Prey drive

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A Border Collie herding. This behaviour is an example of a modified prey drive.

Prey drive is the instinctive inclination of a carnivore to find, pursue, and capture prey. The term is chiefly used to describe and analyse habits in dog training.


The predatory motor sequence follows a sequence: search (orient, nose/ear/eye); stalk; chase; bite (grab-bite, kill-bite); dissect; and consume.[1] Wolves can use the whole 'sequence'.

In different breeds of dogs, certain steps of these have been amplified or reduced by human-controlled selective breeding for various purposes. The "search" aspect of the prey drive is used in detection dogs such as bloodhounds and beagles. The "eye-stalk" is for herding dogs. The "chase" is seen in sighthounds such as Greyhounds and lurchers, while the "grab-bite" and "kill-bite" are for the training of terriers. In most dogs, prey drive behaviour can occur without extrinsic reinforcement.


In dog training, prey drive can be used as a performative advantage because dogs with strong prey drive are more willing to pursue moving objects such as toys, which can then be used to encourage certain kinds of behavior, such as that of greyhound racing or the speed required in dog agility.[2] Prey drive can affect training in Schutzhunds as well.[3]

Retrievers is sometimes expected to chase prey and bring it back to the human hunter, but not bite or damage it. Bull Terriers, such as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, have an amplified grab-bite as they were originally bred to bait bulls (restrain bulls by hanging onto their noses), but never needed to find or stalk the prey.


  1. ^ Coppinger, Raymond; Coppinger, Lorna (2001). Dogs, A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior, and Evolution. University of Chicago Press. p. 116. ISBN 9780684855301.
  2. ^ "Playing with Prey Drive: The Key to Attitude and Enthusiasm in Performance Dogs". The Dog Athlete. Archived from the original on November 27, 2011. Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  3. ^ McWhinnie, Diane (January 7, 1997). "Understanding Prey Drive". Archived from the original on May 17, 2017. Retrieved December 6, 2011.