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I just thought I would start this thread after reading the thread about that Husky and Chi at the dog park. There was a lot of on and off discussion on prey drive, which I think is of a lot of interest to all of us. There are a few generalized questions that I've got that might be of interest to a lot of us (and maybe produce some interesting discussion). I know very little so I'd love to hear from those that know more! So here we go.

Where does play end and prey-drive start? Is there always a difference? What forms of play suggest prey drive rather than other drives?
How does one "manage" prey drive, or channel it somewhere good for the owner and the dog? (I would really like to know this personally!) What are the wrong ways to try to manage it?
Is there a benefit in cultivating prey drive? (as a pet owner)
Up sides and down sides of prey drive? (aside from the obvious example at the dog park)
Are there any breeds that don't have prey drive?
Is chasing always a sign of prey drive or is it something else?

Just some things that floated into my head, if anybody has thoughts or comments on various drives I'd love to read them. It seems like a great thing to understand well, to be able to train and live with some of our drivey dogs better.
 

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Guess I'll paste this here too lol since no one saw it in the other thread.

http://flyballdogs.com/prey_drive.html (it's kind of old, but I feel it's pretty accurate)
First of all, let's clarify prey-drive versus chase drive. A prey driven dog will chase with a great deal of focus on the object it is pursuing and a definite goal of attaining access to its target. A chase driven dog will also chase but usually not with the same intensity or absolute drive to reach its target as the end goal. Many of you have done chase games with both types of dogs. The prey driven dog will drive as hard as it can until it reaches you and when it does you or your toy usually gets hit like a ton of bricks. The chase driven dog can be somewhat frustrating as it will chase you, but not with the drive or intense targeting behavior of the prey driven dog. This dog will often pursue the handler in chase games, but will run on by and not follow through to actually catch the handler. The chase driven dog usually does not exhibit the sudden increased burst of speed that a prey driven dog will when the handler increases their speed. Unfortunately, either tendency can lead to dog chasing and/or aggression (more so in the prey driven dog).

All are born with different levels of pre-dispositions towards movement fixation. The funny thing here is that the dogs with strong prey-drive can potentially be some of the best Flyball dogs. Dogs very much learn what to fixate on.
The rest of the link is there for to be read - this is in the case of using prey/chase driven dogs for flyball.
 

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This is very interesting. Thanks for starting the thread. I have been wondering about prey drive in my own little dog. Her mother is a Doxie/Sheltie mix and her father is unknown but maybe JRT or a smallish Whippet or Italian Greyhound since she's really fine-boned & small (12.5 lbs). She's never off leash unless in an enclosure so I don't know if she'd actually kill a squirrel but if she sees one when we're walking, she will try to get at it with desperation. She'll pull like nobody's business & whimper like she's dying to get to it. She'll stand up at the base of a tree to find where that squirrel went. She does this with larger birds, like crows, too. I'd never allow her off leash b/c she would dash across a street in a flash to get to a squirrel. Not sure if this is considered prey drive or just normal dog behavior.
 

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This is just an example of prey drive ........

Leeo had a high prey drive. He would actually in slow mode like a lioness ...stalk rabbits, squirrels, anything fuzzy or with wings. He would get close and burst into a high speed chase ... but the target was the goal. The prey was shaken speedily and thrown into the air resulting in its death upon impact.

I never really knew how to control it. I allowed it. I also allowed him to dig for his prey ...all the way to china! :) He would get his target every time and dispose of it.

When it came to playing I would sometimes see his play turn into aggressive playing to the point of having to stop him from the biting ... as I felt it could escalate. He showed his teeth and the growling was no longer play and skin would begin to get pulled. That worried me as Abbylynn made ten of him in size.

If I had known how to control the prey drive ... I feel he would not have attacked my parakeet either. :/

In regards to the other post ... I would never take Leeo to a dog park as he had no fear of any sized creature ....
 

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Now that I'm not on my phone I can try and give information/help where I can. Most of these answers came from that link lol

Where does play end and prey-drive start? Is there always a difference? What forms of play suggest prey drive rather than other drives?
Play doesn't always have to be drive (correct if wrong) or have anything to do with (at least) prey drive. The transition from play to drive will kick in pretty much instantaneously with little/no warning.
A prey driven dog will chase with a great deal of focus on the object it is pursuing and a definite goal of attaining access to its target.
You can SEE that in a dog. That's when play ends.


How does one "manage" prey drive, or channel it somewhere good for the owner and the dog? <~ Games! Flyball, frisbee, fetch (is great for prey driven dogs, not so much chase). Tug games! The drive is a movement fixation. You manage it by getting the dog to focus on YOU more than anything else.

What are the wrong ways to try to manage it?<~ Letting the dog fixate on other dogs by letting him/her WATCH other dogs (can cause aggression)

Is there a benefit in cultivating prey drive? (as a pet owner) Yes. doing sports and recall!

Up sides and down sides of prey drive? Bad: A highly prey driven animal will ALWAYS run the risk of seriously injuring or killing a smaller animal. No matter how WONDERFUL they are with your little Yorkshire or your cat or turtle or guinea pig etc when you're there if that dog is left alone for even a minute you've increased the likelihood of that pet losing their life because if they move in JUST the right way, it will trigger the drive. Good: A prey driven dog is EXCELLENT for sports like the above mentioned and training recall

Are there any breeds that don't have prey drive? This I'm not sure. I think Spotted Nike said that most (all) dogs have some kind of prey drive and they all are varying degrees (little/no drive, medium, high etc) some dogs you'd never even think they had the drive because they're fantastic with smaller animals - until that one day when the aren't.

Is chasing always a sign of prey drive or is it something else? Can also be chase (these are the two I know most about so it could be something else)
A chase driven dog will also chase but usually not with the same intensity or absolute drive to reach its target as the end goal.
This dog will often pursue the handler in chase games, but will run on by and not follow through to actually catch the handler.
Just some things that floated into my head, if anybody has thoughts or comments on various drives I'd love to read them. It seems like a great thing to understand well, to be able to train and live with some of our drivey dogs better.
 

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I guess I'm just wondering, would some activities during fetch or tug be due to "prey drive"? Both my dogs will get really into chasing a rope and if you don't tug on it when they catch it, they'll shake it like they're killing prey. Same goes with fetch. Both of my dogs will viciously shake their toys after 'pouncing' on them. I've always thought it was some kind of 'prey drive' kicking in, but maybe I'm wrong? I don't think any breed is free of that kind of behavior.

It wouldn't be a huge stretch for Neeka to go from chasing and shaking a small furry toy to a small furry animal. She has never displayed 'prey' behavior or level of fixation towards SiSi, our cat, my guinea pig, our foster cats or foster kittens, but it could theoretically happen.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
It wouldn't be a huge stretch for Neeka to go from chasing and shaking a small furry toy to a small furry animal. She has never displayed 'prey' behavior or level of fixation towards SiSi, our cat, my guinea pig, our foster cats or foster kittens, but it could theoretically happen.
Absolutely it could happen. I did a lot of reading, internet searching, forum surfing etc getting information on how to manage the dog and the cats. Nothing really bad had happened, but I wanted to arm myself well to deal with the potential problems. The best thing I think is to assume it will happen, and do what you can to prevent it in terms of training and management.

Caeda is fantastic with my cat Hemi inside, though if Hemi runs, she goes up a notch, but is still good. Outside is a different matter. If Caeda sees Hemi outside her body language is different. She still obviously wants to play, but I can see the difference and I'm not thrilled with it (I'm actually planning on some training with the two of them outside this summer to try to manage that).

I think when it comes to prey drive and other (especially smaller) animals being around there is a calculated risk, which is one reason I'm so interested in this topic. I like making that risk as small as possible.


Niraya, I thought you would chime in :) You've got some of the best info, thank you for that!
A couple of additional questions, for anybody who can answer.....partially for clarification: You say you can see the change in focus, I know the difference in Caeda, but are there any general things you would suggest watching for....at least in terms of observing what other dogs might be about to do?
How exactly does prey drive translate into recall? I don't doubt you, but I don't quite get it (not enough coffee yet today!).
Also....what about chasing the laser, is that a prey thing, or is it "just" chase"
 

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Prey drive IMO is not related to dog aggression (even small fluffy dogs) a dog knows when the animal it is chasing is another dog, I have high prey drive dogs and they are all fine with other dogs, even small fluffy ones.....they know the difference between a dog, a wild animal and a fluffy toy.

The best way to test prey drive is to get out a flirt pole and if your dog chases it like the puppy in the first video you have a good amount of prey drive... also take a toy and get the dog interested and then hide it... if the dog continues to search for the toy for lets say 10 plus minutes after the toy is out of sight then thats a good healthy prey drive.

I have some video examples because I do bite work with my dogs and prey drive is one of the things we test and look for.

4 month old puppy demonstrating high prey drive

Adult dog also with a high prey drive

Dogs need drives to some level, a dog without any drives is a dog that is impossible to motivate and if you can't motivate your dog you can't train them.
 

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Niraya, I thought you would chime in :) You've got some of the best info, thank you for that!

A couple of additional questions, for anybody who can answer.....partially for clarification: You say you can see the change in focus, I know the difference in Caeda, but are there any general things you would suggest watching for....at least in terms of observing what other dogs might be about to do?
How exactly does prey drive translate into recall? I don't doubt you, but I don't quite get it (not enough coffee yet today!).
Also....what about chasing the laser, is that a prey thing, or is it "just" chase"
You're very welcome :) I try my best to help out when I can and to give any information I know!

I'll answer what I can based off of Bella since she is HIGH prey drive and is predictable in that sense that it's not something that will randomly happen because she's "super good with small animals otherwise" lol

You say you can see the change in focus, I know the difference in Caeda, but are there any general things you would suggest watching for....at least in terms of observing what other dogs might be about to do?
In situations with say rabbits in the backyard that are still - Bella tenses her entire body! She won't move a muscle. She LOCKS onto that rabbit, she gets a very intense look in her eyes and at this moment I can't call her off immediately or even break her stalk without some coaxing. She does go into a down position very slowly and will lay completely flat on the ground. Now - she's on a leash as I don't have a fenced in yard and this isn't a dog park situation or even a small animal out in the world situation. It's a still animal - but she KNOWS that that bunnie is capable of running so she stalks until I scare it off. (note: Bella no longer tries to chase rabbits from the yard because of her leash she leaps and quickly takes a few steps but will never hit the end of the leash anymore).

In an open instance where she's moving it's a bit harder to see but you can still see the changes. For instance Bella at the dog park running around. She's pretty relaxed and she trots unless she's trying to catch up to a bigger dog then she'll run but it's a relaxed run she's not alert. My friend had her 20 pound 4 month old husky mix with us at the park with Bella the other day - and Bella would trot around and not really pay any attention to the pup because he stayed with us. But if he got bold and ran after Bella she'd turn on a dime and BREAK into an all out SPRINT after him with the same intense look she gets with bunnies and he knew as soon as she turned that he was in trouble and would run back to us as fast as he could.

How exactly does prey drive translate into recall? I don't doubt you, but I don't quite get it (not enough coffee yet today!).
lol it's fine :p It's all in this statement:
A prey driven dog will chase with a great deal of focus on the object it is pursuing and a definite goal of attaining access to its target. Many of you have done chase games with both types of dogs. The prey driven dog will drive as hard as it can until it reaches you and when it does you or your toy usually gets hit like a ton of bricks.
That dogs only goal once that drive it triggered is to get you. So an example that I do with Bella: I don't even have to run to excite Bella's drive. ANY quick motion - like a juke - is enough to get her drive to chase and get me going. So - say I put Bella into a sit/stay 30 feet from me and I do a quick juke and call her as she's coming to me - she's going to break that stay and run to me and throw basically all 52 pounds of herself into me. It's a chase game and is one of the best ways to help build and solidify a recall because it teaches the dog that coming to you is a game and TONS of fun.

Also....what about chasing the laser, is that a prey thing, or is it "just" chase"
A laser for many dogs could be either prey or chase. "Chase" is a dog seeing a moving object - chasing it but doesn't have the intent to actually GET the object. Do you get what I mean? "Prey" drive is a dog that is SOLELY focused on that object with the intent to GET that object. I guess it would come down to the dogs body language in regards to determining chase or prey with the laser.

A great way to determine prey vs chase is a ball lol or even doing a chase game. A dog with high prey is going to want to GET you. If you're running that dog is going to hit you like a ton of bricks (in your case Caeda WILL hit you like a ton of bricks lol). If it was simply chase drive, she'd run after you and then run passed you, or stop when you stop - not ever really GETTING you.

In my case - if I run - Bella will chase and when I stop she's hitting me with the force of a 100 pound dog (or that's what it feels like)
 

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Prey and hunt drives are the first thing I look for in a prospective dog. They have a name for every type of drive now, but chase and prey are really the same. Most all drives are really prey, just broken down, as hundreds, fight, chase, pack, you name it.
I like to keep it simple, prey is the chase (animal, toy, anything moving), hunt is the seek (sniffing, tracking, digging), fight is the kill (bite, tug, head shaking, desire to hold on and not let go).

All of these are survival instincts, though some dogs show more than others. Some breeds have been specifically bred for little drives period, while others have been bred to intensify them. Some work more off of scent, while others more off of sight.

As far as a downside, I guess with pets it can be aggravating to have a dog wanting to chase everything, or possess every toy. It is definitely a huge benefit in detection dogs, and protection. You can easily focus that drive into fun games, that make training easy, and desire to focus unbeatable and intense.
 

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Where does prey drive end and herding instinct begin?

Are there differences in the dog's behavior to help discern between the two(without access to livestock)?
 

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As a Greyhound person, I know all about prey drive, and why white fluffies or ANY small dog that squeaks and yelps should NEVER be in the big dog area of a dog park.
 

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As a Greyhound person, I know all about prey drive, and why white fluffies or ANY small dog that squeaks and yelps should NEVER be in the big dog area of a dog park.
Foyerhawk, I know greyhounds are sight hounds. Do they use their nose at all for scenting? I have only met a few.
 

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Oh yes, they and Whippets can and have earned tracking dog titles! My Whippet "back tracks" our trail on walks all the time, nose to the ground, turning and taking the exact path we took. Dogs are so cool!
 

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Discussion Starter #18
LuckySarah, love the vids! Exemplary of Caeda's play style lol.

Niraya, you nailed it dead on, Caeda DOES hit me like a ton of bricks....that 65lbs feels like WAY more than that lol. It actually took a long time to get her out of jumping and biting during games like this. The urge is still there, and sometimes she still goes for it if she's but catches herself....she's a puppy still sorta, so I only blame her so much and consider it something to continue work on. I SO wish we had people who trained in protection sports here...she would be GREAT at it.

Prey drive is great for the recall now that I think about it, though we haven't used it as a tool as much as we should (currently adding it to the training regime!). The prey/chase drive with the laser has been our best training tool.

I find the whole subject of drive quite fascinating....loving the input everybody!
 

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I agree that prey drive and chase drive are very very similar, if not the same. Kit has a lot of prey drive, but I learned something interesting when I tried out lure coursing once:

All the sighthounds were chasing the bag until it stopped, and then they pounced on it and "killed" it, often with the result that it needed to be replaced. Kit had a different idea. She chased it with gusto, but what she was really trying to do was herd it, it was just a little too fast. She was anticipating its change of direction as it bumped along the ground. Once it stopped moving, she lost interest, which suggests chase drive.

But she definitely has plenty of prey drive too: anyone who doubts that hasn't seen her play disc or ball.
 

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My newest addition, Libby, is a 7 month old malinois. She was kept kenneled, had never played with a toy. She would chase anything, once she caught it, she would lose interest. Now she is realizing she can chew and tug this " prey" lol.
She will literally dive for the toy now, and has learned how fun a game of tug is when she brings it to me. She is learning to focus on her ball only, as we do group fetch lol. I'm not sure what top speed is for malinois, but the only dog I have seen run faster was a greyhound lol. Its pretty awesome to watch three competing for the same tennis ball hit out by the bat.
 
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