Prey Drive

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Hi guys, lets talk prey drive. This was something I originally wasn't going to post or talk about but I felt the need and desire to share an experience that happened to me, with others so if they had an experience as traumatic as mine was, they would know that it happens.

A lot of people in the dog world use the term "prey drive" in reference to a dogs eagerness or desire to work hard in regards to chasing or capturing prey. It makes a lot of canine sports dogs very successful. Though it also popular when discussing behavioral issues (I don't necessarily think it's a behavioral issue, more of just a personality trait) when dogs want to chase various creatures such as squirrels, rabbits, birds, and it can difficult to regain your dogs attention whent these triggers are around the area. 

Now lets talk Aleu and Kyra's prey drive. Kyra's prey drive is high, she will go after birds, mice, squirrels.. she's even caught a mice or two when we are out hiking, and usually swallows it before I can get to her. However if we are somewhere around these animals, I can easily switch her attention back to me with the vibrate setting on her e-collar. Aleu however is an entirely different story. She goes into what I like to call as, "Tunnel Vision." She will power through her e-collar if she is close to getting what she wants. I often have to use the e-collar, put my hands over her eyes, or even lay her down on her side and lay on top of her until she settles. However this is only ever when the prey is in sight. If were off hiking and a bird flies off or she hears something, I can get her to pay attention to me and to get back on the trail fairly quickly.

Now let's talk about the biggest prey Aleu has gone for.  As many of you know, last weekend we went camping for Aleu's birthday. We did BLM camping in Soapstone Basin up in the Uinta National Forrest outside of Kamas, UT. Now I had googled all about this place before and not a single website let me know that every so often, they usher a herd of sheep through the valley right by a lot of the campsites, so when we rolled in and saw them, it took us by surprise. With this knowledge, we picked a campsite that was further back from the road and in the trees, thus us being further away from the sheep. I hitched the girls to our Ruffwear hitching system and went on to set up our camp, all the while Aleu was howling and yelling as the smells were driving her senses wild, and I was starting to feel bad at how over stimulated my dog had become in such a short time. I had set up the tent and all of the sudden, Aleu was out of her collar and took off into the woods with a determination I had never seen from her, out into this field of sheep and she was gone. I couldn't see her, and sheep were running. All of the sudden I saw her with her face down and her butt in the air, her tail wagging furiously. I was in an absolute state of panic as I ran towards Aleu, expecting the worst. She had pinned a lamb that was just about her size to the ground and was shaking it's head like a rag doll. I grabbed Aleu by the scruff and tried to yank her off but she didn't let go. This was the moment that I was so glad that when Aleu was a puppy, I trained her to let me take food from her mouth. In my state of panic, I shoved my hand into her mouth in between her and the lamb and she instantly popped off and just sat down next to me. I grabbed her scruff again and was walking her back to camp. The lamb was left with only four puncture wounds from her canines, but wasn't bleeding profusely, and eventually stood up and fell, before standing up again and rejoining the herd. When we got back to camp I tightened her collar and then just sat down and cried from the stress and the fact that my dog went after an animal her own size which is something I always thought she would never do. 

This whole experience is scary for a few reasons, me not knowing my dog's prey drive was that high, the fact Aleu took down a baby lamb, but most importantly, if the rancher would have been there, they legally have the right to shoot my dog on site. So I was completely overwhelmed by the entire situation. Luckily everything turned out okay, but it is still a problem that I need to address and work with her on. I've since bought a muzzle that I will use when training Aleu. I will be taking her to a local public farm and socialize her around farm animals so if we just somehow end back up in a situation like before, it won't be so much of a worry or stressor for me and for her. 

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Alexandra Dunn