If you have a dog that chases anything that moves, you have a big problem as soon as you open your front gate. it never fails to amaze me that owners are amazed that a dog in hot pursuit of an object won’t listen to them, even though the dog is so trained in so many other areas of its life.
If you are wondering why the kelpie is the image on this article, its because working dogs desire to round up animals makes them one of the most excited chase dogs of ALL breeds !
The prey drive and your dog
You probably know the reality that dogs evolved from wolves only about 20 odd thousand years ago. A blip on the evolution radar.
You know that there are big scary guard dogs, and attack dogs, dogs made for fighting, all evolved by man. These dogs are trained to want to kill things or at least rip into them and detain them. These dogs being aggressive should be no surprise and people are usually lucky not to come into contact with these kinds of dogs regularly.
it is hard for me to hate these dogs, as man evolved them, and other men train them to be viscous. I don’t hate the dog (the player) I hate the game (men and women who do the training).
Things you should know before you launch head long into training.
The wolf is the perfect apex hunter in many of its environments – its the biggest carnivore out there, they use stealth and the cooperation of the pack to efficiently hunt animals down. They do so mostly for a food source and survival, not for a game. Pup wolves are taught games that train them in the basics of the hunt (like every other animal that hunts) but when they become an adult they take their job seriously and don’t hunt for sport or fun.
Why some dogs make better chasers than a wolf
While the wolf puts the whole hunt game together (in seven major steps) most dogs on the world were created to excel in only a few of the steps. This means that their athletic ability and brain space could actually get as good and better than the wolf in their specialist hunt activities, while they became quite substandard at the ones that they were not evolved to excel at.
For instance a sight hound is excellent at spotting an animal far away and chasing after it at high speed. It is very poor at stalking (but does not need be) and is very poor at the kill stage, unless the prey is small like a rabbit. They often don’t hunt as a pack either, unlike the wolf the perfect communicator.
AND this is why the hunting dog group (usually retrievers and spaniels) are often complained about most by their domestic owners for their prey drive and willingness to seemingly chase down anything.
The hunting dogs are specialized in little niches, all the way from following a ground or air scent, to chasing after prey or a fallen bird, and then finally retrieving or killing (depending on the breed and the training and the prey.
And ironically retrievers often make the most beautiful loving, forgiving dogs owned by urban enthusiasts. Great with kids and other pets like cats (but often not good with neighbors cats).
What the early breeders of these dogs did is select them specifically for their innate great hunting or chasing skills then breed several of the best of these dog breeds with these skills together then continually refine the breed at one or two tasks.
Can you understand how it drives your dog wild not to pursue prey? That is their job, their evolution and what they get the most satisfaction from.
THAT is why it is hard for you to work against ‘nature’.
The next article looks at how you can work WITH your dog to persuade them that there are better options for them ..