Prey drive refers to an animal’s natural desire to chase and kill prey animals for food. This exists in many animals and all breeds of dogs, but in dogs is more evident in sight hounds (including greyhounds). Prey drive is also referred to as ‘predatory behaviour’ or ‘predation’, and mostly occurs when the dog is relaxed and in a positive mental state.
If a greyhound doesn’t recognise a small dog as being a dog (sometimes due to inadequate early socialisation), it may see the other dog as a prey animal and exhibit predatory behaviour towards it (called ‘dog-on-dog predation’).
The GAP pre-entry assessment is designed primarily to detect predatory behaviour towards small dogs. Only those greyhounds showing minimal or manageable predatory behaviour towards small dogs will pass the GAP pre-entry assessment.
Similarly, greyhounds (like many dogs) may display predatory behaviour towards other small animals, such as cats or chickens. Greyhounds can be taught to recognise these animals as fellow pets and not prey, but this may take some time and require careful introductions using a muzzle. While a greyhound may be well behaved with pets they know well, they can show predatory behaviour towards other unfamiliar small animals in different environments, such as at the park.
Prey drive is a very different behaviour to aggression which is usually anxiety or fear-based; where the dog is in a negative mental state. Aggression is a protective mechanism.
Prey drive is not related to chase motivation, which is the desire to chase an object that is not an animal. Some greyhounds with strong chase motivation can be very safe with small dogs (i.e. low levels of predatory behaviour towards small dogs), while some quiet greyhounds, who do not chase the lure well, can show high levels of predatory behaviour towards small dogs. Many GAP greyhounds have had high career winnings, which proves they are good chasers, but understand that a small dog is one of their own species and that they should not exhibit predatory behaviour towards it.
If you wish to undertake your own re-homing efforts, it is important to have a good understanding of your greyhound’s level of prey drive. This will be particularly important once the legal requirement for greyhounds to wear muzzles in public is removed on 1 January 2019. Dog-on dog predation is difficult to predict without testing your greyhound in a relaxed environment with an unfamiliar small dog.
ASSESSING FOR PREY-DRIVE
In addition to being wound down for at least 28 days (mandatory for greyhounds being assessed for GAP), GRV recommends that all greyhounds being re-homed have a proper small dog assessment before they move to their new pet home. While the GAP pre-entry assessment is usually for greyhounds being entered into GAP, if you would like a temperament assessment done for a greyhound going to a private home, please contact GAP and an assessment (called a PetCheck) may be arranged. If your greyhound shows moderate or high levels of predatory behaviour, an experienced GAP Assessor will be able to provide you with information about further training and how to best manage this behaviour.
For further information about the GAP assessments, please phone (03) 5799 0166.
If you decide to make an assessment of your greyhound’s prey drive yourself, you need to introduce your greyhound to an unfamiliar small dog and observe the greyhound’s behaviour. This must be done safely by ensuring that your greyhound is muzzled and held on a leash at all times during the meeting. If the greyhound displays any of the behaviours below, you should cease the assessment immediately.
Please contact GAP if you would like any information or advice because GAP staff are very experienced with predatory behaviour in greyhounds.
SIGNS OF PREDATORY BEHAVIOUR INCLUDE:
- an upright stiff tail that is wagging quickly
- intensely staring at the small dog with a stiff body position
- teeth chattering or drooling
- hovering above or over the shoulder/neck of the small dog
- jumping at, or pouncing on, the small dog
- nose bunting or pawing at the small dog
- barking at the small dog
- barking at the small dog
- chasing the small dog
- attempting to grab (bite) the small dog
GREYHOUNDS THAT ARE SAFE WITH SMALL DOGS:
- will appear calm with their tail relaxed or wagging loosely
- will show friendly interest in the small dog (like a normal greeting of two dogs in the park)
- will be easily distracted by the handler; and
- will be polite and calm towards the small dog.
Even if your greyhound shows moderate or high levels of predatory behaviour, this does not mean that they will be unsuitable for rehoming. They can still make a great pet in the right home, but there are a few things to remember:
- You must inform the person adopting your greyhound that the greyhound has a level of prey drive that will need to be managed in public and around small dogs and/or other small animals. This discussion should occur before the adoption takes place to enable the potential new owner to decide whether the greyhound is right for their circumstances (for example, they may have a cat); and
- You must remind all adopters that they are legally required to muzzle the greyhound while in public and keep the greyhound on a leash. While the muzzling requirement for pet greyhounds will be removed by the Victorian Government from 1 January 2019, the leashing law for greyhounds will remain in place. Adopters of greyhounds that have prey drive should be strongly encouraged to fit the greyhound with a muzzle while in public and/ or if in the presence of small dogs or other small animals, despite there being no legal requirement.
There are forms included in the Re-homing Pack that are to be completed and provided to the new owner, including a Re-Homing Statement and the Post Adoption Care Guide. This will provide the new owner with important information about the greyhound’s health and temperament and how to safely manage the greyhound in the community. See “Re-homing Pack”.
It is important to the sustainability of the sport that pet greyhounds with prey drive are carefully managed through appropriate muzzling and leashing.