Many people seek help from dog trainers after their dog has killed another animal. Most of the time, the sorts of things that they want to know are:
❓ How big a problem is this?
❓ Will my dog become dangerous toward other dogs or children?
❓ Will they do it again?
❓ What should I do about it?
The answers to these questions really depend on a few things.
It depends on the dog in question.
For instance, is this a dog who always shows a huge interest in rabbits but who is normally restrained by a lead – and the killing happened when they were off lead or when a rabbit got too close to them while they were on lead?
Is this dog normally relaxed around other dogs and children?
How attentive is the dog to the person who normally walks them?
It depends on the rabbit too. Was this an unwell rabbit who couldn’t take the evasive action that rabbits would normally take.
It depends on where it happened. Did it take place somewhere where there are more rabbits than the dog is used to – or was it on the dog’s normal walk.
Really digging into what happened and starting to create a clear picture of the individual dog and of the place where the killing happened will help with understanding what might happen the next time the dog sees a rabbit.
Thinking as well about what breed the dog is will help. Most domestic dogs have been bred to perform tasks that are useful to people. Many of those tasks require the dogs to have a high prey drive.
Border collies are often sensitive to movement and lots of them chase things. This happens because they are bred to herd sheep. They must be interested in movement and quick to react to do that job.
Spaniels are bred to follow their noses hunting out birds that they then flush into the air. They may then retrieve the shot birds. Some spaniels have such a desire to retrieve that they can tend to find, chase, and catch small animals or birds.
Breeding is not an exact science by any means and the level of desire that individual dogs have will vary enormously. One dog might quite enjoy chasing if they can do it while another dog might want to do nothing but chase. One dog might be independent while another is keen to be with their person.
Who the dog is as an individual will make a difference as well to what happens after they have killed the rabbit.
If you have arrived on this blog because your dog has killed a rabbit, don’t panic. Get yourself a cup of tea or a glass of wine or whatever you prefer. Then get a notebook and a pen. Sit down and drink your drink and while you do that, write about your dog. Think about the things I’ve talked about in this blog and make notes. It’ll help you understand your dog better.
If you still would like some support, you can join my Facebook support group or email me. There is a link to my support group further down this page and my email address is at the bottom. Don’t feel alone because you can reach out for help.
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Or you could join my Facebook group Support for high prey drive dogs.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org