Please begin typing, and select your location from the list
Get better results and save time by saving your locations. Home, Office, Favorite vacation spot, Grandmas House and more...Create an account | Log In
Recently Searched locations
- or -
List: Posted: 09/23/11
Have you ever caught your dog looking far too sharply at the neighbor’s cat? Or perhaps Spot brought a squirrel home from the park once? Maybe you have a farm and your dog got in to the chicken coop and killed a bird?
Well, if this, or a similar scenario, is you, then you may be dealing with a dog that has a high prey drive.
Identifying Your Dog's Prey Drive Level:
These are: nonexistent, neutral, low, medium or high
Nonexistent – Your dog will clean Tabbys’ ears, share his food with her, or allow your cat to sleep on his back with little to no reaction or interest. This dog sleeps with the cat, lets the budgie sit on his head, counts your Chihuahua as his closest confident, and generally reacts positively to all small animals. Unless they bite him, then some grumbling, a paw-pat, or a good bark in the face is warranted.
Neutral – While Spot might not love the cat, he never goes out of his way to chase or hurt him, in fact generally ignores Tabby's existence. They may harass one another (let’s face it, cats can give as well as they get, and sometimes personalities just don’t mix), or play chase. But it’s often plain when a dog chases an animal it sees as prey. There is a singular focus there, you can almost feel that, yes, they are chasing dinner. You dog has never chased the cat this way.
Medium – Perhaps Spot will chase anything that flees, might even harass a smaller animal, but generally falls short of actually making contact. He obsesses over the neighborhood cat and will chase it, although more for the excitement value than a real intent to kill. He might even rough up small dogs or the household cat, but never breaks skin, or follows through to killing. Most likely not a terribly worrisome level of drive, but keep an eye on him.
High – Will assume an alert, ready body language and stance any time he is near a smaller animal that could be seen as prey (cat, small dog, rodent, bird etc.). Will focus to the point of obsessive on the smaller animal until you have taken him from the area. Will chase and snap at the smaller animal. Will run the smaller animal down and go for the kill.
It’s different when dogs of equal size shed one another’s blood - that’s a fight for different reasons altogether, for dominance, pack position or just protecting their turf. But when a dog breaks the skin, draws blood, kills and eats, another smaller animal (including another dog) - that is his instinct to hunt, and kill. Don’t ever underestimate this dog.
“Well, cats kill all the time,” you say. Yes, because a cat's natural prey drive is ALWAYS on, even if he or she is well fed and lazy. But domestic cats are small, and only a threat to birds and rodents. However, if you are guardian to a large breed dog that finds cats tantalizing, or chickens tasty, or smaller dogs snack worthy, you have a big problem.
Q: But We Live on a Farm… My Dog is Just Acting Naturally, Right?
A: Granted, this is a different situation. A farm or ranch can be a very different place for pets to live. In fact, they may not necessarily be pets, but employees. This includes Collies, Shepherds of various breeds, sight hounds, scent hounds, or other sporting and working breeds.
You may be pleased that Spot keeps your barn clear or rats and possums. However, if your farm or ranch dog goes to another property and kills chickens, a lamb, or the cats, you have a problem right away. People will not take kindly to this behavior, or the result. Be aware that in most states, it is entirely legal to shoot a dog that is trespassing on your property - regardless of who owns it or whether or not it was causing any damage. If your dog wounds or kills livestock, you can be sued for damages.
Frankly, you have no right to let a dog you know has a high prey drive, run free. You are liable in all cases, and you are at fault for whatever your dog does.
Q: So My Dog Has a High Prey Drive. What Can I Do About it?
A: If you live in the city, or a residential area, you get your dog assessed by someone experienced as soon as possible. You need to know the degree of drive your dog has, what is possible and what is not.
If the prey drive is low, then your dog could be trained out of the behavior. If your dog’s prey drive is high, she won’t be trainable as at this point you will be trying to remove a fundamental natural instinct that drives your animal in every aspect of their daily lives. The behavior can then only be preventable - by your close daily attention and efforts.
In this case, steps must be taken to ensure your dog has no access to other people’s small pets, and preferably not the local wild life either. Encouraging this behavior is unnecessary in this day and age.
1. Keep your dog ON leash AT ALL TIMES, when out of the yard. No off leash parks, period.
2. Make sure your yard is completely escape proof.
3. If your yard has some weak spots, fix them, or put your dog on a line.
4. Reinforce all outside gates and doors in your home and garden. Consider adding spring-loaded door closing/ auto-latching mechanism to all outside doors, to prevent an escape in the instance that a door is accidentally left open by a visitor.
5. NEVER leave your dog alone in the house or yard with another person's dog or cat, even just for a minute.
6. NEVER EVER take your dog into a house that has a new baby, or young children smaller than your dog. If you have very small children of your own or a baby, reconsider keeping your dog.
5. DO NOT reward the prey behavior in any way shape or form. This includes 'playing' or 'puppy' behavior directed towards you such as chasing, nibbling and even gentle biting.
6. If you want other pets, get a dog of equal size, or a caged animal safely out of reach and secured.
Q: Do I Need to Euthanize My Dog Upon Discovering He Has a High Prey Drive?
A: No, of course not. But you must be vigilant, take the steps necessary to keep the smaller animals around your dog safe, and be realistic. Just because a dog has a high prey drive, doesn’t mean she can’t be an amazing pet IN EVERY OTHER WAY. It just means you need to be a responsible pet owner, and you and your family must be able to accept and adhere to the above boundaries at all times.
With the above information, you and your dog will be just fine. Take care, and enjoy your time together!
Cat & Dog Behaviorist
Rahway Animal Hospital has always made it our top priority to provide excellent client service and patient care. Rahway Animal Hospital is locally-owned and has been serving surrounding communities for over 60 years. Declaws, spay, neuter and other procedures, also emergency service available.
You love your pets. We love taking care of them. When your animals need professional medical attention, trust our compassionate and skilled veterinarians. St. Francis Animal Hospital of Staten Island in Staten Island, New York provides veterinary services that keep your pets in peak condition. Take care of their medical and surgical needs at our animal hospital. A Passion for Pets takes care of the adorable creatures in your family by welcoming them to our family. We provide pet health care services for emergencies, regular check-ups, and vaccinations. Our team of veterinarians treats the whole animal with a deep commitment to compassion. Visit us when your pet needs emergency surgery.
Christina's Pet Styles was founded in 2002 by Christina with the belief that Dogs, cats and all pets should get the best care possible. A small thought just one summer day when Christina came about of an idea where she could make the best pet grooming and spa available to Staten Island. With over 26 years in pet grooming, Christina brought with her the ability to give Manhattan style pet grooming and care at Staten Island prices while giving the very best special care and attention to each and every Dog or Cat to come through for all grooming services. Over the years, Christina has developed special techniques for working with hard to manage pets, the active and even elderly pets while still going above and beyond each and every time. Christina gives love and tender care to all pets so they all get to enjoy the top of the top, professional pet grooming available and feel better while looking their very best. With special training by veterinarians with years of experience, Christina has learned to give your pet an overall health check and has learned special techniques to give your pet proper teeth scrapping without the use of tranquilizers while giving no discomfort to your pet. Tranquilizers are never used in Christina¿s Pet Styles and are an illegal substance to be used only by a certified veterinarian. Heat dryers are not used in Christina¿s Pet Styles only air dryers are used for the safety of your pet.
Westfield Veterinary Group and Wellness Center - Veterinarian serving the Westfield, Garwood, Cranford, Mountainside, Kenilworth, Springfield, Union, Summit, New Providence, Scotch Plains, Union County , NJ area
The material in this article is for informational purposes only. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Local.com. See Additional Information