Predatory Behaviour in Dogs

Predatory Behaviour in Dogs - What is it?

Predatory behaviour is where dogs practice behaviours relating to the predatory behaviour chain such as scenting, stalking and chasing.

Predatory behaviour is largely influenced by genetics. In the video attached we can see young puppy pointers stalking a leaf; these pups haven’t been taught this behaviour - it’s built in. 

What does it look like? 

This depends largely on the individual dog but can include behaviours such as:

  • Car chasing
  • Hunting wildlife
  • Flushing out birds
  • Stealing items on a walk
  • Nipping at heels
  • Chasing bikes
  • Ripping apart stuffed toys
  • Stalking birds in the garden 

Why do dogs do it?

It’s intrinsic - a natural urge/need to rehearse the behaviours. It feels good to dogs to do them!

Some lines have been bred to emphasise these traits for example some border collie lines bred to work as sheep dogs. It’s important when you introduce a new canine family member to find out what their parents, grandparents, great parents etc did; did they work? What were they bred to do? What are their predatory behaviours like?

If we don’t satisfy our dogs needs to practice predatory behaviours then they will become increasingly frustrated trying to fight the urge inside them and will go off on a solo hunt without us and satisfy the need themselves. Not only does this put our dogs safety at risk (as well as the wildlife!), but it allows the dogs to ignore us and runs away from us which are undesirable behaviours. 

How can we help?

We can give our dogs a suitable outlet in a safe and controlled environment. We can play games, set tasks and allow them to satisfy that urge they have.

Some examples of how we can give our dogs a substitute to predatory behaviour…

Border Collies - Instead of chasing sheep on a walk we can allow them to stalk and herd a boomer ball. 

Spaniels - Instead of them running off into the bushes play a find it game by hiding a dummy or some treats in the long grass and ask your dog to find them. 

Greyhounds - Instead of chasing deer in the woods they can have a tug game with a fluffy toy with you. 

Dachshunds - Instead of digging into rabbit holes provide them a sand pit at home with hidden treats/toys in to dig up and find.

Retrievers - Instead of them trying to mouth the lead on a walk allow them to carry a toy/object.

️Important , do not allow your dog to practice these behaviours in an uncontrolled way eg don’t let your dog off the lead in a field of sheep, don’t walk them next to a busy road if they chase cars, don’t let them off the lead in a woodland with deer if they hunt animals. 

What next?

If you’re struggling with predatory behaviour with your dog then get in touch! We offer 1:1 training sessions working on predatory behaviour outlets. If you’re not local we can help via zoom.

If you’re already working with a trainer or attending classes and recognise an area of improvement for your dog then speak with your trainer about predatory behaviour and get them on board to set out a training programme with you.