Which dogs have a high prey drive

22 Oct 2021, 8:44 a.m. by Tracey McLennan


Last week I wrote about dogs with low prey drives. So this week I thought I’d look at the dogs with high prey drives. I’m using the data again from the mini research project that I did earlier this year. It had 730 answers. The way I structured my questions makes it much more difficult to report on breeds of high prey drive dogs. I’ll be doing a bigger research project looking at prey drive in dogs for my thesis and am planning to amend how I ask about prey drive and breed so that I can gather more accurate data.

That said, what I found is still interesting.

My questions covered the following predatory behaviours:

Hunt – which I described as being excited by the smell of.

Eye and stalk - which I described as stared intently at or moved slowly toward.

Chase – which I described as chase or tried to chase (as some dogs may be on a lead).

Grab-bite – which I described as catching the animal

Kill-bite – which I described as holding while shaking head.

If you’re not sure that these mean, here is a link to an earlier blog post I wrote that explains.

I asked about small animals like rabbits or squirrels, birds and larger animals about deer.

I included joggers and cyclists as well but won’t discuss them here when I’m talking about high prey drive. Some dogs may react to joggers and cyclists because they are frightened of people. It could have nothing to do with prey drive.

The dogs I’ve included are those dogs where the person answered that the dog does the behaviour often or every day.

Smaller animals like rabbits and squirrels were the most likely to trigger a predatory response in a wide range of breeds. 44% of the dogs eyed or stalked them every day or often, 49% of them find the smell exciting, 48% chased or tried to chase.

Much lower numbers of dogs would do grab-bites or kill-bites every day or often. Just 19 of the dogs perform grab-bites. Here are the breeds – as you can see, a real mixture:



15 of the dogs perform a kill-bite on small animals often or every day. Again, a real mix of breeds:



Birds seemed to be generally of much less interest with 29% of the dogs eyeing or stalking them, 20% being excited by the smell and 38% showing interest in chasing birds. Again, there was a real mix of breeds in each group.

When it came to grab-bite, seven dogs were doing it often – none do it every day. Again, there was quite a wide range of breeds:



Seven of the dogs perform a kill-bite on birds often – again, none do it every day. Once again, there was a range of breeds:


Larger animals like deer also weren’t as popular with the dogs as smaller animals although I do wonder if some of that is down to the dogs being close to those animals less often. I now wish I’d asked about that in my survey.

Anyway, there were a large mix of breeds involved with 15% eyeing or stalking those animals, 24% being excited by the smell and 16% showing interest in chasing them. None of the dogs were doing a kill-bite or a grab-bite on deer every day or often.

I’ll be interested to see what my thesis research will show but so far, I don’t see a clear breed to get if you want to avoid having a dog with a strong desire to perform some sort of predatory behaviour.












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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