Reducing Your Dog’s Prey Drive/Chase Instincts
Chasing prey is quite natural for dogs, which makes it quite a challenging behaviour to eliminate. Trying to stop your dog to chase things is probably one of the hardest things to achieve. Having a prey drive is part of your dog’s natural instincts, and it’s much stronger is certain breeds. Some dogs were specifically bred to chase down prey. Many greyhounds have to be muzzled because they will chase anything that moves, they are taught from a young age to chase a fake rabbit around a track.
Dogs are descendants of wolves, and wolves are one of the most impressive predators in the world. If you want to reduce your dog’s prey drive then you need to have realistic expectations. It could take a long time to get to a point where they will not chase a small animal. With some dogs their prey drive is so strong that it’s almost impossible to get rid of completely.
Having your dog chase anything that moves is not safe for them and definitely not the animals they are trying to get to. They could end up chasing something that could harm them or potentially killing a small animal such as a cat. If your dog has the tendency to chase things do not let them off the lead until you can trust them.
If your dog likes to chase things then you probably need to work on their recall. However, they may still chase after something regardless of how good their recall is. The prey drive is so overwhelming for them that it is difficult to break out of. All their focus is on the target and they may completely block you out. That squirrel running through the woods is far more interesting than you.
You need to try and work out why your dog is chasing things. Make sure your dog has had enough before you take them out, you don’t want them to chase things because they are hungry. If they are chasing to kill and eat prey then you may want to look at their diet to check they are getting enough protein.
If your dog chases a specific animal such as a cat then you may want to look at socialising them in a safe, controlled manner. Some dogs can be trained not to chase or be aggressive towards cats whereas with others you may not be able to.
One of the main reasons dogs chase things is simply because it is fun. They get an adrenaline rush from chasing things. You can counteract this by using their favourite toy or tasty treat when working on their recall. You need to be more interesting than the thing they are chasing. Again, this is not always possible but lots of dogs can be lured away from a chase by being distracted by their favourite toy.
Giving them an outlet can also help to reduce their prey drive. Some of the play behaviours that dog display are linked to some natural behaviours they would do in the wild. You can redirect their energy by playing games with them such as tug of war, fetch and just generally playing with their toys.
If their prey drive is becoming a serious issue then consult a dog behaviourist. They should be able to give you some advice. If your dog continues to chase things you may want to consider muzzling them to prevent any incidents.