When we begin training with our dogs, at the forefront of our mind, is usually basic obedience. In our eyes, Fido needs to be able to sit, lie down, and stay. During this dedicated process we sometimes forget that dogs are innate hunters and love to chase. Soon questions come about on how to get the dog to stop going crazy over cats, or sweeping up lizards in the back yard, or stop yanking you down the street after the secret squirrel that always pops up on your peaceful evening walk. This is the infamous prey drive scenario. In some breeds, prey drive is stronger than in others and this can determine the degree of intensity you’ll experience. If you have a dog with very high prey drive, it can be almost mind numbing trying to get them to focus or redirect even when you’re 20 feet away from a tiny animal. What’s worse? They usually see it before you do, making it hard for you to gather yourself and manage the situation.
The truth is, we need to start working on and curbing hunting and chasing behaviors from when we first bring our puppies home. Older dogs, because of any previous habits or history, are going to be more difficult. However, young puppies have the ability to learn about controlling themselves and focusing on their handlers the minute we get them. Here at Applause Your Paws, we actually introduce young puppies to cats that are dog savvy and teach them appropriate interaction with other animals that aren’t dogs. In addition, we work on training them around the cats so that they’re aware that even though kitties are friends, they still need to know to focus on us when given direction. Let’s say you weren’t able to do this with your young dog, though, and now you’ve got a fully grown animal chasing fiend…what do you do? Well, it’s a process, but it’s time to begin impulse control training. If your dog already has a solid “leave it” with food, you’re off to a very appropriate start. How do we move forward from that point? Working in a controlled environment and creating a similar, but less dangerous, version of the situation. Fixing years of habit and curbing instinct isn’t going to happen over night. However, we can make the situation more manageable and our dogs more reliable by teaching them what we want when certain factors and stimuli present themselves.