Prey Drive

Certain types of dogs were bred by humans to have a strong desire to chase. Today, this is generally referred to as “prey drive.” Most terriers and sighthounds are good examples of high prey drive breeds. For centuries, hunting alongside humans and/or keeping human resources free of vermin has been the primary job of these dogs. It has been said that human civilization as we know it wouldn’t exist without such canine work, because even just a few rodents could have destroyed our earliest agricultural pursuits. Knowing a bit about prey drive when selecting a canine companion is very important.

Prey Drive
{  A vintage painting of a Wire Fox Terrier and a Welsh Terrier chasing a rabbit  }

One of the first things Miles’ breeder told me about Welsh terriers is that they are not automatically reliable “off leash” dogs. You can’t expect them to orbit around you, at least not without some training. If you look back at the history of the breed, they were brought to the show ring circuit later than many other types of dogs, and even then were working dogs. Welsh terriers are, due to our training, on the lookout for things to chase. With their energy and enthusiasm, they can tear off after moving objects at any moment. A Welsh terrier can become so focused when chasing that they may not notice anything else, including immediate urban dangers, like moving vehicles.

Prey Drive
{ Terriers were bred to be self-directed hunters, Fuertes 1919 }

When working with a high prey drive dog, you must first respect and acknowledge what their instincts are telling them. You’ll get nowhere if you or your training mentors simply write off prey-drive behaviour as “bad behaviour.” A strong prey drive isn’t a negative thing, or a sign that a dog is “bad,” it is a part of their nature, and can even be an asset in dog sports and other tasks. Training a high prey drive dog shouldn’t be about eliminating natural urges, but rather about channeling that intense natural focus and drive into something positive. Teaching a high prey drive dog to focus and follow your lead is hard work. To do so takes effort and teamwork, but it is one of the most enjoyable aspects of living with this sort of dog. Their ingrained nature is to think for themselves — which makes every day interesting!

Prey Drive
{ Miles has a very high prey drive. He would like to chase anything that moves! }

High prey drive dogs will look for exciting things to do during their active hours, and love to run and be athletic. An ideal owner/handler/trainer/buddy of such a dog is someone who is dedicated to understanding the nature of the breed, is active and interested in activities that allow their dog(s) to exercise their athletic bodies and sharp minds. They should be prompt, patient and enthusiastic during training activities and daily routines. If you are that sort of person, you will get the most out of life with a high prey drive dog.

Article © 2012 Miles & Emma.

2 comments on Prey Drive

  • Wyatt

    Great pictures! As an owner of 2 Airedales, I know all about prey drive. Sometimes a leash walk is like water skiing behind a speed boat!

  • Pam

    Daisy's prey dirve is incredible, she is so true to her breed. Her ancestors would have been proud!!

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