Back to Behaviour

Strong Prey Drive

A domesticated dog with a strong prey drive can wreak havoc on your neighbourhood. The fixation on movement and noise is what we classify as a deep routed inherent trait … not a learned behaviour. This is typically seen in, but not limited to, guarding breeds.

Whether your dog chases a squirrel or catches a bird mid-flight, he is likely prone to ignore his basic obedience.

As all dogs encompass the genetic makeup of a wolf, it is essential that we minimize these behaviours through exemplary breeding programs.

Whether your dog chases a squirrel or catches a bird mid-flight, he is likely prone to ignore his basic obedience. This dangerous habit can lead to serious injury or even death of your dog. Getting hit by a car or getting lost in the woods are all too common for a dog with an uncontrolled prey drive.

We seek out this intense drive in working dogs, which is why some of the best police dogs make the worst family pets! It takes months of training and sometimes hard correction before a working dog is reliable. This amount of rehabilitation and work doesn’t usually appeal to the average family.

It must feel like danger lurks around every corner when your Golden has a compulsion to chase stuff. This may already be evident to you and your sore shoulder. Being unprepared for a sudden jolt can leave you either in great pain or empty handed. The power of a retriever is often too overwhelming for women, children, and the elderly! So for better control and safe handling, a head halter is recommended.

You have a few options to control this undesirable trait:

  • Obedience would require lots of repetition and set-ups to create the reliability you need, which means your goal is perfection.
  • Desensitization would also be time consuming and it’s difficult to recreate every possible scenario. So this would be best suited for dogs that are only focused on single items such as vacuums, bikes or the family cat!
  • Counter-conditioning usually requires an equal positive or negative stimulus, which means you need to find something the dog likes as much (or worse than) the items he is chasing. This technique can also be used with clicker-training.

Regardless of which technique you choose, the safety of your dog and those at risk must be properly supervised. Accidents can happen at any time, so it is necessary to always evaluate the risks and be prepared for the worst. It would be a bit embarrassing to walk a Golden Retriever with a muzzle but the guilt and liability of his actions are on your shoulders.