Saturday, January 9, 2010

Dog Aggression or Prey Drive?

Just a short "food for thought" comment:
I wonder how many dogs labeled as 'dog aggressive' are really just acting on their prey drive? With so many attacks from dogs 10x the size of their victim, I have to question if they recognize it as a dog. If I was a German Shepherd, I don't think I would recognize a 3 pound yorkie as a dog rather than some kind of varmint that it was my duty as a good dog to exterminate.

It reminds me of the section in Temple Grandin's "Animals Make Us Human" where she talks about 'killer dogs': people line breeding pit bulls with dogs naturally distrustful of strangers to create strong dogs more easily shaped towards indiscriminate aggression. She says there was a litter of these line bred 'killer dogs' that was adopted out by a rescue group and they were all eventually returned for killing cats. And this is supposed to be a strike against them? I know I would be furious if a dog killed my cat, but I would never blame it on the dog. That's what they DO: chase and kill smaller animals. It takes intentional socialization and training to keep this hundreds of thousands of years old trait under control. I have met MANY dog owners who have dogs that would kill a cat if they ever got a hold of one because their owners don't have cats so it's not an issue for them. And somehow pit bulls get the blame for this very natural dog behavior? As is often the case, certain breeds are talked about as if every dog trait that could possibly be construed as negative is unique to that breed labeled 'dangerous dogs' for acting on instincts that have worked for the last several hundred thousand years. Well, some of us weren't born yesterday and have touched more than the very tip of the iceberg on understanding the complexity of dog behavior, so don't expect us to buy it.

"This is a working breed and has a lot of energy and drive," Cline wrote. "It does them no good to be confined to an apartment with little to do. They get bored and frustrated, and with no outlet, this alone can lead to undesirable behavior."

...and that somehow doesn't apply to pit bulls? Never in a million years do I imagine I would see this in an article about a pit bull bite, not do I imagine a pit bull would have been given a second chance. Thank God the right people were able to save this dog whose only crime was not having her needs met.

My apologies for this sloppy post, much steam to blow off and little sleep :)


  1. My pitbull mix recently killed a large deer at a local park. Do you think this is something I have to worry abot,mind you he's only ten months old?

    1. I somehow didn't see this comment until just now...? Sorry for the extremely late response!

      Absolutely. It doesn't mean he's going to go after dogs or people, but your dog killing animals he perceives as prey can get him and you into a lot of trouble. At worst, he can be seized and euthanized by your local municipality. I recommend finding a trainer with experience training dogs with strong prey drive, or pick up a copy of the Koehler Method of Dog Training if self-study works for you.