YouTube audio link: 5 minutes 45 seconds duration. https://youtu.be/yo2MTKJevwU?si=Kh2thabD4VmEaSWb
“We are all geniuses but if you judge a fish to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”
Prey drive is a fundamental behaviour for many breeds of dogs, prey drive is a simple behavioural pattern of chasing and capturing prey. Humans have selected bred dogs to still be able to hunt with the human and for the human needs but breeding out of the prey drive behaviours. (1)
There are many herding and hunting breeds who share a couch with you. Do you know and understand the heritability and genetic traits of your dog? In other words, do you know what your dog was originally bred for? Historically. Not the line from the breeder but the original reason? It's surprising how many people aren't aware.
I want to raise awareness that the dog we share our couch with is in fact a predator, a skilled hunter and has phenomenal scent detection skills. Understanding and nodding to our dogs history and the original reason for their breeding is a sign of respect and understanding of their biological needs.
Do we need to correct a behaviour or make the dog cut it out or curb the behaviour? (Shudder). No, absolutely not. We need to say: “Hey, I share my home with a predator. I may also share my home with a cat (another predator), a hedgehog (another predator), a reptile (another predator), a rabbit (prey), a mouse (prey)...
It's really important that we understand the species of the animal we share our home with. We need to understand and appreciate their behaviour. Humans get away with lots of behaviours others may find annoying, irritating, anxiety inducing or just plain unpleasant.
People are not biologically programmed to be unkind or hurtful yet many are. We cannot compare an animal to a human and apply human ideologies and expectations onto a dog or any animal we share our home with.
This very much brings Albert Einstein’s quote to mind: “We are all geniuses but if you judge a fish to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”
Ergo if we deny our dogs their species and biological needs, you're going to have one very frustrated and possibly ill dog (as illness in dogs can and is caused by stress) and one strung out and frustrated human.
Think of it this way. As much as we try to, we as professionals just cannot convince the general public dogs are not related to wolves. The scientist who said this even back tracked himself, very publicly.
Our dogs however are still predators in their own right, look at the toys we are offered. Squeaky toy. (Prey). Tug. (Prey). Giggly balls. (Prey). Kongs, Kong wobbles, giros… All prey. Soda pup, again prey. Because even enrichment meets a sequence of the prey drive sequence of the dissect and consume process.
We buy toys to meet our dogs needs, even if you do dog sports you are still illociting the behaviour for the reward at the end in many cases is a ball, a tug, something to grab and bite and depending on your style, dissect and kill. In normal food reward based training, the dog does a behaviour and possibly a behaviour sequence and is rewarded with food!
There are so many ways to work with prey drive without any aversive or compulsion based tools or unkind methods.
When your dog chases birds, rabbits, squirrels this causes them to have a dopamine rush and it doesn't matter what you say that high is euphoric and causes extreme enjoyment. Just as humans also experience. You wouldn't want to be interrupted during a high and euphoric moment either.
If your dog has no recall or you worry they will chase, use a long line, you have the freedom of the radius of the long line but ultimately your dog is safe and you are both going home without vet bills, a dog warden visit or worse.
We have lots of games and tutorials on our YouTube channel https://youtu.be/En1SGEfcmuw?si=2WGH58TJdciFYV53 you can use these resources to learn from and to train your dog. They have text to speech to help viewers and you can visit them as many times as you like.
Siniscalchi M, Bertino D, d'Ingeo S, Quaranta A. Relationship between motor laterality and aggressive behavior in sheepdogs. Symmetry. (2019) 11:233. doi: 10.3390/sym11020233
Image description: A three window comic panel which is grey. The title reads: prey drive and livestock force and fear free solutions.
The first window is of a Wolfdog chasing sheep on a country hillside. With a blue and yellow sky. The text box reads: You don't need an e collar to stop this behaviour, but a little bit of common sense and a responsibility.
The second window is of a wolfdog running in a secure dog field. With a blue sky background. There is a fence and tufts of grass growing by the fence.
The text box reads: utilise enclosed dog fields, long lines and check fields for livestock. Avoid fields with livestock.
The third bottom window is of a Wheelchair user with blonde, pink, purple ombre hair sat in a Wheelchair with a Wolfdog either side engaging with a backdrop of a sheep herd on fields with a blue sky in the distance. The text box reads: working on predation substitute training and work on stimuli which triggers a prey chase behaviour.
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