How to Stop Your Dog from Chasing Wildlife
Most dogs can’t resist chasing small animals on their walks. Though this is a very natural dog behavior, it can have disastrous outcomes. If your dog has a high prey drive, you are not alone. In this blog post, we will explore the reasons behind this natural instinct and provide practical tips on how to stop your dog from chasing wildlife.
Why do dogs chase wildlife?
To better understand why dogs like to chase wildlife we have to look at their wolf ancestors. As dogs share 99.9% of their DNA with wolves they still have the natural instinct to hunt and kill small animals. Though they no longer need to hunt their food, the natural prey drive to do so remains. Their brain is hard-wired to chase and catch small squeaking animals which is why they can’t resist chasing a squirrel or pouncing on a rabbit.
The dangers of dogs chasing wild animals
Even though chasing wildlife is a natural behavior for most dogs, it can come with dangers. These include:
- Getting lost: Sometimes dogs are too focused on catching their prey, they forget which way they have turned and can get lost. This can be disastrous if you are in an unfamiliar area or don’t have a GPS tracker on your dog’s collar.
- Getting injured or killed: Unfortunately, if your dog is fixated on catching a small animal, they can run in front of a car or break a bone whilst in pursuit. That’s why it’s important to not let your dog off-leash if they are close to any roads.
- Contracting diseases: Wildlife such as raccoons, foxes, skunks, feral cats, and rats can carry diseases such as rabies and leptospirosis. If your dog chases after an infected wild animal they too can catch the disease and get very sick.
How to stop your dog from chasing wildlife
Now that we have a better understanding of why our dogs chase wildlife, we can work on stopping it.
1. Channeling your dog’s prey drive
As your dog is hard-wired to chase and hunt small animals, you can channel this natural behavior away from wildlife and into other fun and safe activities.
- Squeaky toys: Most dogs love squeaky toys because the high-pitched squeak mimics an injured animal that your dog can pounce on and catch.
- Tug-of-war toys: A tug rope is pleasurable for dogs because it taps into their natural instinct to pull their prey away from another predator trying to steal their food in the wild.
- Flirt poles: These allow dogs to both chase and capture their prey.
- Fetch: Playing a game of fetch lets your dog chase their prey over a longer distance and burns off some excess energy. Automatic dog ball launchers can be good for this as they give the added excitement of not knowing when the ball is coming.
With the right training, you can better manage your dog’s prey drive to stop them from chasing after wildlife.
Knowing what body language your dog exhibits before they give chase will help you put a stop to it before it happens. Body language to look out for is:
- Walking slower, in a crouched position with their body lower to the ground.
- Eyes wide and fixated on something in the distance.
Once your dog’s body language shows they are hunting a small animal you can use certain commands to break their focus before they start to chase the animal.
Train your dog to use the “leave it” and “watch me” commands. Both commands bring your dog’s attention away from the wildlife and onto you. When their focus is brought to you, reward them with treats. This teaches your dog that leaving the wildlife alone equals delicious treats for them.
If your dog does start to chase the wildlife before you have a chance to break their focus, then it’s important they have a good recall. This will give you the peace of mind that they will return to you as soon as they hear your call.
3. Avoid areas with lots of wildlife
If you are walking in areas with lots of roaming wildlife, then it’s best to keep your dog on a leash. There may be too many distractions for your dog to stay focused on you so it’s best to keep them close by.
Instead, try to choose off-leash areas where dogs can roam freely and the wildlife already knows to avoid this area and our four-legged friends.
4. Put a bell on your dog’s collar
Finally, the last way to stop your dog from chasing wildlife is to put a bell on their collar. The ringing of the bell acts as a warning to the wildlife that something is fast approaching, giving them time to disappear before your dog can even see them.
Chasing and catching wildlife is a very natural dog behavior. However, the pursuit of these small animals can be dangerous for your dog. From running into busy roads to contracting deadly diseases, if left unchecked, your dog can be seriously injured. By having a better understanding of your dog’s natural instincts and implementing some basic training, both you and your dog can enjoy the great outdoors without frightening away the locals.