How do I know if my dog has a high prey drive?

Answered by Jeremy Urbaniak

How do I know if my dog has a high prey drive?

Determining if your dog has a high prey drive can be important for understanding their behavior and potential interactions with other animals. Here are some signs to look out for:

1. Stalking or tracking: Dogs with a high prey drive may exhibit stalking behaviors when approaching or following other animals. They may crouch low to the ground, move stealthily, and focus their attention on the target.

2. Lunging and chasing: Dogs with a strong prey drive may lunge or chase after small animals such as squirrels, rabbits, or birds. They may quickly accelerate and become fixated on the target, ignoring other distractions.

3. Grabbing or mouthing: In some cases, dogs with a high prey drive may attempt to grab or mouth small animals. This behavior can be seen as an instinctual attempt to catch or control the prey.

4. Hovering above or over the shoulder: When a dog is close to a small animal, they may exhibit a behavior known as “hovering” or “shouldering.” This involves the dog positioning themselves directly above the target, sometimes with their paws on the animal’s back.

5. Intense focus and concentration: Dogs with a high prey drive tend to exhibit intense focus and concentration when they detect the presence of small animals. They may become fixated on the target, often ignoring commands or distractions.

6. Excitement and arousal: Dogs with a strong prey drive may become highly excited or aroused when they encounter potential prey. They may exhibit heightened energy levels, increased barking, or even whining.

7. Difficulty with recall: Dogs with a high prey drive may have difficulty responding to recall commands when they are in the presence of small animals. Their instinct to chase or capture prey can override their training and make it challenging to regain their attention.

It’s important to note that having a high prey drive doesn’t necessarily mean a dog will display aggressive behavior towards other animals or pose a danger. However, it does mean that they may have a strong instinct to hunt or pursue prey.

If you suspect that your dog has a high prey drive, it’s essential to take appropriate measures to manage their behavior. This can include training techniques such as redirecting their focus, using positive reinforcement, and providing them with appropriate outlets for their energy.

Personal experience: I have a German Shepherd with a high prey drive, and I have observed many of these signs in his behavior. He often stalks and tracks small animals in our backyard, lunges and chases after squirrels on our walks, and exhibits intense focus and excitement when he detects the presence of prey. It has been a challenge to manage his prey drive, but with consistent training and redirection, we have been able to improve his behavior and ensure the safety of other animals in our surroundings.

Remember, if you have concerns about your dog’s prey drive or their interactions with other animals, it’s always best to consult with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist who can provide personalized guidance and support.