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Your Dog's Prey Drive—Fact & Fantasy - By Dawn Watson, ABC Mentor Trainer & Owner of Brother of the Wolf LLC

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  Angela Peña, Director of Media and Public Relations
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  AngelaP@AnimalBehaviorCollege.com
Saturday, January 30, 2010 : 12:09:23 PM
Updated Thursday, August 18, 2011 : 9:58:42 AM
What is a prey drive? A prey drive is defined by Wikipedia as the instinctive behavior of a carnivore to pursue and capture prey. "But," you ask, "What does that have to do with Fluffy?" Answer: a lot! Whether Fluffy is a Maltese, a Puggle, or a Siberian Husky, all dogs exhibit a certain amount of instinctive prey drive!

Perhaps you've observed your dog crouched outside, looking as though he was stalking a leaf. Or, maybe Fido is tossing his favorite chew-toy up in the air and pouncing on it. That, my friends, is an exhibition of prey drive! Fido is ‘stalking' the leaf and ‘killing' the toy! Whether you believe that all dogs have descended from wolves or not your observations of your dog's behavior should tell you what you need to know.

Some folks wonder whether this instinct is breed-specific. I can only tell you what I have observed in my 35+ years of working with dogs. My personal opinion is no, this behavior is not breed-specific. However, some breeds exhibit more drive than others. I have created a small list of breeds, below; their prey drives are listed on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest inclination to capture prey:

• Pit bull or American Bull Terrier: 3
• Poodle: 3
• Beagle and Bassett hound: 4
• Chinese Crested: 5
• Greyhound, Whippet, Italian Greyhound: 5

Surprised? I'll bet! Some dogs get a really bad reputation while other, seemingly "innocent" breeds would tackle a gopher, gobble him up, and live to brag about it! So the next time Riley, Molly, or Darby begin stalking your toes think about today's column and get some shoes on, fast!