Prey Drive

By Sally Bradbury

I have a dog who is very prey driven.

Here are some of the things I did with him, and still do on occasions.

For about a three-month period after I first took him on, or at least when I discovered we had a problem, he ate all his food outdoors from my hand. He didn’t have to do anything for it except take it and eat it as I said his name excitedly and stepped back a pace or two.

We started in the garden. After a while, we went out for dinner and often went to the woods, his favourite hunting ground. He was on a long line and harness of course.

At first, I would just feed him his dinner there, but eventually I only offered him a handful of dinner when his ears pricked and he saw, smelled, or heard something. This then became the trigger to turn to me and eat. Hear a rustle, eat.

The other thing I would do was to go hunting with him, again with the long line on his harness. I would just follow on behind him and encourage him to find scents and follow them. Of course, I would never encourage him or allow him to actually frighten or harm another animal. It was just pretend hunting, but he didn’t know that.

He is also a bird chaser, so I enlisted the help of the crows. I had already taught him an awesome distant down and so, when appropriate, I would give him the OK to chase the bird as a reward for lying down. If it was not appropriate, he would return to me for a different reward, or I would collect him from his down stay.

Then there is an exercise called the predictive cue. His was ‘toy’. Every single time I threw a toy he heard the word ‘toy’. So, if I then threw a toy and didn’t say the word, but immediately threw another toy in a different
direction and did use the word, he was immediately distracted from chasing the first thing he saw moving and went for the second simply because of the power of the word ‘toy’.

Does he still chase things? Occasionally, but if I am paying attention, I can recall him straight away.

Read about Billy in the early days here