I remember the day I brought my first Siberian Husky home. She was 9 months old and had spent her short life tied to a tree out in front of someone’s trailer. Not because she was bad, but because she had gotten big enough, her old owners didn’t want her inside their home. At the time, I didn’t know very much about her breed, and wasn’t aware huskies have a high prey drive. I quickly learned, however, a dog’s prey drive matters when it comes to their behavior.
Dog behavior depends on breed characteristics, temperament, and what he was bred to do. You control his behavior by understanding the job he was born to do, whether or not he has a high prey drive, and taking that knowledge to properly train and exercise him. Cats and small animals in the home may be in danger if a dog’s prey drive is activated.
What is prey drive?
All dogs have some level of prey drive, but some have a much lower drive than others. An animal running will activate a dog with a high prey drive and he will give chase. Basically, it’s dog sees movement and chases after whatever moved. The stages to a dog’s prey drive are: movement or searching, stalking, chasing, catching, take down, and finally, the kill. What makes a Border Collie excel at the job they do is their prey drive. A properly trained herding dog will go through each stage, stopping just before the kill.
Prey drive is what makes a dog chase a ball, Frisbee, small animal or a car. It’s their drive that causes them to chase kids running away. That’s why it’s important to teach your kids to never run away from a dog. Understanding prey drive explains why dogs chase people, other animals or anything else. It makes a difference how you control his prey drive to keep him out of trouble.
Dog breeds with a high prey drive.
Don’t let a little dog’s size fool you when it comes to their prey drive. Dogs in the Terrier group were bred to be ratters and chase vermin, like badgers, underground. Not all small dog breeds, however, have a high prey drive. Companion breeds like the Pekingese and Maltese are good watchdogs, but have little desire to chase. Dogs bred to guard livestock and homes have a lower prey drive.
Dog breeds in the sporting, herding or hound groups have a high prey drive. Some dogs from the working group also have a high instinct to chase. Siberian Huskies love to run and will chase anything they see and ignore your call to come back. Sighthounds and scent hounds also have a high prey drive. Even a well trained dog will ignore his owner’s recall command if his instinctive impulses take over. A dog with a high prey drive should never be allowed off leash, even if you are confident he will return as soon as you call him. It’s difficult to try and teach a dog reacting to his drive instincts to not chase what he sees moving. Your best option is to make sure your dog is in a secure pen when outside and always on leash.
Why having a dog with a high prey drive matters to you.
A dog’s prey drive isn’t something they can turn on and off. It’s hard wired into them and it’s one reason why canines are good at doing specific jobs. These dogs require daily physical activity to burn off excess energy and maintain a stable and healthy mind. A bored high energy dog can dismantle a living room in just a few hours when left alone with nothing to do. His behavior isn’t his fault if he doesn’t get proper exercise. If you don’t enjoy going for long walks or finding a dog sport your dog can participate in, a canine with a high prey drive will not be a good choice.
A dog acting on his prey drive will zone in on different types of prey besides other animals, like children running, skateboarders, joggers, bikers, and vehicles. Terriers and huskies are diggers and escape artists and if left unsupervised in an outside enclosure, will try to escape. You are responsible for what your dog does if he escapes. Understanding prey drive helps you make a better choice when deciding which dog breed is best for your lifestyle. Prey drive matters because it tells you what his behavior may be like. It’s important to understand what you could expect before you bring him home. A dog’s breed makes a bit difference in how well he will fit into your family, whether he’s a purebred or a mixed breed. Too many dogs end up in shelters because their owner made the wrong choice and picked a dog with a high prey drive they couldn’t handle.
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