Prey drive; we've all heard it, what exactly is it?
Prey drive - is the instinctive behavior of a carnivore to pursue and capture prey.
Okay so that's where it started; but it has gone in many varied directions. Hunting dogs have been bred to retrieve downed birds without destroying them. Herding dogs have been specifically bred to round up animals without attacking them but having a very tough persona so they can control animals many times larger than themselves and some dogs have been basically stripped of their prey drive.
Not all prey drive ends in killing; often the drive is simply to chase, which is common in many dogs nowadays. When I temperament test puppies; one of the tests is designed to test drive. A test designed to assess the natural desire to chase in a puppy. Most average pet owners will not want a dog with a high drive; it can be a bad thing if you work long days and don't have a lot of time to spend exercising and satisfying the drive in your dog.
My girl Tilley was not tested;had she been she would have no doubt scored off the charts. Just yesterday I had her and Jessie at the school near by. We wandered the different fields; slow and steady. On our way back to the car we passed through a parking lot when a rabbit darted out; ran in front of us and up a hill. Tilley immediately flew into action; I yelled LEAVE IT. Being that she is 13 years old with Vestibular disease I didn't want her hurting herself. She stopped in her tracks; thought for a moment and gave me the finger. This is very out of character for Tilley; the ignoring me part that is. As the parking lot was fully fenced I decided to let her go for it; she ran a crooked full speed after the rabbit and up the very steep hill. It was then that I worried she might just fall down the hill; but luckily she managed her way down and was one very happy old gal.
Over the years I have worked very hard at keeping Tilley's drive under control. And it was at times extremely difficult; her drive to chase is unbelievable. After successfully transferring some of that drive onto objects like balls and frisbees it was much easier to control. Many dogs find obsessive outlets for their extreme drive; Tilley found shadows. Other dogs obsess over squirrels, cars or even bicycles. If you have a high drive dog you must find an outlet for it.
Many breeds have been bred with high drive so you can weed those out if you are not looking for drive. A couple of high drive breeds are Labradors, Border Collies, Kelpies, Sight hounds, Malinois and German Shepherds. Over years of careful breeding; many dogs have almost lost their drive completely. These are the dogs bred more for companionship; the ones that won't leave your side because a rabbit just ran by. But as I said; each litter contains different drives in each puppy. Jessie also has a high drive but hers is driven by the catch and kill; she really isn't into the chase so much. It is almost like she has no control over it; no thinking involved. She sees movement and it triggers her to run. Now at 14 it is far less only because she cannot see movement like she use to.
Drive is not lowered by age; it can only be controlled by training and management. If you have a high drive dog then you need to find an activity to redirect that drive. Agility, flyball, herding, frisbee or field trials are just a few of the outlet activities. The higher the drive the more work it is to control. If you are interested in participating in many sports and activities with your canine then you will want a certain degree of drive. Some dogs have no drive at all; preferring to spend much of their time watching sports.
Many people who I have talked to purchased their dog from working lines; thinking that they didn't want a show dog. Working lines have drive; these dogs are bred with more drive than the average dog because they are meant to work. You should be very aware of this when you go looking at a litter who's Dam and Sire are field champions. Field champion = drive.
I prefer to use the term drive instead of the more historic term prey drive. With human intervention much of it has just become a desire to to chase; with no kill requirement. Drive can pop up in a litter of non drive type dogs; but in general it follows certain breeds and lines. Unlike color or ear set; drive is something that will influence your life, it is important to understand it.