Many of our canine companions still have some of the predatory instincts of their wild ancestors, which compel them to hunt, stalk and chase small, fast-moving prey like birds. Some dogs have a higher prey drive than others and require training to prevent injury to local wildlife.
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Birds are small, make interesting noises and fly around quickly, making them the ideal thing to chase if you're a canine. Many dogs view birds, squirrels, rats, mice and cats as potential prey, some more than others. Any type of bird could be considered prey by your dog, including ducks, swans, geese, chickens and small wild birds. Certain breeds of dogs, such as retrievers, spaniels and pointers, were originally bred to flush out and find such birds to assist in human hunting -- something they still do today, according to Gun Dog Magazine. These breeds and others with a strong prey drive are more likely than others to chase, attempt to catch and possibly kill our feathered friends.
A Dangerous Situation
A high prey drive is desirable in a pup who assists his owner during a hunting trip or who participates in American Kennel Club sporting and performance events, such as lure coursing. Unfortunately, it isn't a desired trait for most pet pups who don't participate in such activities. In fact, such a prey drive is not only dangerous to the local avian wildlife population, but also to the pup himself. An excited pooch may run off into potentially deadly traffic or become hopelessly lost in his quest to chase his flying prey. Prevent such issues by always keeping your pup on a leash while outdoors or confining him to a fenced-in yard or outdoor kennel, recommends the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Train that Pup
When dealing with a pooch with a high prey drive toward any creatures, including birds, you'll need to have full control of him at all times. Teach your pup basic verbal commands such as "sit," "stay," "leave it" and "come." Don't test out your pup's initial training on real birds because this can be very stressful and even dangerous for them. Instead, have another person use a bird-like toy on a string to simulate this type of prey near your pup while you use the verbal commands you've taught him to keep him from chasing it. Once he's consistently responding to your verbal commands, test him out around some birds in the wild, using a long leash as an extra safety precaution. Reward him with treats when he focuses on you only even with the tempting flying prey around.
Before adding a feathered friend to your household, watch your pup for signs of a high prey drive while outdoors. If he's highly aroused by the presence of wild birds, chances are he won't do well with an avian addition to your home. You can train some pups to dwell safely with birds, but it takes time, sometimes months, and effort to ensure your pooch doesn't injure your pet bird. Even with training, always keep your bird confined to her cage in a room your pup doesn't have access to when there is no adult supervision available, for her own safety. Keep in mind that some pups can injure birds through their cage bars, which is why placing the cage in a closed room away from the pooch is the best idea, according to Bird Channel.
By Susan Paretts
Cesar's Way: Problem of the Month: Prey Drive
Bird Channel: Train Dogs To Tolerate Parrots
Veterinary Partner: High Prey Drive
Birds N Ways: Can Dogs and Birds Get Along?
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Cats and Dogs and Birds on the Beach -- A Deadly Combination
Psychology Today: True Fact: Dog-Walking Helps Dogs But Harms Birds
AvianWeb: Training Your Dog and Cat to be Around Your Pet Birds -- SAFELY!
Vetstreet: How Do I Stop My Dogs From Chasing My Cat?
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Predatory Behavior in Dogs
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Dogs Chasing Wildlife
Gun Dog Magazine: Breeds
American Kennel Club: New AKC Event Allows ALL Dogs to Discover Fun of Lure Coursing
About the Author
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, crafts, television, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared in "The Southern California Anthology" and on Epinions. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.