Dogs will be dogs. From when they were puppies to their adulthood, most dogs have a natural tendency to chase after small animals. So, when they see squirrels, chipmunks, bunnies, chickens and even cats, they will want to chase them. This has caused some dog owners to believe that their dogs are having behavioral problems.
It is not a behavioral problem
However, it is not a behavioral issue. It is a dog’s natural instinct. They are born with this prey drive. But your dog can learn to control his drive with some appropriate training.
You need to start this training early. Initially, you may not seem to get very far. Your dog is tuning you out as he is listening to his prey drive.
However, your dog will eventually learn to control himself if you correct his behavior every time he starts a chase. Be patient. Understand that you are training your dog to overcome a strong and natural drive.
Distraction is the key
Puppies are easier to train compared to adult dogs. They can be easily distracted from their prey drive. Simply step in immediately and stop them the moment they start to go after a prey.
As puppies are small enough, their action an be interrupted by simply picking them up and giving them a stern “No!”
Another way is to use the aversion method. This method is more suitable to use on puppies. When your puppy starts running off after the prey, vigorously shake a tin can containing a handful of pennies. The noise generated is loud enough to startle your puppy and gets his attention.
Although not impossible, it is harder to train an adult or senior dog to stop hunting small animals. You will need to work harder at it. You have to constantly and consistently reinforce that this behavior is unacceptable.
When going out with an adult dog that is yet to be trained to stop hunting, it is advisable to put him on a leash. Of course, he will pull forward, attempting to chase after it, when he sees a small animal. But, this is not a behavioral problem. This behavior is just a result of his instinct that can be changed.
Use the dog’s strong sense of smell to your advantage
An interesting observation is that usually a dog is better able to remain where he is when he sees a small animal far away. However, the moment he catches the scent of the animal, his instinct is triggered and he will leap forward to chase it.
As dogs have a strong sense of smell and can be driven pretty much by it, one trick is to use another scent to distract him from the smell of the other animal. When he lunged forward in an attempt to chase the animal, you can use some treats to distract him and to reinforce a desirable obedient behavior.
The treat method is pretty easy to implement and is usually quite effective for all dogs. Simply bring along some dog treats with you when you are out with him. Have one in your hand ready for use when the moment arise.
When you see your dog sniffing around and focused on the area where the animal went, trying to pick up that scent, briefly bring your hand holding the treat close to his nose and tell him to come. Keep the treat out of sight in your hand while you try to distract him to follow you.
If you want your dog to be able to stay focused on you and obey your commands regardless of what is happening around him, train your dog well with distraction methods from the time when he was a puppy.
Click here to learn more from certified dog trainer, Adrienne Farricelli.