Most dog owners will have experienced high prey drive bolting. It’s when you’re taking your dog on what you believe was going to be a leisurely stroll when, completely out of nowhere, they bolt.
It could be that your dog is chasing a bird, another dog, or sometimes it can look as if they’re chasing nothing at all. Either way, it’s almost certainly an example of your dog’s instinctive high prey drive in action.
Walking a dog with high prey drive
All dogs are descended from wolves, who have an innate ‘chase-to-kill’ impulse. Whilst this impulse is more pronounced and difficult to manage in some breeds than it is in others, walking any dog with high prey drive is a nightmare at the best of times.
If you do have a dog with an exceptionally high prey drive, you will find it more difficult to walk them. There’s the constant risk of them not only being a danger to themselves, but also other dogs and members of the public.
Please don’t despair though. With the right approach and training, walking a dog with a high prey drive doesn’t have to be difficult.
How to walk a dog with high prey drive
If your dog is too intent on chasing something, they might end up running into a busy road, whilst a dog’s bite will not only harm others, but also have the potential to get your dog in trouble with the law.
This is why finding methods to manage your dog’s prey drive – especially when you’re out in public on walks – is so vitally important. Below, I will detail some steps to help you do just that – followed by some precautions you should take.
1. Limit free movement
When your dog is off the leash in a wide-open setting like a dog park, it is really difficult to control the situation. This is why you should keep them on their leash even if they seem fine in more controlled environments.
You should never take your dog off the leash unless you are absolutely certain their prey drive is under control and there are no potential chase triggers.
If you do want to take your dog off the leash, make sure that there are no other animals or children around.
Furthermore, if your dog is ever around other animals or children, make sure to keep a close eye on them at all times to avoid any high prey drive disasters happening.
2. Impulse control
When dogs give in to their prey drive and chase, catch or bite something, they are acting on an impulse.
So, the key in walking your dog with high prey drive is about stopping them from acting upon their impulses. You can encourage them to practise impulse control by training them in a no-risk environment first and nailing the voice commands.
The most common training tactic for impulse control is through command words like ‘stay’, ‘stop’ and ‘drop it’.
Command words are a useful way to help your dog practise impulse control because it encourages them to stop and think before blindly going after whatever it is they perceive to be their prey.
The one word that always stops our own dog from chasing during his high prey drive moment is the word “stick”. Whilst all dogs are different, our boy puts playing with a stick above anything.
So, if he things there’s a game of fetch about to start, he will stop dead in tracks and come back to us.
You should start by practising these commands with your dog in a quiet environment before gradually raising the stakes, so you’re confident that they’ll be able to respond to your commands and control their high prey drive when walking in busier environments.
Redirection techniques are incredibly valuable for managing and walking dogs with a high prey drive, because rather than stamping out that drive completely it aims to help your dog channel it to a more acceptable and less damaging context.
Once your dog is fixated on their ‘prey’ – whether it be a pigeon or a plastic bag – it is near impossible to redirect their attention successfully. This is why it is important to try and redirect them before they become fully fixated on the object they want to catch.
For this to work, you need to be vigilant and spot potential preys before your dog does. Always be on the lookout for cues, objects, animals and creatures that might set off their prey drive and then, upon spotting them, change your route before your dog does.
If this isn’t possible, be sure to bring out your dog’s favourite treats or toys when walking (be sure to bring an object of redirection with you on every walk) and capture their attention with that before their impulses get the better of them and it’s too late.
4. Train with games
One of the most successful ways that pro dog trainers use to help with high prey drive dogs is to set up game scenarios.
They will use cuddly toys, sometimes attached by lines to sticks, or by throwing the toys in down the yard… whilst using the stop commands to see how well the dog reacts before walking them in a “live” environment.
5. Tire your dog out more before a walk
There is some evidence to suggest that you can reduce your dog’s high prey drive before walking by tiring them out with chase, fetch, and tug of war games first.
What precautions should you take when walking a dog with high prey drive?
To wrap up the pointers here, these are the top precautions you should take when taking your high prey drive dog for a walk.
- Only walk your dog on a leash.
- Only let them have supervised access to your garden or yard.
- Only take them on walks which you have planned in advance with no unknown routes.
- Don’t walk your high prey drive dog near small children and animals.
What is prey drive in dogs?
Before you can completely stamp out the problems with walking your high prey drive dog, you need to understand more about what prey drive actually is.
As mentioned, a dogs’ genetic roots traces all the way back to wolves – one of the most dangerous and formidable predators in the wild.
Although the typical domestic dog is markedly different from wolves these days, they still do share the innate genetic drive to hunt and chase prey; although that drive can vary based on the breed of your dog.
A dog’s prey drive can be narrowed down into five different behaviour types:
- Biting to grab
- Biting to kill
These behavior types manifest differently depending on your dog’s breed – whilst herding breeds like Border Collies will be more inclined to chase their prey, hound dogs – which were specifically bred for hunting – are more inclined to stalk and kill.
A lot of these behaviour types can be managed and transferred within the context of play, whilst other behaviours like biting and chasing have the potential to be a lot more problematic and dangerous for both your dog and other people.
Handy Hint: If you have a high prey drive dog and a cat, you might find this guide to why the attacks have suddenly started up helpful.
Dog breeds with high prey drive
Any dog can have a high prey drive, but certain breeds do tend to have it as a stronger characteristic. The breeds below are renowned for it.
|Airedale Terriers||Irish Wolfhounds|
|Alaskan Malamutes||Jack Russell Terriers|
|Australian Cattle Dogs||Pharaoh Hounds|
|Bull Mastiffs||Shiba Inus|
|Bull Terriers||Siberian Huskies|
|English Springer Spaniels||Yorkshire Terriers|
Ultimately, whilst it is difficult to change an innate instinctive behaviour, it is possible to manage walking with your high prey drive dog a lot better with the right training and intervention.
If none of the above steps worked for you, there are plenty of professional dog trainers who can help to guide you on the best way to manage your dog with high prey drives whence on walks.
You might also like…
Here are some additional guides regarding dog behavior and aggression.