Having Huskies myself and clients with Huskies I am often asked why Huskies like to hunt small animals. Huskies are not the only breed that falls into this category though. Border Collies, Jack Russels and a few others are also well known for this characteristic.
Huskies are not hunting dogs like Spaniels and many other breeds, but they do have a very high prey drive. What is prey drive? Drive means that the dog has an instinctive tendency to catch or chase small animals or even toys. This behaviour can be used if redirected to do great in sports like agility.
Prey drive - is different from your typical aggression. Prey drive is usually not aimed at the same specie. It could occasionally if the same specie is a lot smaller and runs away. A dog with a high prey drive usually has a lot of skill to stalk and chase his prey. It is often used for food gathering. This is not aggression. Aggression; without getting into aggression in this news letter, is usually based on fear as a result of something in the dogs environment that triggers the behaviour. However if your dog ever kills another living being and the case goes to court it is likely not to matter whether it is aggression, predatory drift or prey drive. It will be classified as aggression. But in the dog training world we know the difference and it helps us to modify the dogs behaviour.
The same as with prey drive predatory drift is also an action pattern. This is different from a behaviour trait specific to your dog which makes the behaviour a little harder to modify than a behaviour trait. Most play behavior revolves around normal hunting behaviors – stalking, chasing, etc. Predatory drift often begins as normal play, and something triggers the larger dog and he drifts over into predation. This can happen to any dog and does not take lots of planning. It can happen when play gets out of hand like when a small dog is constantly chased by a larger dog or the play gets to rough.
The reason predatory drift is so dangerous is because it often happens between dogs that have a great size difference. The size difference can result in death almost instantly.
Dogs with a high prey drive can be screened for passed behaviour letting us know that the dog has a high prey drive where as predatory drift can happen to any dog. Dogs that have never shown any predatory inclinations or aggression to other dogs and even dogs that have been good buddies for a long time. And, it happens in an instant and is generally not preventable.
Things that typically trigger predatory drift are running dogs, injured or struggling dogs, squealing dogs and any situation where there’s a big size differential. Because of the risk to small dogs, dog parks and day cares NEED a set up for play areas specifically for small dogs. If you are an owner of a small dog, it’s important to be aware of this behavior and take steps to protect your dog from potential injury or death.
Then you also get Social Facilitation. Social facilitation - is when one dog copies what another dog is doing. This is not always a negative behaviour but can be when two dogs start to gang up against another dog usually smaller dog while in play. Due to social facilitation and then end up injuring or even killing the third dog. None of these 3 behaviours fall under aggression.
A dog that attacks another dog walking past on a lead or a dog jumping over a wall to get to another dog to kill or injure him will fall under aggression. A dog that protects his toys or food when another dog comes closer, that would fall under a category of aggression.
It is not to say that if your dog is not aggressive that he is not able to seriously injure or kill another dog or animal. It is our responsibility as pet dog owners not to let our dogs off lead in suburban areas if you know he has a high prey drive. He can easily chase and kill a cat running by. Even your non aggressive dog can go into predatory drift or be part of social facilitation. It is our responsibility to intervene when our dogs play and it seems like it is getting to rough.
If you see that the roles in play are never changing then do a time out with your dog. If your dog is constantly being chased or your dog is constantly chasing another dog do a time out.
A time out is just a few seconds of you collecting your dog and keeping him either with you or in an area that is not reinforcing to your dog. This way he will learn that when he does that certain behaviour you always make his fun stop. It also gives the dog time to calm down. Dogs should happily change rolls. The more confidant dog should be happy to be lower then the less confidant dog. Both dogs should be happy to chase each other. Dogs should not corner each other or push each other down to the ground and holding them there. These are just a few examples.
Be a responsible pet owner by not just providing your dog with food and water but remembering to keep your dog and other dogs safe.
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