For many dog owners living around other animals such as squirrels, birds or domestic cats, controlling their dog’s high prey drives is a serious challenge. All dogs have some form of prey drive, but in some it can become more of a problem than others. This can lead to upsetting situations, especially if involving another beloved pet.
Despite this, a prey drive is a natural instinct for canines. Dogs are instinctive hunters and are particularly skilled at seeking, chasing and catching potential food.
Owning a dog with a high prey drive can be frustrating and you may feel like you have no control. However, there are a number of games which can curb this instinct and be fun for you both at the same time!
Which Dog Breeds have High Prey Drives?
Certain breeds of dog are thought to typically have a higher prey drive than others. However, it’s important to remember that all dogs are different! The can mean that breeds that are generally thought not to have a high prey drive, may still do so! Typically, breeds which display a tendency to chase and catch other animals include those which were bred for hunting or scavenging purposes.
These dogs were initially bred for sporting purposes which drives their intense chasing instinct. An example of this is the Spaniel group, with their strong instinct to rush and scare prey from hiding spots. Other examples of this group include Retrievers which were bred for retrieving game, and also Pointers. If you have any of these breeds, expect a possible high prey drive instinct and make sure to check out some fetch or scent hiding games!
This group does exactly what the name suggests and love to heard other animals. This also leads them to have a very high prey drive. Examples of this are Terrier and Collie breeds and in some, this trait is still found to be useful in working life. Take the Border collie for example! Their prey drive gives them their amazing and characteristic herding ability which is priceless for farmers today.
Ratters and small animal hunters:
An unlikely addiction to the list of dogs with high prey drives include the Chihuahua! These are commonly thought of as simply affectionate, lap-dogs in many houses. However, this breed are particularly keen hunters of small rodents and have been used historically as talented ratters. Other dogs historically used for hunting small animals include certain Terrier breeds, also known for their chase instinct.
Other hunting breeds:
There are many other breeds with a characteristic hunting ability and history. This includes dog breeds such as the Rhodesian Ridgeback. This breed was initially bred to hunt lions in Africa and so naturally have a high natural instinct to hunt, coupled with their large size.
But there are many more!
Other breeds with high prey drives include many Irish Wolfhounds, Huskies and Greyhounds to name just a few. But there are so many more! Make sure you ask your vet and thoroughly research the breed you are interested in before buying or rescuing a dog. This is especially true if they are likely to come into contact with lots of other animals!
Fetch Games for Dogs with High Prey Drives
Fetch games are by far one of the most popular among dogs with high prey drives and also their owners trying to curb it! Fetching games are both simple and inexpensive. They can involve simply just throwing a tennis ball or frisbee in your back garden. This is great for making sure your dog is in a secure environment and will not be distracted by other animals. However, if you decide to take your dog to larger open areas like parks or fields, a quiet space with few distractions is best for these games.
Fetch games are so successful with dogs with high prey drives because they fulfill their natural chase instinct. This is normally sparked by objects moving at speed away from them. These types of games are especially thrilling to your dog, and breeds which like to retrieve objects especially will love bringing you back their tennis ball prize! This also keeps the game going for as long and you and your pup want. Just be careful not to overdo it, especially in hot weather!
These types of game can occupy your dog for a long time and are both cheap (you only need a ball and some space) and not too exhausting for you!
Sniffing or Scent Hiding Games
Sniffing or scent hiding games are one of the most stimulating for your dog with a high prey drive. These types of games help to fulfil your dog’s scavenging and hunting instincts which they would naturally use to track their prey.
Where to start:
The key to this is getting treats which are strong smelling. Even though dogs with high prey drives have extremely strong senses, this will help your dog to find small treats over a larger space. This is especially important if you’re playing these games in a big garden or with treats that are buried. These are also particularly good for dogs that love to dig!
Set up your game:
Once you have your treats, you next need to find the right hiding spots. Scatter the treats in a range of different places to keep them searching, but don’t make it too difficult. You definitely don’t want them wandering off and losing interest! You can scatter treats around your home indoors on the floor (just make sure they won’t be knocking into things and breaking them!).
Different types of scent hiding:
If outside, you can simply hide treats around the garden on the floor. Using shrubs or trees to conceal treats is a great way to make them search a little longer, while making them use more of their natural instincts of searching in more natural environments! For diggers, why not invest in a digging pit designed for dogs and bury them slightly beneath the surface? Or do you have a dog that naturally chase prey up trees. Try placing treats on low hanging branches, just make sure they can reach them easily!
Check-in Games for Dogs with High Prey Drives
These games will fullfill your dog’s prey seeking instincts while also helping you both practice how to stop them chasing animals in the outside world. You can do this with any of the other games mentioned here. This includes games like fetch or scent hiding games and is easy to practice in or outdoors.
Check-in games involve training your dog to ‘check-in’ with you by looking in your direction. This can be either periodically or when you give them some spoken cue or command. The idea of this is to break your dog’s fixation on another animal or on a chase. This fixation can otherwise completely overcome their attention and leave you feeling helpless!
By switching your dog’s attention to you, you can prevent a future chase by regularly practicing this technique. With regular practice, you can regain some control while out and about and still have fun!
Flirt Pole for Dogs with High Prey Drives
Flirt poles are toys that can be bought from most pet shops and are perfect for dogs with high prey drives. These are typically toys which are dangled from long sticks. You can then wave these around for your dog to try to follow and catch! This simulates the natural movement of prey and allows them to chase and catch the toy.
You can even couple these games with teaching them cues of when to drop and leave something. This practice will give you even more control when you’re out and about when they may be tempted by a chase.
This option is again relatively cheap and can be played with either in or outdoors. This makes it a perfect option for rainy days to avoid any boredom while indoors!
It is important to remember that a prey drive is a natural instinct for many dogs and some will experience this more than others. However, you can allow your dog to use these natural instincts through fun games which will keep you both happy!