Dog Training

How to Manage Prey Drive in Dogs

It's not uncommon to see a dog chasing a rabbit without a second thought: it's in their blood. However, to improve as an owner, you might want to learn how to manage prey drive in dogs to raise yours properly.

Anti-hunting training doesn't necessarily mean to erase one's prey drive because hunting instincts cannot be trained out of your dog. But, through obedience exercises and bonding, it is possible to let them hunt in a controlled way. How to manage prey drive in dogs has a one goal: to teach your pet there are things more interesting than fleeing rabbits, cats or deers.

Anti-hunting training
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The Dog Is a Natural Predator

Hunting is in the dog's blood. Some dogs are so focused on their prey that they no longer perceive anything else. They no longer respond to any call or whistling. If this is your situation, you are at risk. Their enthusiasm can get the better of them:

  • Your dog puts themselves in danger when they run across a busy street. 
  • They endanger people in doing so, too.
  • The animal being hunted runs away to the point of exhaustion. Even if your dog doesn't catch it in the end, it may die of a heart attack.
Hunting is genetically fixed: you cannot train your dog not to hunt. However, if you know how to manage prey drive in dogs, you can redirect your pet's energy and control their hunting behavior. 


In a way, you allow your pet to follow their natural instinct as long as they respect your rules.

Where Do Hunting Instincts Come From?


Hunting behavior in dogs is genetically transmitted to them. We have to thank wolves for that. 

Wild wolves feed on prey animals. Some dogs do not react at all to field hares hopping by. However, others immediately run at the wild animals. 

How strong the hunting instinct is depends on the breed of dog, among other things.

Breeds With High Prey Drive

Certain breeds were bred specifically for hunting. These include the Basset, Beagle, Dachshund and Terrier breeds. Supposedly, it is in their blood to stalk, hunt and get wild animals.

 Nevertheless, other dog breeds don't display such a strong prey drive.

Unfortunately, dogs without any hunting instincts don't exist!

Why Dogs Like Chasing Prey

A hunting fever can affect any dog. During the hunt, your pet's body releases happiness hormones: endorphins make hunting a rewarding activity filled with excitement

That is to say: even if your dog does not catch the wild animal in the end, the chase itself already makes them unspeakably happy.

Everything else fades into the background over these feelings of happiness. It's advisable to avoid this much distraction, which is why we recommend learning how to manage prey drive in dogs!

Why Is It Important to Manage One’s Dog Prey Drive?

An anti-hunting training consists of different parts. The main idea is to make your dog obey you in every situation. The stronger your bond is, the better this works.

  • Basic obedience: your dog should know the common commands. These include 'sit,' 'down,' 'stay,' 'come,' 'off' and 'heel.'
  • Binding exercises: through specialized bonding exercises, you improve the relationship between you and your pet. With activities you can do together, such as dog sports, you have the opportunity to strengthen your teamwork, so that you and your dog form a harmonious bond.
  • Attention exercises: your dog will learn to pay attention to you and to be responsive at all times.
  • Impulse control: with anti-hunting training, your cat learns to resist their instinctive urges. Instead, they will focus their attention on you and what you are doing.
Until anti-hunting training takes effect, you should keep your dog on a leash for safety's sake to keep them under control. With it, your pet can still enjoy freedom without going crazy. Should they chase after a wild animal, the leash will stop them. 
Please note that training may even take months. With patience and consistency, your dog will master impulse control, and you'll be able to call them over without issue. Even after that, you should repeat the training regularly.

How to Manage Prey Drive in Dogs in 3 Step

Hunting means pure happiness for your pet. They only desist from it under one condition: a stronger stimulus catching their attention. 

Their standard treats aren't enough for that, however. You need real rewards! What that is depends on what your dog enjoys the most. 

This can be intense petting, verbal praise, a toy, or something else entirely.

1) Teach Your Dog Basic Commands

A dog that does not even listen to your calls under normal conditions won't do so while hunting, naturally. If you want to master how to manage prey drive in dogs, basic commands is a good place to start off. Your dog should reliably learn the most important commands, such as 'sit,' 'down,' 'off,' 'heel' and 'stay' for you to properly handle their instincts.

It's better to begin training commands at young ages if possible. Regardless, don't lose faith if your pet is already a senior: even older dogs can learn the basic commands without any problems.

Practice The Commands

Reinforce desired behavior: for example, if you say "down" and your dog immediately lies down, they should get a reward for it. This can be caring petting, verbal praise, their favorite toy or a treat. 

Practice the basic commands at every opportunity in your home, in the garden and on the road. Through rewards, you show your dog that being obedient is a good thing. 

The more you practice with your dog, the more obedient they'll become. The goal behind this is to get your pet to listen to you even when distracted.  

Train the 'Stay' Command

After the 'down' command comes one of the most crucial commands: the 'stay' command. 

The best place to train this command is at a park. The goal is to prolong the time your dog stays while in a sitting or lying position.

  • Issue the 'sit' command
  • Move a few steps away from your dog. They have to lie in wait for you. Later, go around them or hop on one leg.
  • Repeat these steps over and over again. Leave the leash a little longer for each practice session.
  • Leave the leash o the floor.
  • If your dog stays down even then, try this exercise without wearing a leash.
After successfully training this command, try practicing it in different environments.

2) Strengthen Your Bond

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Your pet wants to be kept busy. This includes keeping them both mentally and physically busy. It's time to think about how you can make your pet as entertained as could be.

Different activities come into mind::

  • 'Fetch!'
  • Mantrailing
  • Prey Dummy Fetching
  • Canicross
  • Agility exercises
Your pet can show off what they are made of with these activities! Head and body remain challenger in the meantime. Parallelly, you boost your dog's endurance and agility as well. 

Bond With Walks

If your pet runs away when off the leash, hide! They will notice that you are suddenly not there anymore and will start looking for you. After that, they will be much more attentive to you. 

Do practice this trick only on routes that your dog already knows very well. Otherwise, you hiding may panic your pet too much and they may run away.

With this exercise you make sure that your dog "looks around" more often and regularly checks if you are walking in the same direction. This reinforces the establishment of eye contact and reassurance on the joint round. 

This is a guaranteed method to enhance your dog's trust in you.


3) Use a Drag Leash

As long as your dog is still running after rabbits, deer and the like, it's to use both a chest harness and a drag leash when on walks. Make sure that both are as tear-resistant as possible. 

The drag leash allows your pet to move freely as it ensures that they stay close to you. It helps you to better control and train the commands 'halt,' 'come,' and 'go.'

If your dog follows your command perfectly, praise them profusely, give them a treat or their favorite toy. 

Prepare a Whistle Just in Case

To be on the safe side, take a dog whistle with you. If your dog does chase an animal, it will move away from you. Even if you call them over very loudly, your pet may not hear you. The endorphins will increase so much your pet won't be able to notice you. 

Don't forget that hunting is a fun activity for them. To bring them back to reality at greater distance, it's important for you to have a whistle on you.

Prey drive


Beware that a dog's hunting impulse cannot be trained away. This training only reinforces how to manage prey drive in dogs. The goal is to show yours that there are other fun things to do apart from hunting prey.

Since it can take months, anti-hunting training requires a lot of patience and consistency. The exercises should also be repeated regularly afterwards to keep your dog's hunting impulse under control.

Written by Anja Boecker
Written by Anja Boecker

My name is Anja Boecker and I am a dog trainer and behavior consultant (IHK certificate). With these articles I would like to help you understand your dog better and build an inseparable bond.

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