Preparing for Dog and Baby - Prey Drive

Prey Drive

What is prey drive? Also known as predatory aggression or prey instinct. This is a dog's natural instinct to stalk, chase, catch, kill, and consume prey animals (not always consume, Sometimes "playing the prey to death happens"). Dogs are a pack animal and for survival of their species there are specific prey behaviors that they have had to develop and hone to survive. One of the behaviors is shake and kill. Have you ever watched your dog take a toy maybe one with a squeaker, and shake it violently back and forth? That is a dog honing a prey drive behavior. Does your dog chase squirrels, vermin, or birds obsessively? Does a squeaky toy send your dog to the moon? Has your dog ever stalked another dog in play and then pounced? These can be signs (but not exclusively) that your dog may have a high prey drive. Dogs wrestling and play biting each other on the face and neck is another example of honing a prey drive behavior. I don't want you to think that every dog playing with a toy or wrestling another dog is a maniac prey animal killer.  

However, understanding these behaviors and seeing how strong they are in your dog may better prepare you for the possibility that your dog may look at your newborn baby as prey. The sounds and movements a newborn baby makes can mimic the sounds and movements a prey animal that has been wounded or injured makes. This may trip a switch in your dogs brain and mislead your dog into believing that your baby is prey.  

So what are some things you can do to determine if your dog has a strong prey drive or not? You can play a recording of a new born baby crying and watch your dog's reaction. Review your dog's past behaviors. Have they ever chased, caught, and killed anything? Do they love fetch, chase bikes, or love heavy duty wrestling with other dogs? You can look at their breed as well.  

A few of my dogs met some of these criteria so I used great caution and protection when I introduced my newborn to them. In the end, 4 out of the 5 of my dogs did not have prey drive with my baby. I was uncertain about the behaviors displayed by Meat around the baby, so he was literally kept at an arm's length from him until he no longer displayed any behaviors I didn't trust.

In pure bred dogs certain traits, depending on the breed, are enhanced and some traits are dulled down. That is why the AKC has breeds broken down into seven groups with an added group waiting to be recognized. They are the Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting, and Herding groups and a Miscellaneous group of dogs waiting to be put in a group.  

***If your dog presents predatory behavior, prey drive, or predatory aggression please take your dog to see an Applied Animal Behaviorist immediately.   

Terriers

Terriers were bred years ago for the purpose of catching and killing rodents. They were kept around farms and homes to keep rodent populations down. They burrow into the ground determined to get their prey. Terriers still have those strong prey instincts, but not always the outlet for them. They have contests for these dogs called the earth dog trials. They can be a great outlet for your terriers drive and energy.  

Most can be great with kids if introduced to children as a puppy. Adult terriers can be great with kids too. The idea is to take every precaution with your dog and new baby, the safety of both is top priority.

The dogs commonly known as pit-bull terriers have one of the worst reputations as vicious, killer dogs. Most of the dogs that have been involved in pit bull attacks are dogs that were backyard bred. People even breed dogs who are closely related to make them more likely to have aggressive personality traits. They do this for dog fighting purposes. Some dogs are beaten into aggression for dog fighting. So look at your dogs breed and some of the traits that can come with that breed, look at their individual personality, and also look into your dogs breeding as that is just as important.

The Working Group

The Working group is made up of breeds that do just that, they work. If you look at all the breeds in this group almost every one is good with kids. Some will even protect children in a over-exuberant fashion. Most of these breeds are very large and extra precaution must be taken with large dogs and newborn babies. A large dog does not always understand their size and may sit on a baby and hurt them. The sub group within this group I want to talk about is the northern breeds. Malamutes and Siberian huskies are bred to be outdoors in cold climates pulling a sled. They are good at working out pack order and they can work well as a group. However, they are more closely related to the wolf than any other breed. This makes them a higher risk for having an acute predatory drive. With this heightened drive they can view babies and toddlers as prey.  

*If you have a wolf-hybrid dog and you are having a baby, you have lost your mind completely. A wolf and children is NEVER a good idea...you are just asking for someone to get hurt. Wolves are meant to be in the wild and it is a horrible idea to keep them as pets.