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High Prey Drive Hiking Dogs

This is a topic we can relate to very well with our own dog, Rylee. A question we get often is, "How do I hike with a dog who has high prey drive and keep them trained and listening to me at all times?" We have lots of experience when it comes to training dogs with high prey drive, typically are not food motivated, and how to manage their hunting instincts while out on the trail.

While there's no "cure" to eliminate a dog's prey drive, their behavior shouldn't be seen as a negative quality. Instead of disciplining the dog to put an end to the chase, those of you who have dogs with high prey drives should learn to manage and redirect the behavior.

Tips on managing high prey drive:

  1. Keep your dog on leash. When your dog is off leash there's no way to control the situation. If you know your dog can't resist the chase, being off leash for them is never a good idea. Only let them loose after having done recall training and it's 100% reliable.

  2. Focus on redirection. They key to successful redirection is getting the dog's attention before or soon after they notice something worth chasing. You want to send the message that paying attention to you is much more rewarding than going on a chase.

  3. Know your dog's "triggers". You'll know your dog has locked on their prey when they stop moving and become still. Some dogs stalk their prey moving slowly and low to the ground, but others skip this step and burst immediately into chasing. If you notice any of these behaviors in your dog, work on redirecting their attention.

Watch your dog's tail and ears as well, this can be a huge indicator if they are zeroed in or looking for something to chase. If their tail is straight up, they are on alert and looking for something to go after, if your dog is relaxed their tail will hang naturally down or in the middle of tucked and being straight up.

4. Satisfy their urge in a controlled setting. There are several games you can play with your dog that mimic the chase. Flirt poles, frisbees, and fetch are all great ways to get out that chase energy your dog has. While you're playing the games take the opportunity to teach your dog self control. Establish cues for when it's time to start playing and when it's time to stop.

If you're ever in a real-life situation when your dog is about to chase live prey, use the cues to hone their instincts and get their attention back on you.

5. Finally focus on impulse control. Dogs won't stop to think or listen to a command unless you teach them how and practice the skill on a regular basis. You can help your dog learn to control their impulses with specific training lessons. Commands like stay, leave it, watch me, and place, all practice impulse control.

With the right training and constancy we are confident you will be able to have fun, stress free hikes with your dog. Don't get discouraged if they make mistakes and slip up from time to time, stay diligent with the training. Our dog Rylee took a good year of repetitive training and exposure to completely ignore chasing and now all she does is point and instead if running after whatever she is signaling too she now runs to us when we give her "leave it" command, waiting for us to throw her ball to chase or give her a high value treat for a reward. Every dog is different and reacts to training differently so find what works for you and your dog and have fun with it!

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