8 Ways to Manage a Dog with a High Prey Drive

A dog’s desire to hunt prey is an instinct they would need to survive in the wild. But as domesticated companions, dogs no longer need to hunt food, and a prey drive can cause unwanted behaviors. Here are eight ways to help you manage your dog’s hunting instincts.

Although you might find it hard to believe there’s any wolf left in the tiny Chihuahua wearing a sweater sitting in your lap, all dogs still have instincts left over from their wild ancestors—including instincts to hunt and kill. When a dog acts on their prey drive, they might chase, track, stalk, herd, or even kill. Targets can include cats, other dogs, wildlife, or even cars or people on bikes. Some dogs have deeper hunting instincts than others, and it’s not something you should punish or try to eliminate. However, there are ways you can manage your dog’s high prey drive and give them a positive outlet for their instincts. These eight tips will get you started.

1. Teach Basic Commands and Focus

Ensure your dog has a solid foundation in training commands like sit, stay, come, wait, and leave it. These commands can be crucial in controlling your dog’s behavior, especially in situations where something might trigger their prey drive. What’s more, teach your dog to focus on you by using treats or toys. This can help redirect their attention away from potential prey.

2. Give Them Lots of Exercise

High-energy dogs often benefit from regular and intense physical exercise. This can include activities like running, fetching, or agility training. A tired dog is generally a more manageable and focused dog.

3. Always Supervise Your Dog Outside

Even with comprehensive training, your dog might still be tempted to give in to their instincts if they’re alone outside and encounter a trigger. To avoid temptation, keep an eye on your pup when they’re outside.

4. Teach Walking Manners

When walking your dog, use a sturdy leash that doesn’t extend and retract so you can maintain control. Consider using a harness for added control and comfort. Further, teach your pup to walk calmly on a loose leash. This helps you maintain control and prevents them from lunging at moving objects.

5. Don’t Let Them Off Leash

If you don’t trust that your training has fully sunk in yet, it’s best to avoid letting your dog off leash, especially when there are triggers present.

6. Avoid Electric Fences

A dog with a high prey drive will run right through an electric fence if the stimulus is great enough. They could hurt themselves, and the shock won’t stop them from leaving your property or chasing their target.

7. Use Interactive Toys and Games

Puzzle toys, hide-and-seek, treat-dispensing toys, and interactive games engage your dog mentally. This can help satisfy their instincts in a controlled environment.

8. Find a Positive Outlet for Their Instincts

There are lots of activities that are healthy outlets for your dog’s chasing, stalking, and catching instincts, including:

  • Agility training
  • Nose work
  • Flyball
  • Digging in sandpits
  • Chasing a ball
  • Mantrailing

Your dog’s prey drive is natural, and you should never punish them for acting on those instincts or try to train the instincts out of them. Instead, use these tips to help manage your dog’s desire to hunt.


Animal Wellness

Animal Wellness is North America\’s top natural health and lifestyle magazine for dogs and cats, with a readership of over one million every year. AW features articles by some of the most renowned experts in the pet industry, with topics ranging from diet and health related issues, to articles on training, fitness and emotional well being.

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