Today’s online ‘Help Me Help My Dog’ behaviour consultation was about finding a way of managing prey drive safely.
The more Coco gets the taste for running, hunting, after anything from an animal to a motorbike, the more she does it.
How can they break this hunting pattern?
They rescued three-year-old Coco eighteen months ago. She is a terrier of sorts. She looks very much like a Jagdterrier or chunky Miniature Pinscher.
A few months ago Coco ran out of a field to chase after a motorbike; another time she escaped through railings, hunting a small animal.
Wikipedia’s description of a Jagdterrier fits her perfectly: Jagdterriers were developed to be all-round hunting dogs. Though often used for quarry that dens underground, especially badger, fox and racoon. Jagdterriers are also used to drive wild boar and rabbits out of thickets, and to blood track wounded animals, such as deer. Due to their intelligence and adaptability, Jagdterriers can make good pets, but it should be remembered that they are primarily a hunting dog with a strong prey drive.
Coco is the perfect pet in the house.
They will never change her genetics.
She needs an outlet for her instincts – the opportunity to hunt, forage and flush things out of undergrowth.
However, they need to limit this to certain times and places, where it’s safe.
At home she leaps at the garden fence if she thinks there is something the other side. She lies staring out of the window waiting for a movement.
She is rehearsing and getting her kicks out of the initial stage of the prey sequence – anticipating a movement.
My advice is to block this view and to work hard on recall – using a whistle.
They can start indoors, pairing the whistle with something special like cheese. They can work up to calling her away from her wishful hunting of potential ‘prey’ the other side of their garden fence.
The more enrichment her life contains, like working for her food, ‘hunting’ for it around the garden or out of a Kong, the better. It will go towards fulfilling her instincts.
Anxious that she will run off and either cause an accident or get hurt herself, they are no longer enjoying walks. They no longer take her to her favourite places.
My belief is that she should always be on a long line – thirty feet or more. Then they can then safely take her back to her favourite hunting places where she likes to flush out animals from the undergrowth.
Meanwhile they can also work hard on recall. Coming back when whistled has to be as rewarding as chasing a rabbit and that is a very big ask!
A special ‘kill’ game
I suggest they work on a game at home that combines chase with the kill – running around with a soft tug toy that squeaks for instance. This has to be the very favourite fun game. Coco likes nothing more than to ‘kill’ something soft like a blanket!
If for some reason Coco is free and she starts running off hunting, if they catch it quickly enough they then stand a chance of getting her back with a game like that.
I also suggest they hire an enclosed dog field from time to time so she can have a good run – something that she loves.