It can be surprising to see our beloved pets show behaviors that remind us of their wild ancestors. Whether it’s stalking birds, chasing deer, or catching small critters like rabbits and squirrels, these actions highlight the deep-rooted instincts still present in our domestic dogs.
Interestingly, many activities we enjoy with our dogs, such as fetching, playing tug-of-war, and even tearing apart toys, stem from this natural prey drive. While these behaviors can be exciting for dogs, they might pose challenges for their owners.
Let’s dive into understanding what it means for a dog to have a high prey drive, featuring 9 breeds known for exhibiting these intense instincts.
What Is a High Prey Drive Dog?
Prey drive is a dog’s instinct to hunt, chase, and catch. It’s handy for dogs in jobs like herding, hunting, or keeping pests away. Dogs with a high prey drive love to chase anything that moves, from birds to leaves.
They’re smart and full of energy, but they need activities to keep them busy, or they might become too much to handle. A high prey drive is a natural instinct in dogs, not a behavior that can be eliminated through training.
Instead of trying to suppress this drive, the goal should be to find safe and harmless ways for your dog to express it, ensuring they don’t harm other animals. There are many effective strategies to channel this energy positively.
It’s important to manage this instinct carefully to avoid your dog being seen as “vicious” by neighbors or others in your community.
Breeds of Dogs With the Highest Prey Drive
Meet the breeds with an unstoppable spirit! Discover dogs with a high prey drive, born hunters at heart, and always on the move.
1. American Staffordshire Terrier
The American Staffordshire Terrier, affectionately called Staffies or AmStaffs, combines loyalty, love, and bravery in one muscular package. Despite their formidable look, they are surprisingly gentle and patient with their families. True to their terrier roots, AmStaffs possess a strong prey drive, making them a breed to watch closely around smaller pets.
Not a breed for first-time owners, AmStaffs require a committed hand and understanding of their needs. If considering this breed, it’s crucial to do thorough research and find a reputable breeder focused on enhancing the breed’s qualities.
Rottweilers, known for their imposing size, often evoke a sense of caution. They are excellent protectors of homes and yards and can be great companions in families with older children. However, their high prey drive means they might chase anything that moves quickly, including small pets and young kids, so they should always be watched carefully in such situations.
While they are protective and territorial—traits that make them outstanding guard dogs—their tendency to be occasionally moody and bite, if provoked, is a concern, especially around children.
Given their size and chase instinct, managing them on walks can also be challenging, making them more suited for experienced dog owners.
3. Siberian Husky
Siberian Huskies are beloved for their playful and affectionate nature, along with their patience with kids, making them fantastic family pets. However, they’re not the best choice for guard dogs due to their friendly demeanor.
Originally bred for sled pulling, Huskies have a strong work ethic and enjoy being active and engaged. Whether bred for work or companionship, they share a common trait: a strong desire to pull and a high prey drive.
This drive is a remnant of their history in harsh environments, where hunting was crucial for survival. Their high prey drive is a testament to their adaptability and resilience.
4. Border Collie
Border Collies are energetic and playful dogs known for their remarkable herding skills despite their medium size. They possess an intense focus and determination, always eager to complete any task or challenge set before them.
Border Collie requires ample exercise, playtime, and open space, making them well-suited for farm life. Their courage and alertness also make them excellent guard dogs.
However, their strong prey drive and tendency to fixate can make walking around small animals a challenge. As family pets, they’re loving and protective but may instinctively try to herd children or cats, which can include unwanted nipping. This behavior stems from their herding instinct rather than aggression, yet it’s something to be mindful of in a home setting.
Greyhound is celebrated for its remarkable speed and acute vision, qualities that make it exceptionally suited for hunting in vast, open terrains. With their ability to visually track and swiftly catch prey, these dogs excel in environments that demand rapid pursuit rather than stealth.
Originally bred to chase wildlife such as foxes and rabbits, they have a natural inclination to run after fast-moving objects.
While they make wonderful family pets, offering loyalty and companionship, they require ample playtime and exercise to stay happy and healthy. These sighthounds are not inherently aggressive, but their strong instinct to chase can make walks challenging in areas populated with squirrels, rabbits, or neighborhood cats.
6. Rhodesian Ridgeback
Rhodesian Ridgebacks, originally bred for hunting lions and other large game in Africa, possess a powerful hunting instinct and a keen tracking ability. These strong and sometimes formidable dogs can present challenges during walks or playtime due to their high prey drive, viewing small animals as potential targets for pursuit.
While Ridgebacks can integrate well into family life, they are ideally suited to households with older children and without small pets due to their robust nature and hunting tendencies.
It’s important to keep them leashed or in a secure area to prevent them from chasing after neighborhood cats or other animals, ensuring their safety and that of others.
7. Pit Bull Terrier
Pitbull terriers often face misunderstanding and fear due to their high prey drive, leading them to be territorial and chase smaller animals or even children, contributing to an unfair reputation. Despite this, they can be incredibly affectionate and relaxed pets, perfect for snuggling.
They’re best suited for homes without young children or cats, as unfamiliar sounds and smells can trigger their hunting instincts. In the wrong hands, pit bulls can become dangerous, but it’s important to remember that no dog inherently desires to fight.
Given proper care, companionship, and exercise, pit bulls can be wonderful, loyal friends.
8. Australian Cattle Dog
Australian cattle dogs are energetic and dedicated workers, thriving on having tasks to perform. Without enough stimulation, they can become bored and destructive.
These dogs are not naturally aggressive towards humans but may exhibit herding behaviors, such as nipping, especially towards small children they might see as part of their “flock” to manage.
While they’re less likely to try herding if raised alongside children and cats from puppyhood, their strong prey drive remains, making them prone to chasing small animals during walks. Understanding and catering to their need for activity and engagement is key to a harmonious relationship with these intelligent and active dogs.
9. German Shepherd
German Shepherds make excellent family pets when properly trained, forming strong bonds with their owners and showing a protective streak, especially towards children. Their protective nature also makes them great companions for outdoor activities.
However, their high prey drive means they might chase anything that runs, seeing it as a playful act. This instinct is why they excel as police and guard dogs.
To prevent any potential issues, it’s advisable to raise them from puppyhood alongside children and cats, ensuring they grow accustomed to their family members and household pets.
Certain breeds, including hunting dogs and terrier breeds, are known for their very high prey drive, a trait deeply embedded in their DNA. These high-prey drive dogs, some originally bred to hunt lions, exhibit a modified prey drive that focuses their instincts on catching prey, whether for sport or survival.
Different breeds display this instinct in various ways, from chasing a prey animal to engaging in activities that mimic the act of hunting.
Understanding these instincts is crucial for managing and providing proper outlets for their energy, ensuring these dogs can lead balanced lives while honoring their heritage as breeds bred to hunt.