Killer Dogs – predation and predatory aggression in pets

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Patterns of Predation

Before dogs became pets, they were wild and lived by preying on animals big and small. Dogs would gather together to chase down an older, younger, or injured animal, grabbing the jugular vein or abdomen, resulting in a kill. All of the dogs would feed in turn, and bring some back to the pups at home. The pattern of see-chase-grab-kill is the predation sequence. In domesticating dogs, certain parts of the sequence were diluted but never eliminated. For example, the herding breeds are very strong chasers, but do not go for the bite-hold-kill as readily as other breeds. Terriers, on the other hand, will readily grab-bite and kill.

So despite domestication, dogs still have an instinctive desire to chase, grab, bite and kill things that look like prey. This is why your cute little Yorkie will run down a squirrel, catching and killing at times. I have clients shocked to see a placid Labrador suddenly jump up and grab a fledgling bird swallowing it whole. Predation is instinctive – it is not based on hunger. The level of predatory drive depends on the particular dog and breed. Movement starts the sequence. Allowing a dog to chase down small animals strengthens the prey drive.

Is it Prey?

It is springtime and you may see your dogs or cats killing birds and upsetting bunny nests. It may not be a big problem depending on your needs. This predatory drive is a problem when it is directed towards running children or small dogs and cats. For us these targets are not prey, but to the dog they move like prey, sound like prey, and look like prey, hence the danger.

The term predatory aggression is used for dogs who stare at a target creature, move silently and quickly with a grab-bite to the jugular or abdomen – the vital organs. A hallmark of this is the sudden, impulsive action of the dog. For many dogs, this may be the only type of aggression they show. It is dangerous because it cannot be trained, medicated or counter conditioned out of them. You may have a dog who chased cats be commanded to stay or sit around the cat, but they will still chase the cat down at some point. I have seen this happen. This aggression is shocking to the owners because it comes out suddenly and it is directed to what we do not see as prey. But the dog’s instinct tells otherwise.

Risks of Canine Predation

A predatory aggressive dog living with an infant child is very risky. Children under the age of 3 years move quickly, with high pitched noises. The infant lying on a bed or blanket looks like small wounded prey. The horrible stories of infants attacked by dogs are often the result of the child left alone with a dog. In just a few seconds, the dog sees the movement and noises of the child, pouncing and grabbing around the head, legs or arms. With the owner present often the dog may just stare which is misinterpreted as interest. The lunge-bite may be suppressed, but the desire is not.

The only way to control predatory aggression is 100% avoidance of the situations that put humans and animals at risk. This means if your dog chases cats, it cannot live with a cat. If small dogs are the prey, your dog cannot be around any small dogs. Any dog with this history of preying on animals should never be around infants or small children under 3 at all. This is why if you have a predatory dog you must be realistic about how you will control this. It’s not easy. Find a veterinarian or behaviorist to consult with you on this problem to work out the most realistic, safe solution that protects the people and animals around this dog.

Learn More:

To learn more about dealing with fear-based aggression in dogs, check out Dr. Yin’s DVD on Dog Aggression.

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Dr. Sally J. Foote

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78 responses to “Killer Dogs – predation and predatory aggression in pets

  1. Well done article. I’m disappointed however that you were not clear that this behavior is NORMAL genetic behavior. The dog is not “defective” if any of the sequence of prey drive is present, it just means that we need to recognize and vigilantly manage the dog to completely avoid those situations.

    1. The first few sentences, explaining how this is a part of early dog behavior,that was selected down but not eliminated was how I was describing this as normal behavior. That is why I emphasized that there is still an instinctive drive to predate in our pet dogs.

      Dr Sally J Foote

      1. I witnessed a dog known to me who is a terrier cross who chased and grabbed a rabbit and performed a kill shake but ceased the shake and dropped the rabbit as soon as it froze. The dog was recalled and the rabbit ran off. Why did the dog stop it’s predatory behaviour when the rabbit stopped struggling?

  2. “The term predatory aggression is used for dogs who stare at a target creature, move silently and quickly with a grab-bite to the jugular or abdomen – the vital organs. A hallmark of this is the sudden, impulsive action of the dog.” Can you clarify for me: whether a dog who sees movement and chases is necessarily exhibiting predatory aggression? Especially if they don’t kill the animal if it’s ever caught? I ask because I’ve had dogs who love to chase birds but have been conditioned not to chase by using carefully graded exposure and differential reinforcement of an alternative or other behaviour and a high rate of reinforcement. To the extent that the presence of the bird elicits the new behaviour. So I’m thinking either it’s not technically predatory aggression OR it is not a well practised behaviour yet and that’s why it responded? I totally acknowledge that a claim of 100% that any dog trained not to chase will never chase. Behaviour is never 100% predictable. And safety is paramount.

    1. Reactivity – the action of seeing something – then reacting by looking – staring – barking – lunging – chasing in varying degrees is different than predation.
      Predation is quiet – the stare, head down, quiet approach at first that suddenly accelerates is different than what you are describing which is reactivity.
      Reactivity can be reduced yet when ever there is high reactive activity on a small animal, it can switch over to aggression or predation.

      Dr Sally J Foote

  3. We have a 5 month old American bulldog/black lab mix. She’s my 14 year old daughter’s dog & they are very attached to each other. She has started guarding my daughter & will get aggressive with anyone coming near her. It’s not all the time but it’s very scary because I have young kids. And they can just be standing near my daughter, doing nothing to provoke, & she will go after them. Is there any way to train this behavior out of her? My daughter would be absolutely heartbroken if we had to rehome her, or worse, put her down.

    1. whenever a case like this comes up again, you have to split the care of the dog among the family, when the main person is not around or around let some body take over and care for the dog before the emergence of the predatory act(puppy stage) mostly feeding, then play and exercise. so it look like a family kind of thing although the attachment would still be there but the trust and respect the dog is showing the main care giver will gradually be split among the family knowing it will never be equal.
      socializing the dog is another steps to take for the dog to know that human and other things are not t to be predate upon.
      let your daughter have the dog seat beside her when approach by a person.
      the barrier of the dog not allowing other people to touch her must be broken by having her being touch calmly and gently.
      try to do all this together consistently, knowing it is combination of behaviour that will make everything work.

    1. Hi Margaret, it sort of depends on the dog and the “motivation” being the killing. I have a rescued female Central Asian Ovcharka (It’s a Livestock Guardian Breed that originated in what was the southern part of the old USSR as well as Turkey and Armenia) that had been stray for several months and hunting in the suburbs to feed her pups. That means she was hunting rodents, cats and small dogs. She was EXTREMELY reactive even on leash, more so than is common for the breed . HOwever, after some dedicated work, she is very good on leash and is able to be kenneled or in the house around other dogs that she knows without fighting.

      1. Hi Randy. My daughter adopted a sharplananic shephard dog fron Masadonia when she was in europe. The dog is VERy territorially aggressive and tries to jump through her windows and chews doors off the frame to get to a dog walking outside. He literally takes the fence in his mouth and tries to pull it out of the ground. We tried the shock collar but that only makes him more aggressive. Any ideas?

        1. Wow. Yeah shock collars and the rarer LGD breeds don’t work well. Email me at so we can set up a time to talk.

          1. Hi I have a dog that attacked and killed my lamb it was being a predator towards the lamb and then jumped the fence and killed it bu going for the jugular I don’t trust it but it’s not my dog it’s staying at my house witll it kill my new grandchild when it’s born

            1. Odds are no. It’s not common for hunting instincts to transfer to humans. HOWEVER… having said that, no dog should be around babies/toddlers unsupervised, ever. Keep the dog under control in the house at all times.

  4. I recently adopted a 14 month old border collie that attacks children. He also growls at strangers coming into my house. Yesterday he bit my nephew’s 6 year old in the leg without any provocation. Is it possible to stop this behaviour?

    1. First step of course will be to keep him away from children. Don’t give him the opportunity to “fail” so-to-speak. I would look at this DVD as it should be able to help.

  5. I recently rescued (from a very crowded shelter) a 4 year old Pit bull/Bulldog mix. She is really a lovely dog. Very quiet and loves to cuddle and be around humans. I also already had a 1 year old Olde Bulldog. They get along great. But we noticed that when giving lasting treats, the pit/bulldog mix will steal the treats from the Olde Bulldog. Must recently, we gave both dogs a stuffed kong, and the pitbull/bulldog finished she slowly crept to the room where we had the bulldog eating his treat (because of the signs we decided when giving long lasting treats they should be in separate rooms) and she attacked and punctured the olde bulldog. He is recovering well, and even after the fight, he wanted to be near her, but we are afraid to let them be together. What can we do? We thought about taking her back to the shelter but do want her to be put down.

    1. You need to keep them completely separated when giving any treat they can’t eat immediately – meaning there should be physical barrier preventing one access to the other. If they are not already crate training this would be a good time to start. I would not allow them to be alone together unsupervised ever until you’d worked with a professional trainer or behaviorist and addressed the issue.

      Until you can do that I’d work on “leave it” with each dog individually and restrict food to their bowls.

  6. This blog article is problematic. Not all predatory behaviour is indiscriminately. I have a GSP with high prey drive towards cats however he was highly socialized with toy dogs and babies. He’s never exhibited any body language to suggest similar behaviour with dogs or babies. This type of carte blanche fear mongering could cause serious issues for some dogs and families are absolutely no reason. This is the first time I’ve seen a post on this site that I would call irresponsible.

    1. Hi Jade,

      You are correct, not all dogs who have a high predatory drive toward one target will necessarily find other targets in the near vicinity to go after. But that does not mean that the drive to do so is not present in the dog. Since your GSP has a high prey drive towards cats, would you ever leave your dog alone with a cat? No, probably not. Many dogs with a prey drive would be perfectly fine with small dogs or babies, but that does not mean that those small dogs and babies are 100% safe either, even if you think they are. This article is not fear-mongering, as you put it. It is meant to be a cautionary piece for things to watch for in case your dog does have a prey drive, like your GSP does towards cats, as it “could” mean that a desire to act on their predatory drive may be present, even if they never act on it. And just because your dog may not exhibit those behaviors, aside from the cats, does not mean that another dog of the exact same breed, or any other breed for that matter, won’t act on that desire in the exact same situation. Just like humans, dogs are not carbon copies of one another and will react differently under different situations.

      1. Wow, this story of the GSD dog owner thinking her dog is safe around babies is scary. Years ago there was a GSD that had been with the family for years and a baby arrived. The family thought their baby was safe as they raised their GSD and had never seen aggression of any kind towards other animals or children. They loved how their GSD “loved” the new baby……..They stepped out of the room for a few minutes one day. They heard the baby cry out. They ran back in and the GSD had attacked the baby nearly decapitating it. Baby was instantly killed. Dog was put down. Family divorced and never recovered from witnessing the horror. Please people, NEVER leave a baby or young child alone with dogs. Thankfully this happened before I ever had children and I never left my babies alone with a dog EVER, nor did I let them “Cuddle” or take pictures together. I will never forget the looks of horror and devastation on those parents faces. The guilt has haunted them forever. I cannot understand the pit bull owners who lose children to their dogs attacks and then STILL say pits are safe around children and their(OWN CHILD) must have done something to instigate it. Can you believe parents blaming their dead child for the dog killing it? Talk about denial and blame shifting! Beyond sickening. No parents, if your dog kills your child…….IT IS YOUR FAULT! NO dog should ever be left alone with a young child. You can’t even stop some attacks even if you are in the same room. Pits, Rotts and GSD’s can break children’s necks with one shake. Done. Child or Grandparent dead instantly. Plain and simple. Dogs can kill and we are responsible to protect, babies, young children, the elderly etc. Their have recently been stories of pits killing young adults as well now that rescues have propagandized that all pits are safe and only bad owners end up getting killed. WRONG again. Just WRONG. One young lady that was killed, worked in pit rescue and knew all about pits and still was attacked, died and was partially eaten by her pit. This was not a known dangerous dog, she raised it from a pup, and it had never shown aggression before.

        1. What is your issues with pitbull and Rottweilers? Her comment does not even mention them. Pitbulls are perfectly safe dogs as much as any other dog is.

          1. Some breeds were bred for the purpose of killing or guarding. These are the breeds we need to beware of. Generally when a pitbull attacks it doesn’t just bite, they devour. They were bred to do that, it’s in their genes. No one knows for sure which dog will bite or attack.

          2. The widespread denial around this issue is just incredible, not to mention potentially tragic. All dogs have all drives, yes. But certain breeds have stronger particular drives programmed into their DNA, because they were bred to exhibit specific traits. Whether these traits come out or not, this programming is simply a fact. It’s the whole point of breeding, and it’s why different breeds exist. Genetic traits.

        2. GSP is a German Shorthaired Pointer.
          There is no mention of the German Shepherd breed in either of the posts before this one.

          Regardless, absolutely no dog should ever be left alone with children from the Chihuahua to the Great Dane. Every dog with a mouth and teeth has the ability to bite. Dogs have a very different “culture” than humans. They don’t have a hand to push you away with, and they don’t have words to tell you that you are bothering them. They have subtle ques and signs that most average pet owners either ignore or do not notice. So no dog, ever, not even the Golden Retriever, should ever be left alone with children. Period.

        3. You are absolutely right. I haven’t read a point that I could argue. I work in the ER. 99% of dog bites that come in, are from pits. I love them, but that is a fact.

  7. Hi,
    Been reading all the other posts with interest. We are fostering a staffie cross, she also has some whippet and possibly sheepdog in her. She’s been good in the house, and enjoys running free with very good recall, and had probably 20 ish positive and peaceful interactions with other dogs off the lead. The other day she suddenly started chasing a slightly yapping jack Russell terrier, biting it, and even when it’s owner picked it up ,jumping up to bite and hold on to it. Once I managed to get hold of her she was still desperate to attack again. Poor little dog had 2 puncture wounds in his back end. We don’t intend to keep the dog and it belongs to a rescue society, and their policy would be to carefully remove her. I would be glad of your thoughts on this, as this is far outside my experience of dogs. She only goes out with a muzzle on now.

    1. Hi, I have had whippets and what it sounds like is that you have ended up with a very high prey drive dog. I would start with this DVD ( ) and see if it helps rein that in. It should help you with this and related issues.

      1. Hello I have a boxer mix that was used as a bait dog. She is now 11 and is amazing with my 3 children the youngest is 3 and he rides her like a pony and shares his food with her. She has never even snapped at a person. She also lives with her brother a 12 year old frenchie who is the dominant dog and can get her to hide in a corner if he wanted to. She does however when she sees a dog or beaver or anything in the yard goes right after it and tries to attack. I can grab her and get her to stop and sit but her instinct is to just attack. My question is how can I work with her to bring a puppy into our home? Could this even work? She gets scared if we yell at her and she runs away I’m thinking if the introduction is right and we take time we could make this work. Any thoughts ???

        1. We have this issue come up a lot with my rescue. You have to start off by introducing them off of your property, Go for walks together and reward her for behaving. Then when the pup comes to live with you, keep them separated for a while but continue to pay attention to your current dog. Take them off of the property for walks and the like and you should be able to gradually bring them together at home.

  8. Thanks for an interesting post.

    I am confused about the statement that it cannot be trained out of them. is not predatory behavior triggered by movement a motor action pattern, and therefore subject to operant conditioning? the post says “Allowing a dog to chase down small animals strengthens the prey drive.” — exactly — the more they do it, the more they like because it is a self-reinforcing behavior. Introducing an incompatible behavior, and reinforcing it strongly enough, can certainly help to modify the behavior can it not? I thought this was why we not longer call these “fixed action patterns” — because they aren’t fixed.

    All info welcome thanks so much.

  9. Interesting post. Thank you for bringing up a subject we should all be aware of.
    Having seen a dog quietly kill another in front of me, I have since looked closely at the subject and I agree it can not be trained out. We are not dealing with operant conditioning at all. Figuratively speaking, it is one dog instinctively picking up his or her knife and fork…harsh as it sounds.
    Management is required at all times and keeping the dog under threshold because an excited dog or an anxious dog is probably more likely to switch on the predatory behaviour. Would you agree?
    I have spoken to many experts about this and you simply can not predict if a dog that quietly appears will attack your dog or not. That is what was so scary in my experience. The information I have gleaned is that if you are with a dog (particularly a small breed), beware a quiet approach and interaction from a BIGGER dog.
    On a positive note, whilst we often observe clusters of the predatory motor patten, I am a strong believer that the vast majority of dogs are classed as scavengers and not hunters.

  10. We have a shelter dog raised by us from a puppy. I trained him to sit, shake, lay and roll over on my command. My husband has to walk ” Skid ” because I use a Walker and cannot negoiate hills. I use to be able to ask him if he wanted a belly rub when he stayed on the foot of our bed in the middle of the night. ” Skidd ” loved it ! Now he is 3 yrs old. When I get up in the middle of the nite and return he aggressively growls, shows his teeth . One time he niped me on the hand. My husband tells him “no” and ” Skid ” does a low growl and lets me ease into bed. He stays at the bottom of the bed facing away from me. During the day I can pet him or give commands with a treat of frozen sweet potato.He much prefers my husband now.Help !! I am heart broken !!!! Oh he also loves to greet persons and children when on a lease.

    1. This is an old post, but don’t let your dog sleep on your bed…especially if they are showing aggressive behavior towards you. This means your dog does not see you as a leader and you are the omega dog trying to get into their bed. Nope, would never happen in my house. The dogs sleep on the rug or on their dog bed. My bed is my bed, that includes the couch too.

  11. I can see now why American pitbull terriers get a bad rap. I have 4 APBTs. Mom, dad, brother & sister. All now fixed. Mom and brother have very high predatory aggression and can never go to the dog park or be around any other animals except the other 2. They have killed a Pekingese and a cat. Dad and daughter not so much. They can go to the dog park and don’t have issues with other dogs. But, I would not trust them around a cat or other prey animals. I do not see any aggression towards humans. Even small children. They never have shown any aggression even when I touch their food or toys. I made sure, when they were puppies, to sit next to them and put my hands in their food bowls while they were eating. You can pet them, move the bowl, whatever. They have, on occasion, tried to attack each other but I know how to stop it before it gets out of hand and they are separated when I’m not home. But, now I understand why some might attack a small child. This should be explained to people when getting any terrier, especially a pitbull.

  12. I have a 6-year-old German Shepherd/Australian Sheep Dog mix. He was a rescue & came from a very abusive home prior. When I adopted him, I was told he was very aggressive towards men but good with smaller dogs. I have had him for about 5 years now & have never had issues with him. He has co-lived with my 2 smaller dogs & has never shown any signs of aggression towards them. However, this year, he has begun killing animals… There have been 3 incidents as of now & I am very confused about what I should do. It started with 7 baby chicks, & then about 4 months later he killed 13 full grown chickens & now, just recently he killed 2 puppies who wandered into our yard. He is still very good with my other 2 dogs & plays with them as if nothing happened, but I have of course separated them for the time being.
    I am very worried & I do not know how to handle this situation. He is neutered, so I know that that can not be the issue. Nothing has changed within the household & no one has abused him since I have adopted. I don’t know what could have suddenly started this behavior…

    1. Did you ever get any information? I see this is 2 years ago and I wonder how things turned out? I ask because I have a corgi/husky mix. She has never been aggressive towards humans. She is now about 3 and about 8 month ago killed 2 of my chickens that got out of the pin. I was sad but understood it was most likely and instinctual herding reaction. We recently have our 3 other dogs and 2 rescue dogs. staying with us. We have had a handful of short term rescues and never had any issues. Recently she turned on one of the rescues we have had for several months. I feel so bad because this dog was very timid and if feel she showed fear causing her to be attacked and killed. I am at a loss of what to do. After the event she has been normal and not aggressive to the other dogs or fosters. It has only been a couple of days but I am constantly worried now. Any helpful information is greatly appreciated.

  13. I have got a 3months German Shepard. He used to fear the chickens and Turkeys but over time, he started chasing them around. It was interesting at first as this is my first time owning a dog. One of my chickens died tho I’m not sure how but it was bleeding under his wings. Then yesterday, my dog killed a Turkey and ate it and since then he became so so aggressive that sometimes I just want to hit him so hard but I I feel bad to do so. He after my hands and legs and bites a lot than usual. When it’s time to eat, he is just so wild when he smells the food from afar. He usually fear strangers but now barks at everyone even kids. He used to sleep in my room and sometimes on my bed but now , I’m scared so I leave him out. I really miss the way he used to be. Is there anything I can do. He is just so young and he already try to mate with the pillow and my leg and stuffs. I need help.

  14. Dra. Mind if i ask whats happening to my dog…i treated him like one of my child were sleeping together at night sometimes,then one day i foled him that i carry a puppy in my arms but he disnt sees it or smell anything on my skin and clothes,i folled him by saying that this ia my new puppy and i wil replace you then i show him also that there is no puppy in my arms then hug him and told him that its only a joke and i love him.morning the following day i thought that he was just hunting a female dog that whos in a pertile time so i let him out then he will cone hone a few hours,another following day i heard from the neighbor that he kill tje two new born puppy of his own mother then in the after noon i live him outside the house because he keeps on barking when he didts see me and destroying our door ai i decided to leave him outside (our gate is always open) suddenly i received a chat from my cousin near our house and send me a picture what does my dog dis to his puppy and now he s not sleeping and eating well always raise his ears and snipping and looking everywhere specially when he hears a little sound or scratches hia not also waggling his tails anymore just a little licking then walking around and around..why is he becomes like that and what i have to do?

  15. I hope someone here could help me because some are suggesting that dispatched my dog to the pound and it might be bite me also because theyve said that my dog is going crazy and dont wait for the time taht my dog also bite or attack humans because he had kille 3 puppies in the neighborhood
    I am really woriied for him that he might get worst or might not be heeled anymore or attack us or even my kids but i love him so much and i cant imaggine that height be killed by injection in the dog pound

  16. I have a dog that has killed 3 cats. I don’t know why he is doing this. I have 3 other cats. I catch him taunting them. How can I train him to stop attacking cats? What is the best method to use when I see him taunting a cat? Please need advice.

    1. Hi Kim. I have slightly edited your question as part of it would likely cause you to be attacked by others even though it’s a common idea. To answer that part, you can use positive training methods with counter-conditioning to change his behavior. I have done it with some of my rescues and while it takes work and vigilance, it can work. Here is the link to one of Dr Yin’s videos on the subject. You can find others by searching this site for “counter-conditioning”.

  17. how do i stop my dog ? she is very loving but has killed many chickens cats and injured a dog to the point of surgery and i dont know what to do.

  18. This was a very helpful article. I have a five year old pittie, and she is a sweetie. She has some dog aggression, but not with all dogs. My neighbor has a chihuahua, and there is a fox terrier on our walk. My pup has played a bit with both. I did notice today, when I was walking across my yard to visit my neighbor and her chihuahua, which barks incessantly at my dog, my pup stopped about six feet away, seeming nervous. I called her over. The chihuahua was pawing, barking a bit, etc. My pup moved from tail wagging to very stern, and back and forth. She seemed to be conflicted. Well, at one moment, she went to rush at the chihuahua, and when I sternly said her name, she sat. Her rigid movement and intense, fixated gaze signalled that she wasn’t looking to play. She has never behaved that way around cats or rabbits. This article tells me that I need to keep her leashed and controlled around other animals. Thanks!

  19. I have a question – if my pit mix puppy (6 weeks) does the silent stalk, pounce shake on toys, is it not recommended for him to have fuzzy toys that in any way blur the lines between a toy and my cats? I understand you can’t train the predatory tendencies away and he’s currently respectful of the cats but he’s also only half their size.
    Thank you

  20. I was just given a bitch bulldog and was told she wasn’t good with small females, or cats. I was also told she wasn’t the best mom. Well she attacked and killed a toy chihuahua 4 days on the place, but is fine with every other animal. She barks and acts aggressive towards my daughters furry toys, but she’s absolutely great with people. What’s wrong with my dog?

  21. I have a question about my dog being referred to as a “prey animal” by someone who is not a professional.

    dog is a very sweet 70lb Husky/Shepherd/Lab mix. He grew up with the dog half his size (until the older dog passed away).

    I have a very large fenced in backyard. Over the years my dog has killed rabbits. In fact all my dogs have gone after running bunnies in the dark.

    Due to this my sister has referred to him as a “ prey animal” and says he is unsafe around her 9lb. Toy Poodle. My dog has also been socialized around my best friend’s child said she was a baby, playing with her when she was a toddler and he is a gentle soul.

    I do not believe he is a danger to my sister’s dog. But she insists he is a “prey animal” and will kill her dog due to the rabbits. Unfortunately, I cannot test this by having interaction between him and the toy poodle as my sister lives in another state.

    I ask because I am a medical emergency situation. I asked my sister if anything happened to me which she take my dog. She has always told me yes. (Having 2 Toy Poodles when it was discussed.) Now, suddenly, that is an impossibility as she says my dog will kill her dog. I have no one else to take him if I die during surgery and she knows this. Or if I cannot care for him. Even when faced with the fact that if I have no one else that can take him & if I can’t take care of him I may have to put him down. My sister claimed this perceived danger to her Toy Poodle made it impossible for her to help.

    I am thoroughly confused on why she now believes he is a “prey animals” when dogs do for fill their instincts. He was not a danger t I am thoroughly confused on why she now believes he is a “pray animal“ when dogs do for fill their instincts. He was not a danger when she was asked previously, again she has 2 Toy Poodles at that time.

    This breaks my heart. Can you please explain to me what she is talking about? She also included that I told a friend they could not bring their cat here as “my dog would kill it” to prevent someone from taking advantage of me as evidence. For the record, my dog has never killed a cat or been socialized with one. It was I was uncomfortable with my friend, not the cat- something she knows.


    1. A “Prey Animal” is one that is food for others ie: deer, sheep, squirrels, cattle, etc. A dog could be considered a “predator animal” except that term only applies to wild natural predators such as wolves or coyotes. Ask her exactly what her issue is and why she thinks your dog is a threat to her little dog. HAve you exposed your dog to other toy dogs before, say at a dog park or class?

      1. My dog was raised with his ‘older brother’ from the minute he came into my home. Until my previous dog was put down due to cancer- but he was an older dog and half my dog Random’s size. So for half his life he was with an older yet 38lb dog.

        Yes, Random has been around other dogs with no problems, all of my neighbors have dogs out where Random will run a bit, not bark or show aggression through the my fence.

        Also my good friend’s child has been around him from a toddler crawling to a running 4 year old.

        After I posted this… I realized my sister actually consulted via telephone to write my legal will agreeing to take my dog with having her two 9-10lbs. Toy Poodles.

        I spoke to my veterinarian directly. She was flabbergasted. I explained my sister has been volunteering at an animal shelter for about 2-3 weeks AFTER my Vet said she had never heard the term “prey animal” used outside of the Humane Society/shelter setting to assess risk for animals to be adopted or destroyed.

        My Veterinarian is writing a letter of her assessment of my dog in her clinical setting & his friendliness with other animals. I will be making other arrangements for my dog Random.

        I was distressed when I wrote this for advice as I was blindsided by my sister. I believe this is a justification to not be supportive on the part of my sister. I honestly do not know nor care. I will figure out other arrangements somehow.
        Thank you for the reply, again I was distraught (& still am honestly).

        P.S. There is good news in this though. A friend has stepped forward that I trust, although we need to discuss this further. I will not have my sister named to take my dog. So better to have this done now than in an emergency- again thank you.

  22. My daughters dog has be diagnosed with predatory drift..the recommendation is to put the dog to sleep. Any help would be appreciated. The dog has attacked the other dogs in our yard..and has been aggressive on the leash. Sent him for all day training. This was the recommendation. Any help would be appreciated. The dog is over 60 pounds, and is a beautiful healthy strattforshire terrier. 10 months old.. I love him can we keep him? We have a small dog and 2 cats. They say he is not safe to be around them.

    1. You need to immediately find a certified vet behaviorist. Try your nearest Vet teaching school to see if they have a behavior service and get your dog seen. An ordinary trainer is not going to help. You need to do this now.

  23. I found this article very interesting. I have a rescue 4 yr old Corgi/terrier. He is very shy with people and has never acted aggressively towards people. However, when I take him for a walk, he always gets excited when he see a smaller dog and twice now he has gone up to a dog, sniffed him and then grabbed him. Once by the abdomen and once on the back. He has let go fairly easily and has never broken skin. He stays away from larger dogs but will also attempt to chase cats and once grabbed a skunk in the yard and was shaking him back and forth then let him go so the skunk sprayed him. I didn’t realize this was predatory behavior and I have him in training and was hoping his behavior could be changed but now I understand that it cannot be changed. I have a much better understanding now. I was confused because he appears so friendly going up to the small dog and suddenly grabs him. I guess I will just keep him away from other dogs to be safe. Thank you.

  24. I have always had a mixed household dogs/cats. I took in a foster dog nearly three years ago. She recently attacked a cat in my home and broke the cat’s leg. Thankfully the dog was adopted to a home with no small children or other animals shortly after that. 10 days later, my dog that I have had for 4 plus years attacked a different cat in the household. Unfortunately the cat didn’t survive. I have always believed it was my responsibility to protect the animals and in this case, I failed. I feel terrible and can’t even look at the dog. To top it off, the dog was mine and an ex-boyfriend’s. He lives in an apartment with his mom so has no way of caring for it. I am fearful for the other cats as well as my 3 year old nephew that now lives with me. Overall, I guess I’m just sad. And disappointed that I let the cat down. Thanks for listening.

  25. I am so torn and just lost at how to deal with our 5 year old pit bull. We have had him since he was a month old,very good around adults but attacks any animal he can. Before he was two attacked our German Shepard,she was so good to him! Just yesterday he attacked a calf and now wants to get to the adult cows. I have two young grandchildren another on the way,he immediately goes in lockdown before they arrive,as he has growled at my granddaughter. I can’t allow anyone who has young children or other pets to take him,which really narrows down my options. I feel terrible for considering putting him to sleep,I love him,I just can’t take it anymore. For the record ,my son bought him but can’t have him. Any advice??

    1. So sorry to hear this. First off, keep the children away from him as you are doing. Keep him away from livestock and all other animals. Next is to immediately look for a certified veterinary behaviorist. Not a trainer but a behaviorist that can help you work through this.

  26. I have a 6 year old pitbull who seems to only be predatory aggressive towards other dogs. He loves children, he’s great with cats and anything else, just not dogs. He does the key signs of stopping and staring, he tries to lunge and when he is close enough, he always goes for the neck. I have to muzzle him taking him to parks and places where dogs are present because I’m fearful he’ll harm them. Does this mean there is no fixing this problem and I will have to muzzle him for the rest of his life around dogs?

  27. Our neighbor’s dog is a pit mix. The other night the dog got out of it’s fence when I was in the street in front of their house and approached my mini golden doodle. The dog quietly approached my dog. They went within a few inches of one another when the pit lurched towards my dog and snapped at her. My dog recoiled quickly leash wrapping around my legs and taking me to the ground as I was trying to get between them. I managed to get my dog under me, but the pit kept looking for openings to snap at my dog. The pit was quiet the whole time. Even after getting up and getting my dog into my arms, the other dog kept trying to jump up and snap at my dog. I discussed the event with my neighbor and was told that the dog is friendly and I shouldn’t worry. Others have advised me to contact animal control. Does that sound appropriate to you?

    1. This dog is very dangerous, as the quiet approach to lunge and aggress does not give warning. Your fall to the ground as your dog tried to escape is extremely dangerous for you to be bitten as dog attach the victim that rolls or falls. Yes!! Call animal control. This dog may be friendly inside the house, with the family but this is clear inter dog aggression and a high risk for serious bites to other dogs and humans.

  28. I have a doggo family. Dad (black lab), mom a catahola, and their daughter. Mom and daughter have a strong (prey/chase) side. I’ve had 4 fights between mom and daughter. Kill fights imho if not separated asap. They still want to fight in the moments after separation but are fine after a few moments separated. Male is neutered, but girls aren’t spayed. Would that make a difference? Is there anything I can do, or do I need to rehome one? Thanks.

  29. I have a 3yo corgi/husky mix. We have ad her since she was a new born puppy. She has never been aggressive towards humans or other animals. Is good on leash walks and has up until now been good with our other dogs and rescues. About 8 month ago she killed 2 of my chickens that got out of the pin. I was sad, but understood it was most likely and instinctual herding reaction. We currently have our 3 other dogs (One original dog 5yo pitty mix (Had since puppy, 3 yo lab mix had since puppy, and about 3yo shepard mix had for about a year) We have had a handful of short term rescues and never had any issues. Recently she turned on one of the rescues we have had for over 5 month. I feel so bad because this dog was very timid. She never really fit in with the “pack” she just wanted to be with her human and play fetch all day, nothing else. They had been all left out in our yard daly for over 5 month with no issues. They would go on leash walks together with no issues. We recently took in a new foster, its been a little over a week. She never showed any issues with the new foster. However, the corgi/ Husky attacked and killed the rescue we have had for over 5 month. I feel the timid dog showed fear causing her to be attacked and killed. I am at a loss of what to do. After the event she has been normal and not aggressive to the other dogs or newest foster. They all eat together with new issues and sleep on the couch with no issues. It has only been a couple of days, but I am constantly worried now. Any helpful information is greatly appreciated.

  30. In the past month, my almost 2 year old Golden Retriever has violently attacked our 6 year old Peek-a-poo 3 times. They are both in tact females that were also both in heat when it started.

    Is that the reason?

    I am getting the golden spayed in April but I am terrified that she is going to kill the smaller dog before then. She just bites onto her and shakes her violently. We have to literally pry her jaws open to get her away. I cannot let them outside together to go to the bathroom and feel I must keep them separated at all times.

    They have eaten together in between episodes but I just don’t know what it triggering her to attack.

    I am terrified now that she cannot be trusted around my other dogs as well (there are 3 other Goldens and a 6 month old black lab, 3 males and 1 female). She is just going after the small female but it is breaking my heart because she is such a good dog except for this and I can’t understand why she does this. I don’t recognize her when she does this. It is like a switch is flipped and then flipped again and she is all sorry acting and sheepish.

    I don’t physically chastise her because I don’t treat my dogs that way but I isolate them and that isn’t right either. They have lived together for almost 2 years with absolutely zero issues.

  31. I have a 4 year male Boxer/Bullmastiff mix (Bud) that I rescued at age 2. Most loving, friendly, obedient and gentle dog. Gets along with everyone and everything. 18 months ago he went to play with two goats on the property and after that incident he just walks within feet of them and ignores them. We just rescued a 9 month female English Mastiff (Kaiya) who was severely abuse. In the 2 months we’ve had her she’s come along way and both dogs are now inseparable. I’ve been training her to ignore the goats but this weekend she went to play with one and as I pulled on the leash it snapped and the goat went for her. Kaiya attacked the goat and my other dog was watching and I could not hold him back and went for the goat too. I manage to get Kaiya to back off by yelling since she is still very frightful of everything but Bud had the goat by the throat and as shaking and dragging it. This went on for 10 minutes as I yelled, tried pulling him by the hind legs, collar and hit him with a stick to no avail. Finally I yelled drop it and come and he immediately leg go and came to me. I grabbed the leach and took him inside. The vet took care of the goat and with a few stitches to his neck he was fine. BUT now I am concern of this behavior and should I be concern with other dogs now? I live in Ireland and take him on 2 hours hikes on a country road and to the beach and let him off the leash and he has never had problems with any other dogs, cows, horses or other goats/sheep he sees. Even when they nip at him he just ignores him. Is this the type of behavior you were addressing in your article? Thanks you.

    1. As far as we know, they were all ok. Unfortunately we do not know the history of those pictures.

  32. My boyfriends English Spring Spaniel is 13 yrs old and is a farm dog. He has killed a lot of animals and notably feral cats. When he was first introduced to my boyfriends moms cats, he attacked once. After that, my boyfriend worked with him and since he has never once attacked those cats. He doesn’t even bother with them. So the statement “ The only way to control predatory aggression is 100% avoidance of the situations that put humans and animals at risk. This means if your dog chases cats, it cannot live with a cat.” is definitely not true in some situations. My boyfriend lived with his mom for a while with two cats and it was just fine.

  33. This post is very old so hopefully it is not abandoned. I have a 3yr old Boxer that I rescued when she was 7 months. She was exceedingly shy and timid for the longest time. I live out in the country on a farm. She never wanders from yard. She was afraid of the cattle and sheep and wild turkeys until a couple of months ago, and now she starts chasing them a little if they are in the yard, but ignores them if they are in their correct pastures. I take her on 12 mile hikes in the mountains and she has never chased small wildlife. She does not even appear to see them half of the time. She has started to chase small animals in the home yard. She will run up towards rabbits, squirrels, birds and woodchucks and then stand and watch then run or fly away. I trusted her and did not have a single concern and was happy with her limited prey drive, until yesterday. I was not home, but she was being watched by my mother who was gardening. My dog came loping around the house with a dead baby woodchuck in her mouth, about 2 lbs. It had grass in its mouth so it had been eating, but there is no blood and no visible puncture wound. So, now I have a killer of some sort on my hands. Now I don’t trust to take her on our hikes or around baby lambs or children. I am devastated. Do you have any advice on how to convey to her that this is unacceptable? I can’t have this behavior on a farm. I obviously can’t take her hiking anymore.

    1. First off, you have a breed that started as a hunting dog so has a high prey drive normally. Having said that, since no one saw what happened with the woodchuck, it’s entirely possible that she found it dead and was bringing it to you, especially since there were no wounds. You don’t “have a killer” on your hands. You have a dog that may or MAY NOT be following it’s instincts. If she is properly obedience trained, there is no reason you can’t take her hiking with you as long as your area allows off leash dogs, shes a canine “good citizen” otherwise, and you don’t let her out of your sight and control.

      However, no high-prey drive breed dog should be left alone with livestock. Don’t give her the chance to fail.

  34. My 5-year-old rescue dog wears a bell on his collar to warn squirrels and birds in our yard of his presence. He killed a baby opossum two years ago, which prompted the bell, but yesterday he killed an innocent skunk baby who was trying to leave our yard. I raise and rescue domestic skunks so this hit particularly close to home. Even though we scan the yard with a flood light before letting him out early in the morning, this horrible incident took place. He no longer has run of his own yard; I take him out on a leash since I work from home so I’m stuck doing it.Of course I blame myself for the murder of the skunk kit but I can’t help feeling differently about the dog. I have removed my name from all of his records and am leaving his care up to my husband. And yes, I realize that his behavior was driven by instinct but unfortunately, I no longer consider him my pet. It’s actually as though he died and I’m suffering a great loss. He will be the last dog in my life.

    1. Turn the poor dog over to rescue now and do not ever own another animal again. You are not a good pet owner.

  35. Hello! both of my dogs love to kill animals… it’s horrible. We live in the country so they are free to roam when we walk out in the woods (invisible fence in our yard). They kill squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, raccoons – the recall collar pager doesn’t deter them, they are ruthless and tear the poor things from limb to limb. I don’t know what to do. Should I never let them free? One is a mix of smooth collie and cattle dog, the other one is mix of bull boxer and maybe Pit, not sure.

    1. The answer is simple, stop letting them roam. Keep them leashed. If you want them to “roam” go to a dog park but not when other little dogs are there.

  36. I hope this group is still going. We have a new kitten (5 months now) and a coonhound mix rescue (40 lbs.) that looks like she goes into full predator mode when she sees the cat. Staring, very still, quivering. Kitten has been here a month and we expose the cat to our dog everyday with the same behavior. We finally put a muzzel on the dog and brought the kitten near her face and she lunged. So it looks to be predation. My question is can this behavior ever be changed? Is it possible that we’d be in a position ever to feel safe leaving them alone together?

    PS the article said, ” It is dangerous because it cannot be trained, medicated or counter conditioned out of them.”
    So it sounds as though our dog will never be able to be trained out of this “predatory aggression.”

    1. What you need to look into doing is counter-conditioning her to not see the kitten as prey to see if it will work before giving up. What you did is several steps down the line and the dog wasn’t ready for it. I would look for a Veterinary Behaviorist to help you with this issue. In the meantime, I would look into some of the techniques here.

      Good luck.

  37. Very interesting article to look at. I definitely agree that the predatory nature of the dog cannot be trained out of them, however I do think the dog can learn to distinguish between what they see as prey and not as prey. For example when my females have a litter of puppies the other dogs in my household will try to take a look at the small puppies, no doubt thinking they are prey. The mother dog will immediately charge at the other dogs in a offensive aggressive nature to back them away from the pups. It doesn’t take long until the other dogs realize the pups are not potential prey and then leave them alone, after a few weeks the pups can be introduced to the rest of the dogs with no incidents of predatory aggression. Is the predatory nature still there? absolutely, the dog has just learned that the pups are not prey. Additionally someone mentioned teaching an incompatible behavior. This is seen a lot in the sport of IGP in which the helper is seen as the prey object but the dog must do obedience around the helper without biting until told to. This is another example of how prey drive can be controlled in the dog.

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