Dogs with High Prey Drive, and How to Contain Them

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Tips for Pet-Proofing your Yard

Different dogs have different challenges, and containment is a big one! Prey-drive is one reason, among many, that dogs may escape. Which is why many owners of prey-driven dogs are so happy to discover SpotOn GPS containment. For Toni, one of our early SpotOn users, life with her German Shorthaired Pointer before SpotOn could be summed up in one word: stressful.

SpotOn pet-proofing yard

‘Finn has a high prey drive, she absolutely hates chipmunks, they are her nemesis. One day at home she spotted one across the street and took off, she ran across the road and my heart stopped. Anywhere we go, if there are chipmunks, I know she would run after it and I might lose her, or she might get hit by a car. My goal was to find some kind of containment system to keep her in an area so she wouldn’t chase the chipmunks, unfortunately there didn’t seem to be anything out there, so poor Finn was leashed if I couldn’t keep her contained via a fence or I used an e-collar which didn’t offer the ability to track if she got lost and wasn’t always reliable.’ - Toni P.

Since SpotOn, Toni’s relationship with Finn has changed; ‘I feel like we have both grown and built trust and independence together. Our last camping trip was a big success, she had freedom to move around and do what she wanted as long as I could see her.’  Read more about Finn’s story.

Most dogs have some level of prey drive, and moving small creatures are hard to resist for almost any dog. Beyond the irresistible squirrel chase, lesser prey-drive dogs will often express and burn off their prey drive through forms of play, such as chasing balls or thrashing around their toys (including de-stuffing their stuffed animals)!

But there are certain breeds known for their high prey drive, based on their genetics and what they were originally bred to do. So the drive to hunt generally manifests itself in different ways within different breeds.


SpotOn pet-proofing yard

If you’ve got a high prey-drive pup, you’re likely acutely aware of their strong tendency to chase their prey. From squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, rodents and deer (to name a few), if they see it, the hunt is on!  And part of the stimulus to chase is the scent, which is why your dog will likely stay focused on the tree long after the squirrel or chipmunk has scurried up to safety.

Not surprisingly, dogs with a high prey drive don’t usually make a good addition to the family if you already have small animals at home (cats, rabbits, hamsters, etc.). There are exceptions of course based on the dog, and in certain cases if they’ve been raised together since they were young it may work, but it’s a risk and not generally advised.

Another big challenge for these breeds can be containing them, especially given the danger of chasing an animal across the street or into other dangerous situations.

A physical fence is one way to contain these dogs, but may not be the best solution. There are ways out of a physical fence - including jumping, climbing, digging, or finding a weak spot or small opening in the fence. And a physical fence does not require training your dog to address this (ingrained) hunt and chase behavior. And if your dog does escape from a physical fence, you may not know it, particularly if you have a large yard where your dog is not always visible.

Another solution is a GPS dog fence like SpotOn. With SpotOn, your dog is trained to understand and respect the boundaries, rather than just put outside behind a physical fence without training. A GPS dog fence does require training. But once your dog learns the system boundary cues (2 tones, vibration and an optional static correction), he or she will understand the boundaries wherever you go, since they are trained to the tones, not the specific fence or landmarks. This means that you can take SpotOn GPS Fence with you when you travel - whether camping, beach-bound, visiting friends & family, or if you move-- trust us, all the squirrels will thank you!

Plus, you can keep tabs on your dog with the app, and if he or she does escape, you get a notification and tracking kicks in (updated every 6 seconds), so you can locate and retrieve your dog. With a physical fence, you may not know if your dog has escaped, particularly on large properties.

“We love our collar because our dog was a runner and could be a mile away after critters in a heartbeat. He responds beautifully to the warning tones, so static correction is very rare.” – Belinda J.

The key however, and why SpotOn GPS Fence can work to contain your dog is that it requires training. And any training is a learned behavior. Which is why we don’t recommend SpotOn for puppies under 6 months old, as training to the SpotOn system (or any wireless system), should build on basic, established training and obedience. Like kids, puppies don't usually have the necessary maturity or focus at that early stage.

“In all aspects of training, you must take it in baby steps and crawl, walk and then run. There are no shortcuts in dog training. Dogs learn through association and with repetition and consistency. Training sessions need to be fun for the dog, because your dog initially sees this training activity as a game where they are being rewarded with treats, praise or toys for playing by the rules.

Through repetition and consistency, your dog will learn that the tone means return to the safe zone every time, even with distractions present. Remember, if your dog experiences any difficulty, take a few steps back in their training to find a distraction they consistently succeeded with and start reintroducing higher level distractions. The key is to build distractions slowly and end every training session on a positive note. Train, test, proof and repeat!” - Rick Alto, ExFed Dog Training

Here are some prey-driven pup success stories from SpotOn customers: Like Toni, in addition to successfully containing their dog while giving them room to roam, we’ve also heard that the experience of using SpotOn— including the required training— has translated to a more well behaved dog overall, and in doing so improved their relationship.

Any dog behavior really boils down to understanding your dog’s instinct, and training to curb that instinct if it poses a threat. If you look into the history of your dog’s breed, you can get an understanding of your dog’s behavior- including prey-drive. You can read more about how this behavior boils down to 3 factors (working instinct, cognition & biddability) in our All About Breed three-part series. 

If you’re wondering what dogs have a high prey drive, check out this list.


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