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We noticed that, out of the blue, one of our regular doggie outing pups started disappearing during hikes to chase squirrels up trees and other critters in the brush. After talking to his owners, we learned that they had started yelling “Squirrel!” to enjoy watching their mighty little hunter fly through the air in pursuit of the kill.
While being hugely entertaining, they were inadvertently teaching their Jack Russell Terrier to disregard human leadership in favor of his prey drive. Working together, we refocused this little guy on ball launches and replaced the squirrel pursuit. With his prey drive suppressed, he once again became a safe little follower in our pack.
The Canine Prey/Predator Drive is the dog's natural hunting and killing instinct for chasing a moving object, grabbing it in the dog's jaws, and shaking it once it is caught until movement ceases (to its death). It starts in a puppy as early as 6 weeks old, and is easy to see and understand in dogs. Puppies exhibit prey drive when they chase a ball, or play tug of war with your pant leg. When you see a dog chasing a squirrel, cat or flying disc, you see that dog’s prey drive in action.
A dog in the prey drive feels comfortable and unthreatened, enjoying his exciting ball chasing or tug of war game. His body is alert, tail is wagging and up, and there are no “raised hackles” (hair up on the dog’s back). Any barks are high pitched and insistent, but not nervous or stressed. As the dog becomes tired, his prey drive wanes in favor of a relaxed afternoon nap.
When you are attempting to take your shoe, your glasses, or a bacon shaped treat from your dog's mouth, simply grasp the end sticking out of Fido's mouth and hold it steady without moving, tugging, shaking or pulling. Once your pup senses the object is "dead," the instinct for continuing to "kill" the object wanes and interest ceases (unless the treat is really delicious!).
These toys serve to strengthen a dog's jaws which are his weapon. And he quickly learns that he is stronger than you which erodes your leadership stature.
Dogs playing tug of war together are warming up for a fight. This game makes them over-excited which is not the play you ever want for any dog.
At a primal level, dog and man relate as natural predators and hunters. Now in our urban settings, it is best to give our domesticated dogs playful activities which resemble but safely replace hunting. We would prefer that our dogs chase and chew on a hard rubber ball instead of running across a busy street to kill a rat or squirrel.