Last Updated on July 27, 2023 by Pets Feed
Many dog breeds were selected from the beginning for hunting, but nowadays the dog’s predatory instinct can easily turn into a problem. If your dog runs after every hare, wild rabbit, or bird it comes across and therefore no longer listens to any commands, the consequences can even be dangerous. But is it possible to eliminate a dog’s hunting instinct? When is it necessary to intervene and how does this process of limiting the predatory instinct actually work?
When the dog suddenly becomes uncontrollable
Whether it’s a fawn, a hare, a bird, or a neighbor’s cat, certain dogs hunt down just about anything that moves. And when the dog triggers this instinct to hunt, screams, calls, commands or whistles are usually completely useless. The daily walk with your beloved four-legged friend becomes a truly arduous challenge, if the dog’s predatory instinct becomes uncontrollable. It must be said that by doing so, the dog does not endanger only the animal he wants to hunt, but also himself and any passers-by. It can happen, for example, that the dog, completely absorbed by the heat of the hunt, ends up on a very busy street. Furthermore, even when the prey in question is not actually captured, some wild animals will continue to suffer the consequences of hunting, for example if they have been driven to exhaustion by the dog, or in the case of mothers who are no longer able to provide. their little ones.
Do all dogs have the instinct to hunt?
While some dogs already smelling a wild animal react as if in front of a tarantula, others need eye contact to start hunting. And still others let a potential prey walk alongside them undisturbed. It does not matter which category your dog belongs to; it is a fact that the predisposition to hunting is genetically determined. Dogs inherited this instinct for hunting from their ancestors, wolves. And if even our pets nowadays certainly do not need hunting to get food, the urge to hunt remains something rooted in them.
How important is the breed?
How strong this instinct to hunt is depends primarily on the breed. Therefore, there are breeds such as the Beagle, the German Shorthaired Pointing Dog, the Dachshund, the Weimaraner, the Terrier, the Basset Hound and many others that have been specially bred for hunting related tasks. Through targeted breeding, dogs specialized in hunting have been created, made suitable for chasing, surprising and stopping the prey, or to go and retrieve it. In other dog breeds, on the other hand, the hunting instinct has gradually waned. Today Golden Retrievers, Boxers, Maltese and Pugs are considered family dogs, mainly characterized by their good social behavior.
Additional factors that trigger the instinct to hunt
Whether and when a dog’s hunting behavior can easily be eliminated depends on its genome. But other factors also contribute to strengthening the instinct to hunt. For this reason, dogs that have never hunted before suddenly start running after a wild animal and seem to forget the normal rules of behavior they have learned from one second to the next. Fatal element: If a dog has hunted once, he will tend to show this behavior in the future as well. When you go for a walk with several dogs, it is enough for one dog in the group to show this urge to hunt for all the others to start doing the same. In such a context we speak of mood transfer. The instinct to hunt can also be influenced by hormonal fluctuations, that is, variations in the dog’s sexual behavior.
Why is it so difficult to control the hunting instinct?
Completely regardless of the breed to which your dog belongs, the instinct to hunt can be present in each four-legged. Especially inexperienced dog owners, who do not have a dog specifically selected for hunting at their side, are rightly thrilled when their paw friend, who until a moment before was quietly trotting alongside them, suddenly runs away. If the dog has given up chasing the first time, there are still possibilities to stop it. But why is the hunting instinct so strong that the dog no longer listens to its owner? The answer is the hormones of happiness. When hunting, the dog’s body produces endorphins, which somehow bring happiness to the animal. To experience this intoxicating sensation, it is usually worth running after the game. To experience this “doping” sensation, dogs do not necessarily have to be successful in hunting. If it is clear that in that case the reward is double, the fact remains that the pursuit, thanks to the production of endorphins, is already a sufficient reward in itself.
The feeling of happiness is so strong that the dog loses interest in everything else. In this case it makes no sense for the dog owner to scold him too much: the animal will run after the next rabbit it will meet again only to experience that pleasant feeling again. The best thing then would be that the dog was never in a position to hunt, so as not to know the hormones of happiness at all. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, so dog owners should be prepared to deal with such situations.
In which cases is anti-hunting training successful?
It is as difficult to distract the dog from hunting as great is the happiness it derives from it. So it happens that, without resources and tempted to give up opposing, many owners limit themselves to observing their beloved four-legged friends, kidnapped by the hunting instinct, leave the leash and run away. Then they are obviously relieved when the dog returns to safety after the unauthorized hunt. But after each sudden flight of the dog, the owner’s fear of the next walk inevitably grows. In the end, the dog owner feels responsible not only for his four-legged friend but also for the environment that surrounds him and for the fauna he comes into contact with while walking in nature with his dog. To prevent the dog from becoming a risk to his safety and the surrounding environment, most owners wisely keep the dog on a leash. However, in the long run, even a situation in which the dog is tied to a training lead and has a rather narrow range of motion available is not satisfactory for either the dog or the owner. Especially since it is necessary to possess some stability and good control, when an adult hound suddenly begins to hunt. Indeed, there are dogs with a particularly pronounced instinct for hunting that cannot suppress this impulse even after specific anti-hunting training and despite having been on a leash all their life. But most dogs can learn to resist the urge to hunt.
5 steps to control the dog’s instinct to hunt
To get the dog to give up his beloved hobby of hunting, one must convince him that controlling this impulse has more positive consequences than hunting itself. He must learn that it is worth staying close to his human friend not only because he always has some greedy prizes in his pocket but also because with him, he will be able to live more exciting adventures than chasing a scared rabbit. The dog’s hunting instinct cannot be completely eliminated, but it can be changed until an acceptable behavior is obtained from our point of view. It is difficult to think about training not to hunt, therefore there is no training to stop hunting, instead a training aimed at making the hunting dog controllable makes more sense. To develop control over the dog and its behavior, there is anti-hunting training consisting of several exercises, which ultimately promise to achieve the goal holistically, so to speak, thanks to different approaches. Anti-hunting training, to counter the dog’s hunting instinct, can be divided into the following five training units.
Basic obedience training
Clearly a dog that does not respond correctly to the normal “back to the beginning” call will not perform well in a hunting situation. A basic obedience training, therefore, such that the dog responds calmly to commands such as “Sit!”, “place!”, “search!”, “Let’s go!” and “Stay!” it is essential to be successful in anti-hunting training. Ideally, the dog receives basic education when it is a puppy, but don’t worry: even adult dogs, who have already developed aptitudes such as hunting, for example, are able to learn these basic commands. Of course, here too there are races that are more likely to cooperate than others. However, even dog breeds known to be quite independent and difficult to train, such as the Afghan Hound, the Bloodhound or the Czechoslovakian Wolf, can learn to obey.
Show your dog that it pays to obey. So when your friend always shows the desired behavior, for example if he comes near you when you say “Let’s go!”, If he stands still when you say “In place!”, Or if he waits patiently when you say “Stay!” , then it is important to praise him. Pet him, say loving words, give him a treat or his favorite toy, or otherwise do something with him. Practice the commands wherever you are: start in the apartment, then do it when you are in the garden and then during walks together. It is important for your dog to master basic commands in any situation, including moments of distraction. With patience, consistency and positive reinforcement you will achieve this goal.
Attention and bond strengthening exercises
When in the throes of hunting, many dogs suddenly seem to forget the good education they have received. They break away from their owner, run away and stop answering loud calls. For this not to happen, your dog must learn to listen to your commands even in a distracting situation. This is not an easy thing: the distractions your curious paw friend is exposed to during a walk in the woods are not to be underestimated. Smells, an interesting track or even just eye contact with a prey are all distracting. It is important that your dog, despite the distractions, considers you his pack leader and does not forget the sensory stimuli. You must always be at the center of his attention. If your dog is fully focused on you, this tight bond works like an invisible leash.
An effective way to strengthen this human-dog bond is to reward your dog for his attention. Does he maintain eye contact with you during the walk, does he follow you when you change direction or turn towards you when you slow down? Reward your dog if he always keeps his attention on you. If you notice that the dog’s thoughts are no longer directed at you and that he doesn’t react as he should if you suddenly stand still, hide behind a tree. Your dog should be confused at this point and start looking for you. So, reward him generously as soon as he finds you, this also strengthens the bond between you and your dog.
Redirect the hunting instinct towards activities to do together
A dog with a strong hunting instinct will not be persuaded simply with a treat that it is better to stay close to its owner rather than chase its prey. In this sense, the satisfaction he receives from the hunt itself is too relevant, which, as mentioned, causes various happiness hormones to be produced. The difference is that the dog learns how to collaborate with you is more exciting than any hunting. Take your dog’s needs seriously and try to satisfy his urge to swim, dig and run-in other ways. Throwing and retrieval games, search games (olfactory games), activities with the dummy and of course the different types of dog sports such as agility, canicross and mantrailing make every dog’s heart beat faster and make so that your paw friend is sufficiently busy physically and mentally. Dogs that hunt out of boredom, and they are by no means a minority, leave hunting alone if they notice that they are offered a sufficient alternative activity. Avoid repeating the same paths on foot over and over again and be creative: bury a bone or a dog toy that your friend will have to find, create games where you hide something he has to find, throw sticks at him, have fun having the dummy brought back or do balancing games on tree trunks. Create a team spirit between you and your dog and show him that you understand what he wants and that you can satisfy his needs, obviously according to the rules learned during the training. Especially dogs belonging to breeds selected for hunting should be able to do without the passion for hunting. Many sports schools for dogs offer training as a substitute for hunting as part of mantrailing or dummy games, with which the dog can vent his instinct to hunt through artificial tracks and in a protected environment.
Anti-hunting training always has to do with impulse control: ultimately the dog must learn to manage his hunting impulse. However, this controlled behavior contradicts his own animal nature and inevitably leads to frustration. Impulse control also implies that the dog is able to handle frustration. And as for everything else, the dog acquires the ability to self-control only if this learning path proves useful in his eyes. For example, a dog that impulsively jumps towards each visitor must learn that this is the wrong way to attract attention. For this he will be considered and praised by his owner only if he remains seated good and calm. It also works similarly with anti-hunting training: only when the dog shows he can manage his impulses can he hope for a reward. Only if it does not chase its prey but merely notices it by patiently awaiting the command of its owner, will the dog be praised and rewarded as is appropriate.
A good exercise to develop self-control consists in first making the dog calm down with the command “In place!” And immediately after throwing a dummy. If it runs without waiting for the next command, it means it ignores you. If, on the other hand, he manages to wait patiently and awaits your command “Search!” to run and retrieve the dummy, then reward him generously. Of course, this exercise can only be successful if your dog is calm and calm. It is very difficult to train an agitated dog that jumps here and there and whose stress level is visibly higher than normal. In that case you should first allow your dog to let off steam. Go jogging with him, play together in the garden or have him run next to you while cycling with your dog … Only when he is at the height of his physical ability and his need for movement is back to normal standards, yours paw friend will get involved in these impulse control exercises.
Practice with the distress signal or super recall
To be able to educate your dog with training accessories during a walk in the woods you must first of all be able to trust 100% of the call “Come back!”. However, even if your dog returns promptly to you if you call him when you are at the park even in the presence of other dogs and people, unfortunately it does not mean that he would do the same even in the presence of a wild animal. In that case, the dog considers whether it is more convenient for him to listen to you or follow his instinct to hunt, and you and your command usually lose. In this situation you need something more incisive than usual already heard and used “Let’s go!”. Establish a kind of super recall with his dog, which you set up only for emergencies and which communicates to your dog the promise of something absolutely fantastic that he only rarely receives.
Useful tools for setting such a distress signal are a specific whistle and a special treat, such as a piece of salami – something your dog would do almost anything to receive. Practice the whistle first at home to come back when you call and slowly intensify the distraction you introduce by exercising outside in the yard, in a secluded parking lot, and later in a field or wood. As soon as you notice that your dog immediately returns to the whistle, reward him with the super prize. Obviously, it is not appropriate to repeat the exercise too often, otherwise what happens is that the special reward eventually becomes anything but special and, in this way, it loses its charm. If you’ve trained him to super booster, you should really only use him in an emergency and not on all normal walks. If the distress signal keeps its promising effect, you have a good chance you can use it to call your dog when there is a smell of prey or even during a hunt.
How effective is anti-hunting training?
An anti-hunting training, to be effective, needs a lot of work. No trainer in the world can eliminate the dog’s hunting instinct overnight. It takes patience, consistency and empathy to convince the dog that he should give up his beloved prey. There will always be setbacks and, if some dogs learn after a couple of weeks, others need practically their whole life. How quickly the training bears fruit depends not only on the instructor but also on the dog, on his experiences and needs, as well as on the place chosen for training. Following an anti-hunting training carried out by professional instructors, such as those of puppy schools or obedience schools for dogs, canine associations or those for specific breeds, can be especially useful for inexperienced owners or for those who the first time they relate to dog breeds selected for hunting.
Choose the best way together with your dog, and don’t give up! Always keep in mind because you are training your paw friend: to enjoy relaxed walks off the leash and to create a lifelong bond between you and your dog! And don’t forget: even hunting dogs can learn that life offers them so much more than just hunting.