commands even in the presence of prey. Scentwork is a great way to channel the dog’s energy and brain into more constructive use.
- Socialisation: Expose your dog to different environments, people, and animals early on to improve their overall confidence and reduce fear-based reactions, which can sometimes contribute to a heightened prey drive.
- Professional help: If your dog’s prey drive is causing significant issues or is difficult to manage, consider seeking assistance. I have had years of experience with Lurchers who are high prey driven dogs. Contact me here – https://petsgreatandsmall.co.uk/contact/
Remember that every dog is different, and training approaches should be tailored to their individual needs and temperament. Be patient and consistent in your training efforts, and always prioritise the safety of your dog and those around them.