Aggression Part 8: Predatory Aggression

16 03 2009

dog-chasing-carMany dogs have a natural instinct to chase something.  Those triggers are usually activated by some fast, unexpected movement, like a bicycle, a cat, or even a car.   All dogs, regardless of how sweet they can be, are capable of predatory aggression.  Training when he or she is young will help you to control this natural instinct.  Unfortunately, if they are successful at chasing down and killing their prey early in their lives, the habit can be extremely hard to break.  As evidenced by their wild canine cousins, wolves, dogs are predators.  Many generations of domestication, selective breeding, and training have dramatically reduced their predatory instincts.Predatory aggression is the most serious type of aggressive behavior, because the ultimate goal of the predator is to kill their prey.  When dogs engage in predatory aggression, it is typically focused on different animal species, like cats or squirrels.  Sometimes, due to their small stature, it can be directed at children.  This is one of the reasons that it is very important that dogs be socialized at a young age with cats, rabbits and and other animals they may encounter.  This socialization early on can curb their instinct, the desire to kill.

If your dog is already showing signs of predatory aggression, it may be very difficult to overcome.  Often, these dogs require constant confinement and very close supervision during times that they are not confined.  Other methods, such as severe punishment or electronic collar training, can be used to control predatory aggression, but these methods should only be used under the supervision of professional trainers.  For dogs that do not respond positively to the training and treatments above, euthanasia is often the end result for dogs possessing predatory aggression.

I suggest that you not encourage a young puppy to participate in games that require them to chase you, as this can cancel out socialization efforts, resulting in a problem with predatory aggression.  Having two human nieces, I know that children like to play games like “hide and seek” or “tag” with dogs, which can ultimately lead to a game of chase, but this should be discouraged.  Children play these games for fun, but dogs may be playing a more deadly version of the game.

Oftentimes, dogs will stalk their prey, which is also an indicator of predatory aggression.  If you see your dog sneaking around trying to catch the cat, squirrel, or small child, you should give him a LEAVE IT command and make sure that he does, in fact, LEAVE IT.



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