My family rescued a high-energy dog from the local pound about a year ago and every morning I take her for a walk. Oftentimes, I let Versa off her leash so she can burn off energy, and since one of the parks we use is filled with squirrels — she usually does it by chasing them.
I was never concerned about her chasing squirrels because I assumed she would never catch one. But certain breeds, like pointers, setters and terriers are more inclined to predatory behavior as opposed to a herding, scenting or a trailing instinct. Our dog is a mix and we are uncertain of her breed. Her paperwork states she is a border collie and black lab mix, but she exhibits some of the behavior and markings of an English setter — which is a breed that tends to be predatory.
You can easily tell if your dog has a predatory instinct by how they respond to potential prey. Dogs like Versa exhibit the natural sequence for predatory behavior which is: eye, stalk, chase, grab-bite, kill-bite, dissect and consume. Although Versa did not consume the squirrel (and did not appear interested in doing it) she did carried it around for awhile before eventually hiding her prey in the woods.
Dogs that hunt and kill prey can cause issues for pet owners. It’s one thing if the dog chases and kills vermin like mice or rats, but if the behavior is targeted at the neighbor’s cat it’s an entirely different problem. If your dog has a predatory instinct and chases humans, cats, livestock or motor vehicles, you should hire a trained professional to solve the problem.
Another potential danger, if you live near a busy roadway is once your dog is engaged in the predatory sequence it may fail to notice moving traffic and could be hit by a vehicle. Of course, if your dog eats its prey, it may be exposed to disease.
Unless you are training your dog for hunting purposes, you probably want to modify the behavior. Here are a few fundamental ways to control it.
- Avoid walking your dog off-leash during dusk or dawn because this is the time most animals in a natural setting will feed and be most active.
- Keep the dog on a leash at all times so you can control where she goes.
- Train your dog to come on command and buildup the animal’s ability to respond to the command even in predatory situations.
- Teach her how to fetch. This will burn off energy making her less interested in chasing prey. Always remember a tired dog is a happy dog.