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Prey Drive: Fact or Fiction?


What’s important is that we understand one another. The reality is that when most people talk about prey drive in dogs, they are referring to the enthusiasm and strong motivation that makes dogs sharp on the course, eager to participate and reliably give their all in competition or in play. I suspect that the term “prey drive” is here to stay, and I sure hope that the joy of dogs who possess a lot of it also remains with us forever.



This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 69: Mar/Apr/May 2012

Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

Diane Lewis Photography

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Submitted by Russell Hartste... | June 24 2012 |

This article is very well written and had me chuckling throughout. With the downfall of precise nature of the human language, and the ascent of the urban dictionary, many times I feel it is a monumental challenge to change people’s bad habits. Owning Miami dog training It is far easier to change dogs behaviors than humans :) Ahh, the prosodic of speech… how important it all is. I thought for a second I was reading Roger Abrantes, haha. You are both wonderful. Russell Hartstein CPDT-KA

Submitted by Lee Charles Kelley | December 5 2012 |

Hi Dr. London,

I wanted to write a piece on the importance of using a dog's prey drive in training for my blog at PsychologyToday.com, and was hoping I might be able to get a look at your article on using play to help dogs with aggression issues. I sent you an email but never heard back. (Perhaps I was using the wrong email address?)

At any rate, there are a number of things I'd like to address about the prey drive, what is, why "an animal’s response to a stimulus is not identical every time the animal is exposed to it," etc.

On that last point, drives are different from instincts. They're more fluid and flexible. That's why an animal is able to exhibit many different responses to prey objects. Think of it this way, instincts are controlled or processed by the reptilian complex while drives operate more through the limbic system. (That's only part of the story, but it's a start...)

At any rate, I'm still hoping you'll send me a copy of that piece on play and aggression.

In the meantime, I just published this post at PsychologyToday.com, titled, "Is the Urge to Bite the Key to Canine Intelligence?", and which includes a link to your article here on prey drive.


Thanks for a great article!

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