We need to talk about prey drive and aggression and why it’s so important to understand the difference.
When a cat kills a bird, a mouse or a lizard or anything at all, nobody blinks and eye. In fact, often you hear owners of cats bragging about what their cats have caught and how tough they are.
When a dog kills anything at all, or even chases something, everyone starts to get hysterical and demands that the dog is put to sleep because “it’s dangerous”. If I had a dollar for every time I have heard “It’s better to kill that dog, than risk having it attack a child later”.
As humans, we seem to expect dogs to never show their teeth, never growl, never chase anything and never express any discomfort at all. We punish them for exhibiting these behaviours without understanding the cause and then wonder why it goes to hell down the track.
So lets be really frank here. Some dogs chase and kill stuff just like cats do and it’s 100% natural and it does not mean that you have to euthanise the dog. Prey drive is an internal state and it’s an instinctive behaviour inbuilt in all dogs. Some dogs have a higher desire to chase and some dogs have little to no desire to chase. Prey drive is not breed specific and it is different to aggression shown towards other dogs and humans (social aggression).
Prey drive is appetitive. It’s a state of enthusiasm and strong motivation.
Social aggression is aversive.
Now I’m not saying that because prey drive is natural, that it’s desirable and I’m certainly not saying lets excuse the dog and let the behaviour continue, especially if other peoples pets are at risk. What I’m saying is, prey drive is normal, it is manageable and you can train a dog to stop reacting or redirect those instincts into something just as pleasurable for the dog- such as games.
Why is it so important to understand this? Because year after year, thousands of dogs are destroyed for exhibiting “aggressive behaviour” when it’s prey drive. Year after year, thousands of dogs are destroyed when they could be living a long and happy life in their home, in a comfortable bed. Year after year, thousands of dogs end up in landfill when they should be alive.
I am genuinely appealing to those in a position of authority, whether it be local government or dog owners, to seek the opinion of a professional dog trainer before defaulting to worst case.
Our animals depend on us to make educated decisions for them.