Can teaching tricks really help prey drive?

15 Jan 2022, 6:07 a.m. by Tracey McLennan

Whether or not teaching tricks will help your dog with their prey drive will depend on how you use the tricks. Trick training can be great enrichment for your dog. Many people find it great to build positive feelings if their dog cannot be off lead and/or suddenly launches themselves at prey. There is no end to the tricks that dogs can be taught. There is another way to use tricks that will more directly help with prey drive.

Instead of teaching more and more fancy tricks, if you focus on teaching a few tricks and then working on them in lots of different environments and building in lots of distractions, what often starts to happen is that dogs will learn to do the trick even if there are lots of exciting prey animals around. I am not suggesting that it’s fast or always a smooth journey but changing the focus from teaching more and more tricks to teaching simple tricks in more places is where tricks can be invaluable with prey drive – and reactivity too.

Ideally to get you started with making the switch from tricks as enrichment to tricks as a helpful part of what you do about prey drive, what you need to know lots about the places available to you. You need to know the wildlife likely in any given place. The corners of fields where the rabbits live. The freedom fields that have deer or pheasants in the land around them. If you start with research, it will help you understand more about the amount of pull the place you are in will have on your dog’s attention – and that helps with planning. If your dog can a spin in your living room, you want to make sure that the first outside spot you choose isn’t home to thousands of rabbits.


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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.

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