“Oh no. When my dog sees this, he’s gone and won’t come back anytime soon. I’ve tried everything but I can’t get him to stop hunting.”
Hunting instinct in dogs are not uncommon. Some chase after birds, while others dig like crazy for mice when they spot.
But why do our four-legged friends hunt at all? It is not about eating, because most of the time – fortunately – it’s just a matter of running after them. In addition, they get enough food from us and no longer have to capture their own food.
So what’s the reason for this hunting behavior?
The hunting instinct in the dog
In order to understand your dog’s hunting instinct, you need to know: Hunting makes dogs happy! They don’t run after the deer or the bird because they want to eat it, but because the running itself makes them feel happy. Hunting is thus a self-rewarding behavior.
For some dogs, something moving quickly in front of them is enough to trigger the chase. Others react less to visual than to olfactory stimuli and like to hang their noses on the ground.
But why do some dogs prefer to hunt than others?
- The hunting behavior is part of the instinctive behavior of the dog. Everything that has to do with the procurement of food is connected to this.
- We humans have selected and specially bred dogs for their particular abilities.
A dog without any hunting instinct would not be able to survive in the wild. This explains why every dog shows a more or less pronounced hunting behavior.
So the dog owners who have a dog with little hunting ambitions are lucky. Everyone is faced with the task of getting hunting behavior under control.
What to do when your dog wants to hunt
It is best to start anti-hunting training as early as possible. From about the sixth month, dogs become more and more independent and hunting is now more evident. Now it is important that you prevent your dog from doing this, for example with a tow line.
If you bring an older dog with you at the beginning, it has probably already started hunting and gained a sense of achievement. He either actually caught prey or enjoyed the fun of hunting.
The question is: Should I completely forbid my dog to hunt or direct it to other paths?
Opinions differ here and depend on the individual case. Whichever path you choose, anti-hunt training doesn’t happen overnight. Success depends, among other things, on how independent your dog is and how strong its hunting instinct is.
However, one thing should always be kept in mind: while hunting may be fun for your dog and may even look funny, it is not fun for the animal being hunted.
For example, deer can die of exhaustion after a marathon. I certainly don’t want a dead animal on my conscience, so anti-hunting training is a form of animal welfare to me. But hunting can also be life-threatening for your dog, for example if it runs across a busy street to pursue the cat. That’s why the following always applies to hunting dogs: Safety first, your own and that of other animals.
These steps can help you control your dog’s hunting instinct:
- Take hunting behavior seriously. As the dog owner, you are responsible for what your dog does. If your dog likes to chase, don’t just let him run wild. Secure him with a towline that you attach to the harness.
- Practice the most important basic commands. You can only control your dog if he masters the basic commands. These include, but are not limited to, sit, stay and recall. If your dog won’t come back without a distraction, he’ll be less likely to do so at the sight of a rabbit.
- Ensure sufficient exercise. Some dogs do not hunt because they have such a strong hunting instinct, but because they are bored. Use the walks to do something together with your dog. Let him complete tasks by retrieving or searching things. When your dog is busy, he gets less stupid ideas.
- Train self-control. The more your dog has his impulses under control, the better it is. For him, that also means learning to deal with frustration. After all, he would like to do something, but he is not allowed to. Here it is helpful to know the preferences of your four-legged friend well. If he responds easily to visual stimuli, you can train him to wait while you wave a toy in front of him. The opportunities to train self-control run through everyday life and are an essential part of education.
Establishing eye contact. Practice intensively with your dog that he will pay attention to you in response to a signal. This ensures that he remains accessible and you can influence him. It is best if your dog learns to look at you on command.
Be a team. Walking a chasing dog can be a real strain and take away the fun together. For the training, however, it is important that you work together and your dog cooperates with you. You can also reward some of the hunting behavior. A good option, for example, is the food dummy. With this bag you can play hunting games together. At the same time, your dog will learn that bringing the bag back to you will reward him.