A shortcut to attention from high prey drive dogs

16 Dec 2021, 5:54 a.m. by Tracey McLennan

Does this sound familiar to you? You’re walking along with your dog, enjoying a gorgeous walk in peaceful countryside. You can see ahead and know that there is nothing around for your dog to chase and you smile, feeling relaxed and happy to be able to just enjoy your walk. Suddenly, your dog just takes off and you can see that their prey drive has kicked in big time.

Maybe you had one walk like that, and it was the last time you relaxed on a walk. Maybe it was the last time your dog got off the lead. Maybe you still don’t understand what happened? At one time in my life, I was convinced that my bullmastiff, Katie, could see ghosts because she’d suddenly get excited about nothing. A friend pointed out that she was getting excited about the smell of pheasants. What I didn’t realise until I got my collie cross, Cuillin, was that for some dogs, the excitement about scent is overwhelming. That some dogs will take off and run a long way if they can smell the trail of an animal that passed the previous day. When I knew I felt defeated. How could I possibly work on this when I had no idea when it was going to happen?

If this sounds familiar to you, I have a little shortcut that will help your dog to be able to pay attention to you even when there is amazing prey scent around. Take food rewards out on every single walk you do. Make sure it’s food your dog loves. Make sure it is in tiny, tiny pieces. Make sure you have it somewhere you can easily get to it so that you don’t have to fish around for ages. Then, on every walk, just once or twice pause to scatter some of that food for your dog and let them find it using their nose. This will build a habit for both you and your dog that the good stuff doesn’t ONLY happen when they are away from you. Being with you also means that sniffing opportunities happen. Building this habit will start to make changes in how your dog responds to you.


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Hi - I'm Tracey

I am the author of Canine aggression: Rehabilitating an aggressive dog with kindess and compassion and founder of Best Dog Learning and Stuff Ltd. I specialise in helping people with dogs who have a high prey drive. I have an honours degree in Canine behaviour and training, am a Tellington TTouch practitioner, and an ACE Advanced Tutor. I am currently studying for an MSc in Applied Animal Behaviour and Training.

I love to hear from people who read my blog so if you want to let me know what you thought, email me on tracey@bestdoglearningandstuff.co.uk