Predatory Behavior in Dogs

In the wild, a predatory drive is a survival mechanism. Unfortunately, this drive to prey doesn’t translate well when it comes to a pet. A pet that sees you or any family member as prey can be dangerous.

If your dog always wants to attack other dogs or has a habit of attacking cats, he might have a strong predatory drive. It’s something that you need to deal with – predation is instinctual and won’t resolve itself on its own.

If you have any of the dog breeds that stalk, like a rottweiler, you need to help them channel that drive into positive behavior. In this post, we’re going to help you identify the signs. We’ll then move onto why your dog acts this way and how to prevent the behavior.

Signs of Predatory Behavior


If your dog is tracking, sniffing the air or ground or scanning the area, it could indicate that he’s in hunting mode. He’s looking for prey. In this mode, the dog is less likely to bark and give away his position. You’ll notice a strong focus in his behavior. 


He’s now found his prey and is actively stalking it. So, if he’s intently focused on your cat, this could be a warning sign that he sees her as prey. 


He may actually attack his prey. It’s still possible to pull him out of this if he’s well-trained, but it’s difficult. The difference between attacking and standard aggression is that he aims to kill.

He’s likely to start violently shaking or choking the prey with the intent of killing it. 

Enjoying the Spoils 

The final stage is that he eats the prey. Eating is how you can tell the difference between standard aggression and this instinctual behavior.


Why Does My Dog Behave Like This?

Your next question is probably, “Why does my dog want to attack other dogs?” or cats, or humans, insert whatever your problem is. The answer is that it’s not malicious behavior at all. It’s pure instinct.

It’s the same reason that your dog loves it when you throw him a ball. The ball, in this instance, is a substitute for the prey. He tracks it, stalks it for a little while, and then retrieves it. For him, this is an activity that helps him hone his skills. 

Some dogs are more prone to this kind of behavior than others. 

How to Manage Predatory Behavior

Manage the Environment

Assess how strong the dog’s predatory drive is. A professional dog trainer can assist you. Now manage the canine’s environment. Make sure that he can’t get out of your yard. When taking him for a walk, use a long leash so that you can control him at all times.  

A muzzle is an excellent way to stop a dog attack before it starts. It may seem cruel, but isn’t it crueler to have him put down because he attacked someone? 

Do Training Exercises

Training exercises can help you redirect that drive. A professional trainer can assist you with exercises that help him address the behavioral challenges that predatory behavior causes. You’ll also want to ensure that the dog gets enough exercise, even if that means putting him on the treadmill.

Take Away Temptation

If your dog is exhibiting predation, keep him out of situations that could arouse his predatory instinct. Never let him be alone with a small child as he might interpret their weakness as a sign that they’re prey.

Over time, you can work on desensitizing him to what triggers the prey instinct. In the meantime, though, don’t trust him.

-up shot of a once fearful dog, now joyfully wagging its tail in a sunlit backyard, surrounded by children playing fetch with it, capturing the heartwarming transformation from aggression to happiness

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