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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I wanted opinions on something. Do you think prey drive is more exclusive to certain animals or more like a blanket thing? I'm currently struggling to desensitize Stella to cats, and I've been getting reports from home she's chasing and/or catching and killing mice and chipmunks. I honestly don't care if she kills rodents and actually encourage getting rid of them, but I worry this will complicate the cat thing. I mean obviously she has no prey drive to small dogs, but they're the same species. What do you think?
 

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I am just guessing when I say this, but I really think prey drive is a certain animal thing. I know a dog that will do anything to get to a cat but when it comes to a dog same size or even smaller than a cat, he will just ignore it. Also I find that cats that are terrified of dogs are more likely to turn the prey drive on. Because running and showing signs of fear is what switches the prey drive on. The instincts of the dog then kick in.
Like I said, these are things I have just observed. So this may not be actual fact.
 

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First, you need to distinguish between prey instinct and prey drive. You are talking about prey instinct here. Prey instinct is overload, over stimulation and will result in "problem" behavior, prey drive is the solution to prey instinct. Prey drive allows a dog to hold back, and not instinctively react to something. You need to cultivate drive to overcome instinct.

Some ways to cultivate prey "drive": I have used these techniques with my dog and they have really helped to get him to focus on me and to trust me. His focus has improved all areas, from loose leash walking to not reacting to other dogs or chasing after small prey. I don't have cats.


Play tug with your dog.

Be the Moose in your dog's life

Pushing

Most other animals are operating in prey instinct, because of the huge emotional capacity of the dog, it is able to overcome instinct with drive.
 

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I wanted to add, but I can no longer edit my post:

Examples of instinct vs drive are a police dog that will bite the arm of a man wielding a stick and not let go until called off is drive, instinct would be that dog running away from a scary predator, instinct always takes the path of least resistance and is a survival mechanism. When said police-dog is called off, the bad guy is handcuffed and put in the front seat of the police car, the dog will happily sit in the back with no hard feelings. Drive is the sheep dog herding sheep when instinct would have have him attack.

In a multi-pet household you most commonly find the female "dominates" the male; the small dog "dominates" the big dog; and the cat "dominates" everyone.
 

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Mmm, I don't agree with the definitions above. Always interesting to see how different people use words differently though.

I'd say that a dog who behaves in a predatory manner (stalk, chase, bite, kill) toward chipmunks/rodents/etc. is probably more likely to behave in a predatory manner toward other animals also, at least compared to a dog who rarely behaves in a predatory manner at all. The immediate exception that come to mind is any species that the dog spent significant amounts of time with during the first sixteen weeks of puppyhood (imprinting periods and all that).

Practicing any sequence of behaviors tends to make that behavior 'stronger,' which includes hunting behaviors, and thus more likely to generalize. But dogs can certainly learn the difference between, say, cats and squirrels, or between foxes and sheep. My dog is highly predatory, very "high drive," and an active hunter of small scurrying things -- she chases squirrels in the yard with the intent to kill. But the one time she found a cat on the fence in our back yard, she ran over and tried to persuade it to play. Clearly, her history with cats is different than her history with squirrels!

So I think it depends on the ultimate goal of your desensitization plan with Stella, more than on blanket assumptions about predatory instincts and behavior. What is the ultimate goal, if I may ask?
 

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@gnosticdog interesting pov on drive. A bit different than my take and what I've learned...

My understanding is very inline with snackrat.

When it comes to instinct and drive, they often go hand in hand...
My terrier mix will quietly stare at chipmonk holes for a very long time waiting body tense and ready to spring into action. Or he tries to dig them out... Drive is focus on the task. In this case his determination to catch and kill the chipmonk. Instinct tells him how to do it.

I do work on tug as an alternative to chasing small animals. However I view it more as redirecting or channeling his drive onto a object I see as appropriate. Hopefully becoming a reinforcer for the behavior I want. I suppose it could be increasing drive to work with me but that prey drive is still there.... he still wants to catch the chipmonk and will give it his all if allowed...

Anyway, the original question...
Ime prey drive can but doesn't necessarily apply to all animals. Dexter clearly views rabbits as prey (has killed several young as well as an adult). Yet he is far more interested in stealing food from our house bunny's cage than her.
It common for dogs to have a similar take on cats. Household cats are ok but outside cats or unfamiliar cats are fairgame.;)
 

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I wanted opinions on something. Do you think prey drive is more exclusive to certain animals or more like a blanket thing? I'm currently struggling to desensitize Stella to cats, and I've been getting reports from home she's chasing and/or catching and killing mice and chipmunks. I honestly don't care if she kills rodents and actually encourage getting rid of them, but I worry this will complicate the cat thing. I mean obviously she has no prey drive to small dogs, but they're the same species. What do you think?
This helped us fix that problem. There is a lot of good information here. All animals that eat other animals have prey drive that is how they survive.
Diamonds in the Ruff
 

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Dogs can learn that certain animals are off limits, because they for sure know the difference. However, I think the more they practice using their prey drive and acting on it, the stronger it becomes towards more animals. I live on a farm, and Chess and Echo both kill all kinds of small animals on a regular basis. It would be useless to even try and stop them, and generally I don't bother to try. They're hunting dogs, this is a farm, and it's not a big deal.

Chess is 7, and I've noticed that the more she's killed, the stronger her drive becomes. She's grown up around cats, and has always been fine with them. Back before she hunted a lot, she met litters of kittens, and was totally fine with them. They even tried to nurse from her and she didn't care. However now, she is not at all safe with kittens. She never has because I'm careful, but I know she'd kill one if she could. She has learned its not ok when I'm around, and ignores, but would not be safe if left alone. She's still totally ok with adult cats though.

They have learned that deer and ferrets are off limits, so it's very possible to train against certain animals.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks everyone. That is an interesting take on drive vs. instinct, but regardless of what you call it, Stella will stare at/stalk, and if she's allowed to, chase cats. Luckily I've never found out what will happen if she catches one. She's only been able to chase one cat, and hopefully he'll steer clear of our property when she's out.

@SnackRat My ultimate goal is for Stella to be able to cohabitate with a cat, and of course not be a cat killer of any cat. I mean I honestly don't care too much if she ever chases a stray cat out of the yard now and again, but to know any kitties in the house are members of the pack, or at least nothing to chase or hurt is important. She doesn't have to be best friends with a cat, but just let them alone. I'm most concerned about this because my current girlfriend has a 9 year old cat, who is subsequently terrified of dogs because he lived with several large chasey ones for most of his life. If things get serious with her in the next 2-3 years and her cat doesn't die, that means our pets would have to live together. Even in the event I break up with this girlfriend, there's a strong possibility anyone else I end up with will have a cat, because a mutual love of animals is a must! Plus I would like a kitty of my own someday, and working at a shelter that puts down lots of cats makes me want one even more.

@Dawnben Thanks for the link! I'll have to check it out. I wish they weren't on the other side of the country.
 

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Oh good! I think that goal is likely to be easier than a goal like "ignore and/or adore all the cats she ever meets." I mean, still likely to be a lot of work, but potentially manageable. Have you tried playing Look At That with cats (or other distractions)?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
That's a great idea! Stella and I really do need to work on more training exercises. We're in a CGC/pre therapy dog class now, but I hate that I rarely have any time to spend with her anymore with my long work hours and commute.

Also I was going to ask everyone's opinion on this as well. Stella has gotten close up to a cat Ina a cage (the woman who ran the rescue said it was ok and the cat was fine with dogs). Stella sniffed him a lot and demand barked/whined once or twice but she didn't try to bite or anything. I can't kid myself into saying it's just like how she is when she wants to play with another dog, but I wasn't worried for the cat's safety. I've never really seen prey drive up close without it being a full on chase and take down, but does that sound like she wanted to eat him up? Or maybe she's just really eager and knows she wanted him but wouldn't necessarily know what to do with good him?
 
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