9 Signs Of Prey Drive That Every Dog Owner Needs To Be Aware

9 Signs Of Prey Drive That Every Dog Owner Needs To Be Aware

Last Updated: August 18, 2023

In this article you will know the answer to the query “9 Signs Of Prey Drive That Every Dog Owner Needs To Be Aware“.

Almost 200 species of animals worldwide including 87 bird species are threatened by feral and free-ranging dogs. It appears that these dogs are posing a threat to wildlife according to BBC. Are the same things true of homes and pet dogs?

The time when I was a child is still fresh in my mind. A dead chicken was brought home by our dog. I wasnot sure whether or not he was the culprit. However our pet showed no signs of regret. On the contrary he seemed happy! To cut a long story short my grandfather put him on a leash for fear he might do it again.

9 Signs Of Prey Drive That Every Dog Owner Needs To Be Aware

Do you recognize this? This behavior is quite concerning and I’m sure you’re concerned that your lovable pet is already showing signs of predation.

The following are things you should watch out for:

1. Stares down a potential prey

Prey drive is manifested in dogs by staring down an animal that is usually smaller than them such as a squirrel rabbit chicken bird cat or any other animal that can easily be overpowered. As you walk your dog you may notice that it seems uneasy or is looking for something. It may also be that he is eye-stalking a smaller dog or even an insect. It is obvious from the dogs long and curious gaze that he has a predator drive even though he has not yet attempted to harm the potential prey.

Predatory behavior follows a general sequence and staring down at potential prey or eye stalking is one of the first ones.

2. Stalks on something

I think this is where dogs go to the next level in their prey drive. They do more than stare down the prey. Instead they go after it. It does not matter what the target is whatever senses they have they use them all to find it. As with humans dogs have a good memory too. Like a detective they could They might act as if they are detectives searching for every possible lead in order to find a potential victim.

The sense of smell or olfaction of dogs is known to be excellent apart from their vision. During this stage of the “hunt” its their biggest asset to feed their desire for prey sooner or later. Therefore if you see your pet sniffing at a path where cats have just been that should raise a red flag right there. It tells you that your pet is stalking.

3. Fetches smaller animals

While it is true that most dogs if not all have the instinct to “fetch” or retrieve certain items and return them to their owners chasing smaller animals and bringing them to you either dead or injured is a different story. More so if they show enthusiasm or eagerness when doing so.

It is a natural trait of dogs to enjoy fetching and that is something that makes them feel good. They acquired this feature thousands of years ago when they were taught to help hunt and find food. These are inherited skills that can be handed down from generation to generation.

Bringing home a dead squirrel or rabbit at some point indicates that your pet is becoming a predator. There are ways to control it since it is a dog instinct to fetch but it can be extremely difficult to stop. Allow them to play fetch with balls or Frisbees to satisfy their appetite for this activity.

4. Chases anything that moves

Running can be really fun for your dog especially if you’re up for a game. They have inherited this skill from their ancestors. However if this goes beyond chasing tennis balls or any other toy and your dog starts chasing cats and small animals skateboards cars bikes and practically anything that moves this is indicative of an increased prey drive.

A prey chase drive is an intense desire to pursue things that move. It can be annoying in relatively mild cases. However if it is too high the drive becomes dangerous.

Is there anything you can do? If you are not home make sure they are kept in a safe and secure place. Behavioral work can also be done.

5. Bites a prey

Your pet dog may appear harmless to you when he plays with his playmates by biting them. Nevertheless that could be a sign of a prey drive in some cases. When a dog starts biting in such a way that he harms a person another dog or another type of animal that is predatory behavior. Fetching could also be considered predatory behavior.

As we discussed earlier a dog may bring home a dead or injured small animal. Even if you think its just a “grab-bite” you should never underestimate your dogs capacity to make it worse. There are some dogs that chase their prey without intending to hurt them. Sooner or later however you will find a dead animal lying around your yard on your doorstep or even inside your home if their prey drive gets extremely high.

6. Kills the ‘catch’

When was the last time you saw a dead bird or squirrel in your yard? There might be more to it than meets the eye. Maybe your dog is to blame. A dog with an extremely strong prey drive could be dangerous and killing his prey is one of the worst things that can happen. When our pet brought the dead chicken home one day this made me realize what I have witnessed. The fact that my grandpa had tethered him was a good thing. He would undoubtedly have done it again otherwise.

While killing a “catch” may also be related to aggression it could also be a sign of an increased prey drive in dogs.

7. Ignores your commands

Some dogs are naturally stubborn but ignoring your commands or not coming when called because they are too preoccupied with eyeing or chasing their prey is another sign that they are acting a little too much on their prey drive. Your pets behavior is becoming out of control and this should serve as a warning. In this case you must take action. Behavior modification may be an option. There may be times when you have to restrain them so that they do not engage in more dangerous behaviors or activities.

8. Gets aroused by certain sounds

Some dogs get excited when they hear certain sounds whether they believe it or not. A small dog may yelp a squirrel may run through the attic a rabbit may thump or a distressing sound can be heard. Such sounds trigger their prey drive.

Keep an eye on your dog. The man may be lying down quietly but will suddenly stand up and run if he hears something. This is another thing you need to be aware of.

9. Exhibits restlessness

Many things can cause dogs to become restless. However it may also indicate that they have a prey drive. Think about how you would feel if you were unable to accomplish your objectives. Do you find yourself restless sometimes? Are you pacing around to your own rhythm or talking rapidly? This could also apply to dogs. Their restlessness may also be caused by an inability to feed their prey drive.

If you observe any of the above-mentioned signs in your dog or if he seems uncomfortable inside your home or while on a leash that would indicate something is amiss.


It is not always dangerous to have a prey drive. However it could also lead to aggression and cause real harm. A dog with heightened prey drive may not only be a nuisance but might also be harmful to humans especially to young children. If you notice any signs of an excessive prey drive in your dog take precautions. 

Share on:
Amanda Dogs Trainer

Amanda (Author)

With over a decade of experience, Amanda is a distinguished dog trainer. Her expertise in canine behavior has transformed countless lives, fostering harmonious human-canine connections. Through compassionate and personalized approaches, she empowers owners to understand and connect with their furry companions, creating a legacy of joyful tails and transformed lives.

Osvaldo Maciel Dogs Trainer

Osvaldo Maciel (Content Reviewer)

Osvaldo Maciel, a stalwart in the field with 14 years of experience, is a revered dog trainer. His journey is defined by a profound understanding of canine behavior, shaping unbreakable human-canine bonds. Osvaldo guides owners to connect with their beloved pets, leaving an indelible mark of happiness and transformation. His legacy shines through the countless lives he has touched.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *