Predatory Behavior

PREDATORY_AGGRESSION_FeaturedUnlike other manifestations of aggressive type behavior, predatory behavior is not emotionally driven and is largely influenced by genetics. While aggression serves to increase distance, predatory behavior serves to decrease distance as quickly as possible.

Many domestic dogs are skilled hunters and have been bred to exhibit certain parts of the 'predatory sequence.' Sighthounds such as the Greyhound and Saluki are skilled chasers, while Labradors and Weimeraners are adept at flushing and retrieving birds and other small prey animals. Terriers were originally bred to find, chase and kill vermin, such as mice and rats.

The full predatory sequence is:

  1. Eye
  2. Orient
  3. Stalk
  4. Chase
  5. Grab/bite
  6. Kill/bite
  7. Dissect
  8. Consume

Some dogs find it reinforcing to chase other animals or moving objects as it fulfills an instinctive need, but this is only the beginning of the predatory sequence. Humans have bred the desire to bite and kill out of the domestic dog unless it is specifically trained to do so, but occasionally a deeper instinct takes over.


Does my dog have a high prey drive?

  • Although many dogs enjoy shaking and disemboweling stuffed toys, this does not usually translate to live animals or people.
  • Herding breeds are adept at eyeing, stalking, and chasing their 'prey,' but they seldom attack and kill the animals they are herding.
  • Dogs that are motivated by the chase, grab, bite, and kill part of the sequence can be very dangerous to live with, especially around small animals and children.


What is the difference between high ‘chase’ drive and ‘prey’ drive?

  • Many dogs like chasing things like toys, squirrels or people, but are motivated more by the thrill of the chase than actually catching the thing they are chasing.
  • Even though these dogs have ‘chase’ drive, they may not necessarily have high prey drive.
  • Dogs that are highly prey driven are usually motivated by the thrill of the chase and the grab, bite and sometimes kill sequence.

What should I do if my dog has high prey drive?

  • Some dogs might be driven to chase and maybe catch squirrels or birds. This is usually alright if you are able to control the behavior.
  • If your dog has bitten a child or killed a small animal, it is vital to keep her safely confined in your home or yard/garden area and leashed at all times when in public.
  • If you walk your high chase or prey drive dog off leash, do so in a quiet area where there are no children or other dogs. Teach your dog a reliable recall.
  • Be aware that electric fences do not safely confine any dog and that many dogs run through these ‘fences’ even when wearing their shock collars.
  • A solid fence offers more protection than an electric fence and also prevents people and other animals wandering onto your property.
  • Some dogs with high prey drive excel at sports where they can run and chase in a positive environment. Flyball, agility and treibball provide high drive dogs with a physical outlet that allows them to indulge in their favorite pastime but in a controlled way. These sports also teach dogs to listen to people even when in chase or prey mode.
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  • Maureen

    I have a high prey drive dog. How do you teach a reliable recall when she prefers the "chase" over the "treat"?

  • Andy

    By "electric fence", I assume you mean "invisible" or "electronic" fence. An actual electric fence (at least in the USA) usually means an energized above-ground fence that delivers electric shocks on direct contact.

  • Tiffany

    I practice recall at the end of every walk. You just have to practice it over and over and over then move onto recall with distraction. My dog will now cut the chase short if I call him back, even if there is a squirrel barking at him.

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