Your dog has a set of survival instincts. One of those instincts is the prey drive: the innate urge to chase and kill small animals. The breed and individual personality of your dog determine how strong this drive is; for example, a border terrier used for hunting will have a strong prey drive. You can't stop your dog having this instinct, but you can teach him to control it. If you keep rabbits, it's especially important to teach your dog to stay out of the rabbit pen.
Teach the Sit Command
Step #1 - Hold a treat in your hand and walk toward your dog. Let him get the scent of the treat.
Step #2 - Raise the treat above and then behind his head, so he follows with his nose. As you move the treat, say "sit." Your dog will follow the treat. The trick is to lure him into the sit position using the treat. He'll eventually sit to get a better view of it.
Step #3 - Release the treat and praise the dog when his bottom hits the floor. Repeat the exercise for half an hour each day until your dog learns the command. With sufficient repetition, you'll be able to get rid of the treat and just use the command to put your dog in the sit position. Once he's got it, you can use the sit command to interrupt unwanted behavior.
Teach Pup to Stay Away From the Pen
Step #1 - Put Lucky on a long leash and walk him toward the rabbit pen. As you walk him, give him lots of verbal praise. This is a positive stimulus. The benefit of introducing a positive stimulus at this stage is that you can quickly and easily take it away when he does something wrong. This is called negative punishment. Let him see the rabbit pen, but don't let him within 10 feet.
Step #2 - Gently tug the leash if Lucky goes toward the rabbit pen and cease the praise. Put him in the sit position and wait 20 seconds. Praise him after the sit. The trick here is to create an aversion to the rabbit pen. By removing the praise, you show Lucky that good things get taken away when he goes near the rabbits. By rewarding the sit, you teach him the being passive when he can see the rabbit pen results in a positive outcome.
Step #3 - Practice this exercise daily, each time allowing more slack on the leash. Over time, the repeated use of positive punishment creates an exclusion zone into which Lucky will not want to enter. Eventually, you'll be able to let Lucky roam free without the leash, using just your voice to control him if he ventures too close to the pen.
By Simon Foden
About the Author
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.