What Are the Best Training Tips for a Dog with a High Prey Drive?

If you are a dog owner, you’ve probably noticed some behaviors that are characteristic of your pet’s natural instincts. One such behavior is the prey drive, an instinctive motivation that drives dogs to chase and capture smaller animals, sometimes even inanimate objects. This is not to be mistaken for aggression, but it can lead to problematic behavior if not effectively managed.

Understanding your dog’s prey drive and learning how to control it through training can enhance your relationship with your pet. This article will discuss the nature of this innate behavior and provide tips to help you train a dog with a high prey drive.

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Understanding Prey Drive in Dogs

Before diving into training tips, it’s critical to understand what we mean by a high prey drive in dogs.

Prey drive is a natural instinct that existed in wild canines and is still prevalent in many dog breeds today. It is part of their survival instincts, where hunting for prey was necessary for survival. Dogs with a high prey drive are often attracted to small animals, such as squirrels, birds, or rabbits, and they may also chase moving objects like cars or bikes.

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This behavior can be challenging to manage, especially during walks or outdoor playtimes. Dogs with a high prey drive can be prone to pulling on the leash, running off, or even showing aggressive behavior towards other animals.

Choosing the Right Training Method

There’s a wide array of training methods available, but with dogs exhibiting a high prey drive, certain strategies seem more effective. One of the primary goals should be to keep your dog’s focus on you, thus reducing the chance of them chasing after an animal or object.

Positive Reinforcement is a powerful tool for training dogs. This method involves rewarding good behavior, making it more likely for the dog to repeat that behavior in the future. Treats, toys, or verbal praise can be used as rewards.

Another useful technique is the Leave it/Drop it command. Teaching your dog these commands can help divert their attention from potential prey and redirect it towards you.

Bear in mind that patience and consistency are key to successful training. It may take time, but with persistence, you can help your dog manage their prey drive.

Leash Training and Control

Investing time in leash training is crucial for dogs with a high prey drive. When your dog is on a leash, you have more control to keep them from bolting at the sight of a potential prey.

Start with short, regular leash training sessions in a distraction-free environment. Gradually introduce distractions, rewarding your dog for maintaining focus on you. Over time, this can help your pet to ignore distractions and listen to your commands, even in a high-distraction environment.

Remember, pulling the leash or using force can trigger your pet’s instinct to chase. So, it’s better to use the leash to guide rather than to pull or drag.

Alternative Outlets for Prey Drive

Providing alternative outlets for your dog’s prey drive can help manage their chase behavior. Activities like fetch, tug-of-war, or agility training are great ways for dogs to exercise their prey drive in a controlled environment.

Toys that move or make noise can also satisfy a dog’s urge to chase. Interactive toys, puzzle games, or even a laser pointer can keep your dog mentally stimulated and decrease their desire to chase.

Training a dog with a high prey drive to hunt for their food can also be beneficial. This can be done through puzzle feeders, food-dispensing toys, or hiding treats around the house for them to find.

Building a Strong Bond with Your Dog

Building a strong bond with your dog is one of the most effective ways to manage a high prey drive. A trusting relationship can make your pet more receptive to your commands, helping you to guide their behavior.

Regular playtimes, walks, and training sessions are great opportunities to strengthen your bond with your pet. Not only will these activities help to drain your dog’s energy and decrease their prey drive, but they will also help your dog to associate fun and positive experiences with obeying your commands.

In summary, training a dog with a high prey drive can be challenging, but with patience, consistency, and love, it’s possible to manage this behavior. Understanding your dog’s instincts, choosing the right training methods, leash control, providing alternative outlets for prey drive, and building a strong bond with your pet are all key components of successful training.

Behavioral Adjustment Training (BAT)

Behavioral Adjustment Training (BAT) is another effective method used to train dogs with a high prey drive. This approach is aimed at teaching dogs new ways to deal with triggers that instigate their chasing impulse. BAT makes use of environmental rewards to shape your dog’s behavior in a positive direction.

The first step of BAT is to identify the triggers that escalate your dog’s prey drive. It could be a fast-moving object, like a car or a small animal like a squirrel or bird. Once you have identified the stimuli, you gradually expose your dog to them, creating controlled situations where your dog has the opportunity to choose a more desirable behavior over chasing.

During these controlled exposures, it’s vital to let your dog explore and respond to the situation, guiding them gently towards the proper reaction. When your dog chooses not to chase, reward them with praise or a treat. This way, you’re teaching them that not giving into the chase can result in a valuable reward.

BAT can be a time-consuming and patience-testing process, but it’s crucial to remember that it’s a gradual method. You’re helping your dog to manage an instinctive behavior, which takes time and requires consistency. Stay calm and patient, trust in the process, and your dog will eventually learn to control their intense impulse to chase.

Seeking Professional Help

If you’re struggling with training a dog with a high prey drive, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Certified dog trainers and behaviorists are equipped with the knowledge and skills to handle dogs with such behavior.

A professional dog trainer can personalized the training plan according to your dog’s specific needs, behaviors, and triggers. They can also provide invaluable advice on how to reinforce the training at home and during walks. Remember, every dog is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Hence, a customized approach is often the best solution.

Professional trainers also provide the added benefit of socializing your dog with others. This can be an excellent way to divert your dog’s attention from chasing to interacting with other dogs in a controlled environment.


A dog with a high prey drive can pose challenges to even the most experienced dog owners. However, with understanding, patience, and the use of appropriate training methods, it’s possible to manage this instinctive behavior. Training techniques such as positive reinforcement, leash training, BAT, and providing alternative outlets for your dog’s prey drive can significantly help in curbing their chase instinct.

Building a strong bond with your dog is equally important. A relationship based on trust and mutual respect can make your pet more receptive to your guidance. And if things get too challenging, remember that professional help is always available.

In conclusion, training a dog with a high prey drive is a journey. It may be lengthy and require a good deal of effort, but the end result of having a well-behaved, obedient companion is absolutely worth it.