Can you fix prey drive in dogs?

6 Nov 2021, 7 a.m. by Tracey McLennan

This is a common question from lots of people who despair of ever having peaceful, relaxed walks with their dog. Anybody who walks their dog in a state of hyper vigilance, knowing that at any moment, the dog may lift their nose into the air or freeze briefly and then take off after unseen prey, tends to feel that despair at some point.

When people learn about prey drive, they will often ask – “Can you fix it?” or “How can I get rid of it?”

It’s understandable. Most of the time, their dog is perfectly calm, peaceful, and gentle. A much loved and valued companion. Who wouldn’t want their dog to be like that ALL the time?

It’s an understandable question but sadly the answer is No – you can’t fix it.

Even aside from domestic dogs being closely related to their wilder cousins who hunt prey animals to eat, domestic dogs have also been carefully and selectively bred to perform a range of tasks for humans. Most of those tasks need them to do something related to prey animals.

It’s useful for people if the dogs love to do whatever their job needs of them. That’s what makes great working dogs. It’s just that when they are pets, that love and drive to do something with prey animals can make walks with them difficult.

Have a read of this article. humans-haven-t-just-changed-what-dogs-look-we-ve-altered-very-structure-their-brains

The research now that points toward the jobs dogs have been bred to do changing the structure of their brains. Perhaps that is part of the reason that spaniels zig zag across the ground while following their noses and Border collies adopt that distinctive stalking posture.

Their prey drive is very much part of who a dog is. The good news is that there is lots you can do to improve life with your dog – you might even end up like me and be so fascinated by prey drive that you deliberately get dogs who are likely to have a high prey drive.

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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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