If your dog or a client’s dog, who is naturally very prey-driven, suddenly shows a decreased rate of predatory behaviour, this is likely to have an underlying cause. Understanding what is causing the dog to show predation less frequently, can help you to know how to help them more effectively.
It’s improbable to be as simple as your dog losing interest in predation, hunting, stalking, sniffing or chasing, when this is something they have always enjoyed. And if the change has occurred rapidly and not as a result of training or management.
You might think a reduction of predation is a welcome change in your dog, but believe me: it’s important to recognise that this is likely to be caused by something else. A sudden decrease in predatory behaviour is a sign of an underlying issue which needs to be identified and investigated thoroughly to help resolve it.
This article is dedicated to dog owners and dog professionals! If you are a dog pro, keep an eye on these boxes to gather some deeper extra-information.
Why Predatory behaviour suddenly decreases
Or why you should be aware of “Pseudo-Predation”
First, I have to tell you about “Pseudo-Predation”. Here’s another blog post that will help you to identify Pseudo-Predation in your own dog or in your client’s dogs. Not only can pseudo-predation be to blame for an increase in predatory behaviour, but it can also be responsible for your dog showing less predation than usual too. If you want to train and manage predatory behaviour, you need to know, what causes it!
Aside of pseudo-predation, reasons might be:
- Pain in general
- Chronic diseases
- Musculoskeletal Pain
- Gastrointestinal Pain
- Loss of Condition
- Reduction in Senses
- Your Dog’s Background
PRO-TIP: ‘Pseudo’ essentially means that something is not genuine, insincere or fake. So, for this topic, it means that the source of your dog’s behaviour isn’t truly just predatory urges and desires. So ‘pseudo-predation’ means that an underlying factor is causing your dog to show a decrease or increase in predatory behaviour, as a side effect of the original issue.
Reasons for suddenly reduced predation in dogs
Pain in General
Pain has the biggest impact on your dog’s predation levels, yet it is sadly widely undiagnosed. Medical conditions, joint ailments, fear and anxiety can all be the causes of reduced predatory behaviour. We will look at each factor in more detail here. Just read on!
PRO-TIP: A check-up at the vet might be useful before the training starts!
Chronic or long-term diseases can reduce the frequency of your dog’s predation. This is particularly common in the earlier stages of the disease, before your dog has been officially diagnosed or started any treatment. Conditions like Diabetes, Cushing’s disease or heart problems can all affect your dog’s predatory behaviour. The symptoms of conditions like these and any pain associated with them can help explain why your dog may be reluctant to show predation.
Joint conditions such as Arthritis, luxating patellas or joint dysplasia can all cause your dog severe pain and discomfort. So, it’s understandable that your dog may not want to, or be able to, practice predation as much as they previously did. This can impact the stalk and chase parts of the predatory sequence more so, because they are the most physically involved parts of the process.
Dogs suffering from an upset stomach, acid reflux or constipation can be less likely to show predatory behaviour. These issues can make them feel uncomfortable or nauseous which can make them less likely to want to practice predation.
Loss Of Condition
Certain illnesses can cause your dog to lose condition, and this may also occur naturally as your dog gets older. I.e. their muscles are not as powerful as they once were, or they cannot run for long anymore. These factors can contribute to reduced predatory behaviour.
Reduction In Senses
If your dog is suffering from reduced hearing, vision or sense of smell because of their age or a medical condition, this can also reduce their predation. For example, if your dog can’t see or hear as well as they once did, they may not notice the wildlife straight away, meaning their predation sequence will be triggered much later than it would have been previously.
Fear and anxiety can inhibit your dog’s predatory behaviour. If they’re feeling exceptionally scared of something, or a situation they are in, they may feel unable to show predation. This also applies to dogs who have been trained using aversive methods and tools. Because this works on making your dog feel scared and fearful, they may feel uncomfortable showing predatory behaviour. However, it’s worth noting that this is not dealing with the underlying reasoning behind your dog wanting to chase, it is simply masking the issue.
Last, but not least: Your Dog’s Background
It is especially common for rescue dogs not to show their full predation potential for several months after adoption. This can manifest itself in one of two ways:
- Your dog is used to keeping a low profile while they have been at a rescue centre waiting to be adopted. And, they also don’t trust you fully yet to behave completely as themselves. This can mean they don’t show much or any predatory behaviour in the early stages of them living with you.
- Your dog deals with the stress of leaving their original home, being in a kennel, and then being adopted by you, by increasing their predation. They use this as a coping mechanism to deal with the stress they have experienced because it distracts them and makes them feel better. Their predation levels could then naturally decrease once your dog feels more secure and settled in their new home.
PRO-TIP: If a client reaches out to you, always gather some information about the dog’s history.
Keep in mind: Dogs are individuals, and there are multiple reasons, why your dog might show increased chasing, scavenging, hunting, stalking, sniffing,… Look closely to find the right solutions!
Predation Substitute Expert & Founder of Predation Substitute Training
Predation Substitute Training is more than a technique!
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