Category Archives: prey drive

Tips for Managing Your Dog’s Strong Prey Drive

By Langley Cornwell

We had a major wake-up call last week. According to our normal routine, we let our dogs out in the backyard right before bedtime so they could do their business before we all tuck in for the night. There was a loud commotion and when we called the dogs back in, our male had blood on his muzzle. I washed him off while my husband went looking for the victim, which turned out to be an unfortunate possum. Needless to say, nobody got to bed on time that night.

I knew Al had a strong prey drive, but I didn’t realize the full extent of his instinct. As responsible pet owners, we began to research the issue and learned that there are five sequential steps to the standard prey drive: the search, the eye stalk, the chase, the grab bite, and the kill bite. Sadly, our pup had quickly escalated through all five steps.

A strong prey drive is a natural instinct for dogs because they are predators and hunters. Even so, not all dog breeds feel each stage of their prey drive with the same power. For example, Beagles naturally have a strong desire to search, Border Collies are known for intense eye stalking, and Greyhounds have a powerful draw to chase. Prey drive is a scent driven instinct, and all dogs primarily experience the world through their noses.

In the book Hands on Dog Training, Gloria Post offers suggestions and training techniques to help distract your dog and help him ignore the stimulus that ignites his prey drive. Additionally, she offers substitutes that fulfill your dog’s need to chase prey.   Post asserts that it’s incorrect to discipline your dog when you know he is about to give chase. Instead you should learn ways to redirect his attention.
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Why Laser Pointers Can be Frustrating for Pets

By Linda Cole

I’ve never gotten into the laser pointers people use to entertain their pets. I don’t really know why, because I can’t help but smile when I see a dog or cat chasing that little light. It’s a good way to get them up on their feet for some playtime and exercise. However, chasing that red dot can be frustrating for our furry friends, and there is a potential hazard of eye injury.

In reality, the eyesight of dogs and cats isn’t as sharp as ours when it comes to seeing distant things clearly. Dog and cat eyes are made to see best in dim light, and being able to see brilliant colors and details like we see isn’t necessary when hunting prey. Compared to our field of vision, which is looking straight ahead, dog can see 240 degrees, cats see at 200 degrees, and we come in last with a field of vision of 180 degrees. The binocular vision (where the field of vision of both eyes intersect) of humans and cats is 140 degrees compared to dogs with 30 to 60 degrees. Dogs and cats depend on movement, especially rapid movement, to see things up close. Both dogs and cats have a visual streak, which is a high density line made up of vision cells across the retina. This gives them extremely good peripheral vision for seeing motion, and dogs can see better out of the corner of their eyes than cats can.

Motion is what activates a dog or cat’s prey drive. That’s why a mouse, rabbit or small prey will freeze in place – to make it harder to be seen. Laser pointers can quickly get a pet’s attention. Not because of the little red dot, though. It’s the motion of the dot that clicks on a pet’s prey drive and catches their interest, and there’s no way they can ignore the moving light. The problem with that erratic light is that it’s impossible for a dog or cat to actually catch it, and that makes it frustrating for them. Some dogs can develop behavior problems if they become obsessed with trying to catch that darn light. Cats aren’t as likely to become obsessed because they have a tendency to lose interest faster than dogs.
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How We Use a Dog’s Prey Drive

By Linda Cole

If there’s one thing dogs do better than anything else, it’s searching out prey (or what they consider to be prey, anyway). A dog’s prey drive is what makes them good at searching, retrieving, search and rescue, herding or running. Working dogs have been trained to help us with difficult tasks that make our lives easier, and some can even do things better than us, or perform tasks we can’t.

No matter what breed of dog you have, all dogs have a prey drive. Anything moving will initiate their instinct to chase. Some dogs, however, have a stronger drive than others and they are the ones that excel in performing different jobs that help us. Responsible breeders are careful to make sure their dogs have the specific qualities and characteristics inherent in their chosen breed.

Using a dog’s prey drive during training can make the sessions more fun for you and your dog. Games of tug-of-war and tossing a ball or Frisbee are good motivators for some dogs, and you can use it to your advantage while training. After all, even dogs need a break from learning and rewarding them with a game of catch helps keep their prey drive satisfied. If a dog’s drive is strong and he has no way to release pent up energy, he becomes bored and may develop behavioral problems.

There are five parts to a dog’s prey drive: the search, stalking, the chase, the grab, and the take down. They see another animal, or an object like a ball, which begins the search. Eye contact initiates the stalking phase just before they begin the chase. When their “prey” is overtaken, they grab it and take it down. It doesn’t matter if it’s only a ball—each phase of their prey drive is real and the capture and kill have the same meaning to dogs whether it’s a ball or something else.

We use a dog’s prey drive to our advantage when we train certain breeds to do different “jobs” that aid us. Each specific job takes advantage of one of the five steps associated with a dog’s prey drive. Working dogs love having a job to do and thoroughly enjoy it.

Huskies and the Northern dog breeds love to run, and without their help to pull sleds loaded with supplies and mail to remote villages, Alaska would have been a much different environment to live in. Man was able to use the Northern dogs love of the chase in their prey drive to aid them by pulling heavy loads for miles at a time.

A good retriever will seek out whatever prey they are taught to chase. The dog is trained to stop at the capture stage and suppresses the last step in his prey drive. Returning a duck or rabbit to his human goes against his natural instinct, but because of specific breeding and training, a good hunting dog will bring back his quarry intact without any bite marks in the flesh of his prey.

Usually used for herding sheep and sometimes cattle, Border Collies are well known for their intense eye contact while stalking and chasing sheep. The portion of their prey drive that’s been modified through years of careful breeding is the capture and kill part. For them, they get satisfaction in stalking and chasing their “prey.”

Search and rescue dogs and drug or bomb sniffing dogs have a strong desire to search. Search and rescue dogs are sometimes required to perform for hours at a time when going through the rubble after an avalanche, earthquake or other natural disaster. It’s a job that can be discouraging, and the best dogs are the ones with an extremely high prey drive who love to search.

A Bloodhound will happily plod along following a scent, never giving up until he either finds his prey or loses the scent. For him, following his nose gives him joy and satisfaction. And a beagle loves the chase and has a dogged determination to corner his prey. Excited baying when he’s located it is all the reward he needs. Like any good search and rescue dog, Bloodhounds and Beagles also use their love of the search to root out “prey.”

Years of responsible breeding and training has taken the prey drive in dogs and turned their instincts and what they love to do to our advantage. Using dogs who were born to retrieve, herd, search or run benefits both man and dog when we allow a dog do what he does best.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Why Do Dogs Chase Cats?

By Ruthie Bently

Asking why dogs chase cats is like asking the age old question “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Basically, like many things dogs do, chasing cats is instinctual and they’re hard-wired to do it. However, you’ll find anomalies in every purebred and mixed breed dog; some will chase cats, some won’t. If you have a hunting, working or terrier breed or mix, there’s a good chance they will chase cats, because they have a stronger drive to do so. Most terriers and even some hounds were used as ratters not that many years ago. Dachshunds were used for hunting badgers and were sent into holes after the badgers to route them out.

The instinct that our domestic dogs inherited from their wolf ancestors is their prey drive. This drive was necessary in the wild so a wolf pack could survive. A mother wolf hunts to feed her pups, and the pack hunts for survival of the fittest pups in the pack, as they are the future of the pack’s longevity. The prey drive causes a lone wolf to hunt anything smaller than itself.

A dog’s prey drive is motivated by movement; it can also be motivated by smell. Racing Greyhounds are trained to chase a mechanical rabbit. Lure coursers chase a scented bait across a field. Herding dogs chase the flocks they protect, nipping at their heels to get them to move. This is all controlled at their base level by the prey drive instinct. If a dog grows up with cats, while they may chase when playing with their feline roommate, they are not as apt to actively chase cats all the time. They may also defend their joint territory against strange cats that intrude in your yard.

If you want your dog and cat to get along, the first step is introducing them. Admittedly it is easier if one or both of them are young, because they are less apt to have preconceptions of what the other species is capable of. If you’re bringing a new puppy home, a good way to introduce them is to crate your puppy and bring the cat into the room the crate is in. If your cat isn’t disturbed by the appearance of your dog, sit on the floor in front of the crate with the cat in your arms and introduce them.

If the cat is unwilling, scared or too wiggly, you can put them in their carrier and set the carrier door facing the crate door, several feet apart. You still want to be nearby watching the interaction and have treats and praise on hand for both your dog and cat. If your dog barks or the cat growls, admonish them but do not punish them; they are just reacting to a new situation. If they behave well, praise them and offer treats to both. By using this method, your dog and cat can get used to the sight of each other without being able to reach each other.

The next step is to let them interact in a room under your supervision. Make sure the room you choose has an escape route for your cat. Make sure your cat’s toenails are trimmed before the encounter, a friendly swat on the nose is one thing, but sharp claws may make your dog re-think the idea of being friends. Put a collar and leash on your dog and put them on a sit/stay in the room.

Have another family member bring the cat in and put them on the floor near the dog. If your dog is calm, praise them and offer them a treat for their good behavior. If your dog rushes the cat or tugs on the leash, tell them “no” and put them back on their sit/stay. Repeat both stages of training several times a day and for the first several months if needed. If your cat is an indoor/outdoor cat, provide sanctuaries both inside and out where they can be away from the dog, because even friends need a break at times. Make sure to feed your cat away from the dog’s reach. A dog eating their food may irritate the cat and make his acceptance of the dog harder.

You can train an adult dog that has not grown up with cats to respect them as another member of your melded pack. I know, because I’ve done it. By having patience, understanding why your dog chases cats, and using the same method of training consistently, you too can have your own peaceable kingdom at home.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.