Prey vs. Play: How to control your dog’s natural prey drive - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Pet Tips

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Prey vs. Play: How to control your dog’s natural prey drive

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Posted: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 10:19 am

Recently, I’ve had many cases involving dogs that have extremely high prey drives. Dogs have a natural instinct for hunting prey. Smell and motion of other animals will instantly attract a dog to their instinctive prey drive. Of course, with domesticated dogs, we feed them so they don’t have to hunt. To ensure your dog views your family cat as a “pack member” and NOT a “pack prey-toy,” follow the below simple tips:

1. “Leave It” command. In all my classes, I teach an elementary dog training command called “leave it.” This will train the dog to leave (not eat, chew, or bite) a certain item or food dropping. This will also teach your dog the basics of “stopping” or “halting” if they are tempted to have continuous motion towards an unwanted item. Certain dogs have a much higher prey drive (i.e. hunting and scent retrieval breeds), but with the right training they can limit the energy to decrease their drive.

2. Alternate activity. I often let customers know that the saying is often true about cats and dogs. I can show them how to “manage” the environment, but there is no guarantee that the animals will live in complete harmony. It is just the true nature of the animal drive and the animal hierarchy. In reference to “alternate activities,” I want the dog to begin to view a cat, bird, newborn, or any other motion sensory object as a “pack member.” Begin to introduce a succulent meat item, a favorite toy, or an agility exercise to divert the dog’s attention away from the motion object, and onto a different activity. Over time, the dog will learn to seek out the alternate activity and eventually decrease its desire to stalk the inappropriate object.

Oftentimes humans forget where dogs come from. They are derived from Gray Wolves and still on occasion will exhibit some instinctive forms of wild behaviors. Even though they now eat from our food bowls, keep a sharp eye out just in case Bugs Bunny stops by for a visit.

• Mark Siebel is owner of DOGGIE STEPS Dog Training, LLC. He has trained more than 400 Valley dogs, speaks regularly at local schools about the importance of dog safety and ownership, and donates time to youths wanting to learn more about dogs. Siebel is a member of the Arizona Professional Pet Sitters Association and Australian Shepherd Club of Arizona. Contact him at (602) 318-0122 or

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