How to manage a dog with a high prey drive (proven tips)

Dog prey drive management when you are looking to tame a dog that loves to chase stuff and other animals.

Some dogs such as Belgian Malinois have a high prey drive and you may need to tame them to avoid any incidents.

When a dog has a high prey drive no squirrel, bags floating in the wind, or cats are safe. Small animals cannot have peace.

This can be a problem if you are a pet lover and have several animals such as bunnies in the house.

Taking these dogs for walks around the park and wilderness is not always fun. However, if you are in such a situation all hope is not lost because there are some ways you can train your dog to control itself.

Do not get me wrong, a high prey drive in some dogs such as the Border Collie or Airedale Terrier can be an asset.

These pooches are used for herding and hunting mostly and if they did not have this high prey drive, they would not be of any help.

This means that although high prey drive in dogs may be a nuisance to some people this is not always the case.

Dog prey drive management

About Dog prey drive management

You can train your dog to behave civilly but his instincts can always come out time and again. Nothing is foolproof.

Even the best-trained dog may have the drive to chase moving animals and moving objects.

The only thing you can do is manage this urge and control it to some extent. That said if you think that your dog’s urge to chase animals and objects is too much there are things that you need to understand.

High prey drive cannot be completely got rid of.

You first need to understand why your dog chases.

So why do dogs chase?

A drive is a natural behavior that is imprinted in your pooch’s DNA. They motivate dogs to do certain things.

Some of the most common drives are;

  • The drive to fight
  • Flight Drive
  • Pack drive
  • Prey drive

Every dog is different from the other and you cannot expect them to behave in the same way. Some have stronger drives than others and these differences are natural.

Prey drive is the instinct of a dog to capture and consume prey. It is a survival tactic that is used by most canines especially in the wild for hunting.

If your dog’s prey drive is too high the only thing that you can do is manage it. You can do all you can to keep this behavior at bay.

There is something known as a “predatory sequence” which occurs when an animal is trying to catch food and they are;

🐶Orienting is where dogs move their bodies and heads to face their prey.

🐶Eye-locking where doggos lock their eyes on their food.

🐶Stalking is where pooches try to get closer to their prey without being noticed. 

🐶Chasing is where a canine begins the process of attacking and down the prey.

🐶Grab Bite is where a dog catches the prey which is usually from the legs or rare ends. 

🐶Kill Bite is where the pooch kills the prey.

🐶Consumption and dissection. 

However, you should not confuse your dog’s aggression for a high prey drive. You need to understand that there is a difference between the two.

Dog Aggression vs high prey drive

Before you start the process of dog prey drive management you need to first make sure that is not aggression.

The key to this is to understand do behaviors. Aggression is driven by strong emotions for example fear while prey drive is an instinct and is natural.

Another difference between the two is that when a dog becomes aggressive he/she tends to keep a distance from the object they are attacking while in prey drive they tend to get closer to the target.

Dog aggression can have far-reaching consequences and at times to control it you may need the help of a professional.

Prey drive in dogs can easily be managed because there is no emotional component that you need to overcome.

So, let us look at some steps that you can take to tame a dog with a high prey drive. 

Aggression vs dog prey drive

Dog prey drive management steps(what to do)

1. Prey drive training

Your dog will first need to understand correction and rewards.

You can carry out some basic training routines such as obedience training and impulse control.

Obedience training will teach your dog the meaning of “good dog” and “No!”

These commands can then be used to train him on how to behave correctly.

If you want your dog to be well behaved then you have to put in some effort in controlling his impulses. This is because you may say that your pooch is naughty but most of the things he does are normal.

There are situations such as these that challenge your dog and you need to help him get through them.

If your furry friend does not have good impulse control then he or she does things without slowing down first to remember their training. Your dog needs to look at you before he goes chasing that squirrel.

When your canine friend is in an area that has a lot of distractions, you need to be able to manage him.

Here is how to do it.

Train him how to focus

Even time your doggo is about to chase an animal or an object he first scans the surrounding before lunging out. You need to take advantage of this and stop them before they take off.

Train him to focus on you by holding a treat between your fingers and bringing it close and between your eyes.

Once your doggie glances at the treat, reward him. You can add some verbal commands such as “focus” or “watch me” as you move the treat closer to your eyes. This will also help spice things up a bit too.

Make your dog hold your gaze for a long time and repeat the process.

As you progress, you can introduce some distractions till you are comfortable you can use the command in real environments. When your dog starts looking at prey this command is very helpful to help her snap back to focus.

Drop-down method

This method can be used when your pooch has found something that she wants to chase.

This will give time for the prey to be out of sight by breaking the dog’s focus using treats. For this to be a success, your doggo should first know how to get in the down position.

This command is useful once your dog is locked to a target and you can use it to get the pooch down.

When you do this and drop a treat between their feet, they look down at the treat and break focus from the target.



These are important for getting your pooch’s attention once they have started taking off. Before you do this your pup first needs to know the basic recall commands.

So, your main target is being able to apply the basic recall commands that you have taught him in chase situations.

To do this you will need and leash that is long enough on the harness and something to capture their attention. Throw an item away from you to capture their attention and begin a chase.

Once your pooch has initiated a chase use the recall command to get the back. If the command does not work you should give the leash a gentle tug. Once he abandons the chase and comes back to you reward him with a treat.

Do this regularly till they can turn back without second thoughts.

2. Dog prey drive management

Your pooch feels rewarded when he is allowed to go out and chase bunnies. Some of the rules that you can apply are;

  • Not allowing dogs to have free access to prey animals.
  • Always walk your dog on a leash.
  • When your pooch is in the backyard make sure that you supervise him.
  • Never leave your dog unattended with children.

Look At That(LAT) games work great on dogs that have high impulse control. These games also work great on dog aggression.

The basic idea of these games is to introduce your dog to low levels of their triggers. This can be anything from walking your pooch in an area that has squirrels or birds. Your dog gets a reward every time he looks at the trigger.

As you progress teach them to look at the trigger then look at you, then reward them.

You can start these LAT games even in the comfort of your home.

Walk your pooch in a boring area, for example, your living room using a leash. Make sure that you have a treat or his favorite treat.

Here is where your friends or kids come in handy. Have one of them walk across the room and reward your dog when he looks at them.

Humans are not dog triggers but this step is important because it helps you perfect the timing of your clicker or reward skills. Your doggie also learns to look at you every time they see something interesting.

Once you are comfortable with the first step after several repetitions you can proceed to the second step. In this step, let your pooch look at the fake trigger for about 2 seconds. You should then click and give him a treat once he looks at you.

From here you can move to a more distracting environment. If your dog has a hard time looking at you, you should go back to the second step.

dog prey drive managements

3. Walking a dog that has a high prey drive

Taking a dog that has a high prey drive for a walk can be a difficult task. However, there are several steps that you can take to ensure that walks are much easier.

Having a pre-walk play session

Letting your dog build up some energy before a walk can help decrease his urge to chase prey. This is especially if the play mimics hunting.

Here are some fun games that you can let him play;

  1. Flirt poles
  2. Fetch
  3. Chase

As redundant as it may sound this helps your dog better control his impulses.

Reward your dog for good leash manners

You should carry a treat pouch every time you are taking your, canine friend, for a walk. Give the dog treats for good leash manners such as;

  • When they make eye contact with you.
  • Walking on a loose leash
  • When they return after getting far away

This helps reinforce good leash manners and keep the dog calm as you lay down the foundation skills that he can fall back on when he thinks about lunging at prey.

Counter conditioning for dog prey drive management

Your dog has an instinct to chase prey and you may not have control over it but you can influence how he responds by using the open bar/closed bar technique.

This is a fairly easy and great technique that you can start by practicing in a secure area. It can be your backyard or a park that is fenced using a leash and well-fitted harness.

You can walk around for some time until you come across a small animal like a rabbit or bird. When your pooch takes notice of the target and does not go after the animal, you should shove a high-value treat on their faces.

Continue giving the dog these treats until the animal is out of sight.

Repeat this process daily to help increase restraint. These sessions should also be kept short and make sure that they end on a high and positive note.

Sometimes it may also be helpful to seek professional advice.


Testing your dog’s prey drive

There are a few things that you can do to test your dog’s prey drive and they are;

  • Throwing a ball to see if he is going to chase it and retrieve it. You should observe if he chases and returns the ball, doesn’t chase or chases, and walks away with the ball. He has strong retrieval abilities if he brings back the ball. But if he doesn’t bring back the ball that means that he may have a higher prey drive.
  • Running around and looking to see if your dog chases you is another great test. You should note if he nips at your shoes or pants.

Dog prey drive management summary

Being a dog owner requires you to do certain things to make sure that your pooch behaves in the best possible way.

This may mean dealing with and managing instincts such as prey drives which can be scary to some but if you follow the right steps doing this should be a walk in the park for most dog lovers.

Do you have a doggo that has a high prey drive? Follow the steps that we have given to you above and tell us how they worked for you.

Also, give us your feedback in the comment section below.

There you go WOOF!!