Dog Training Tips to Reduce a High Prey Drive
Every dog should know at least a handful of commands like “sit”, “stay”, “down”, and “leave it”. Not only can commands help owners stay in charge of their dogs, but mastering obedience can keep dogs safe.
But what about the safety of local wildlife, such as birds, rabbits, squirrels, and rodents? For dogs with a high prey drive it can feel nearly impossible to convince them that the neighbor’s guinea pigs aren’t their next snack, but with some specific dog training tips, you should be able to safely walk your pup around the block.
Types of Exposure
Dogs that behave aggressively toward smaller animals need a positive introduction to them. Without knowing how to behave around small, furry, or feathered creatures, a dog’s prey drive triggers them to take chase. Some breeds have a stronger drive than others, such as working or hunting breeds, but all dogs benefit from a boost in training and obedience.
Where to Start
The most important thing you can do for a dog that likes to hunt small animals is to keep them safely contained on your property. Installing a jump-proof fence and gate helps to keep your dog in their yard where they cannot easily inflict any injuries on wildlife.
When you’re not at home, crate your dog until they learn the behaviors you expect of them. Install a dog run that is fully screened or fenced, eliminating possible exposure to prey. Supervise all interactions with other domestic animals.
Energy For Days
Since dogs with high prey drives tend to be working breeds, they need “jobs” to do in order to use up all their excessive energy. Play with them and/or provide opportunities for strenuous exercise every single day. You may have to set aside 2-3 times each day where they can get in a good workout.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Dog training exercises can go a long way toward taming a dog’s high prey drive. Reducing distractions is key to getting them to learn and demonstrate commands. Without distractions they’ll be able to hold the command for longer periods of time, increasing their future recall.
First, your dog must be able to look directly at you when you ask them to. This ability cuts down on their constant scanning for possible prey.
Clicker Dog Training
When first starting out with your approach to dog training, a clicker and some treats can help reinforce your methods. Hold a treat up by your eye and ask for their attention. When they look directly at you, click the clicker and say “watch me”. Over time, hold their gaze for longer periods until they’re no longer looking around. This establishes their ability to focus only on you.
Stalk the Stalker
To limit your dog from chasing and killing small prey, it’s important to break stalking behavior. When dog training, use their treats to get them to lie down. The goal is for them to look away from their point of focus. When you have them down on their belly, attach their leash and lead them away from the animal they were trying to stalk. Reward them with praise.
Looking to the Future
There are various dog training accessories, such as collars. Please let us know if you need suggestions specific to your dog’s behavior and needs.