Can a prey drive be overcome?

(68 Posts)
Worrieddog Mon 15-Jun-20 13:24:01

Hi all,

I have name changed for this as I am worried about this query may be viewed. It is a genuine question from a longstanding, well meaning member. We recently adopted a rescue dog (last week). He is our first dog as a family, but both myself and DH had dogs before this. We also have two cats and three kids (9, 7 and nearly 3).

Our dog is a beautiful, huge GSD x Lurcher. We were drawn to him as he was described as very good with kids and other animals. We met him twice before bringing him home, passed the homecheck and spoke with the rescue about the match. They were very positive about the match and seemed thorough! Since bringing him home, he is making huge efforts to catch the cats and they are terrified. I don't think it's just curiosity, he is incredibly fast and clever. I know it's very early days and am fully prepared to give him time to settle but from what I have read, some animals cannot overcome this drive and it cannot be trained out? What are your views? We are committed to him but would never forgive myself if he killed one of the cats. He is just a year old and was in foster care on a farm for the past two months with no trouble. Prior to that he was in a pound for a few months. As far as I know, he wasn't mistreated, just abandoned by his owners.

I would really appreciate any advice or views from experienced dog owners. Thanks

OP’s posts: |
Floralnomad Mon 15-Jun-20 13:31:30

I don’t know about all dogs but I do know that there is no way on earth that my dog would ever be safe around cats . I can distract him with balls to not chase rabbits / foxes etc but cats and birds I have failed miserably they are just too much temptation . I also know people say that if the cat fights back that will deter most dogs but that also doesn’t work with mine as a previous neighbours cat tried it in our garden once ( I managed to intervene and the cat did survive ) it may be different with lurchers because mine is a terrier and if someone starts a fight his instinct is fight back irrespective of whether you are going to lose .

Indecisivelurcher Mon 15-Jun-20 13:37:19

I'm going to say no. I had a rescue lurcher with a high prey drive. My cat ended up living upstairs the whole time. I used to have to shut the dog in the kitchen and usher the cat past. The dog also used to chase anything that moved out and about, wildlife, sheep, tractors, you name it. I did weekly dog agility, training classes and one to one sessions with a behaviourist about prey drive and also reactive behaviour on lead, for 2 or 3yrs. In the end I rehomed him with a good friend as when my Dd came along he also treated her like prey. My cat is now free to come and go as the other dog doesn't bother at all.

Windyatthebeach Mon 15-Jun-20 13:41:50

One of my Lurchers was a working ddog. She is fascinated by my dcat and hasn't made any aggressive attempts to catch him.. Been with us 3 years...
Dpuppy (deerhound x) caught dcat by the tail last night!! shock
Hopeful that if /when dcat swipes her she will get the message!
Dcat has escape route and high places available at all times...

Chesneyhawkes1 Mon 15-Jun-20 13:47:42

I have terriers and no way could I ever get them to be ok with cats.

My friend had a rescue lurcher. Ex working and it ignored her cats when they cat tested it. This went on for around 5 years when out of the blue, it killed one. Very sad. She still has the dog though and loves her just the same.

Branleuse Mon 15-Jun-20 13:54:02

was he not cat tested before bringing him home?

I dont think this is fair to your cats in all honesty. The dog probably thinks its doing you a favour

RedRed9 Mon 15-Jun-20 13:58:25

Isn’t a lurcher a sighthound x terrier? Basically a hunting dog with a strong prey drive. I can’t believe the rescue thought he’s be a good match for you to be honest! Assuming they knew you have cats?

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sillysmiles Mon 15-Jun-20 14:00:02

I think it can be trained tbh.
Our lab doesn't chase our cat, but will chase other cats. I've no idea how he came to the realisation that it was not ok to chase her.

I would keep him on a lead inside if the cats and start working on a leave command. With the GSD you would hope he'd be a quick learner!
In the mean time, make sure there are escape routes for the cats and places particularly up high they can get to.

Iloveappleproducts Mon 15-Jun-20 14:00:56

My terrier is slowly losing it with age. However if she had the energy or speed she'd still go for the kill

Worrieddog Mon 15-Jun-20 14:05:12

Thanks so much for all your responses, I really appreciate it. I feel so desperately conflicted as I don't want to give up on him so quickly but it is absolutely not fair on the cats. According to the rescue, he was good with other animals and on the farm, he never chased anything. They have said just to be firm with him and he will learn, but once he sees them it's all he can focus on and he is so fast and strong sad

OP’s posts: |
Worrieddog Mon 15-Jun-20 14:07:13

RedRed9, I know. DH suspects that he was a difficult dog to rehome as he is so big but they were the criteria that we insisted on: good with kids and good with cats. .

OP’s posts: |
RedRed9 Mon 15-Jun-20 14:07:58

@sillysmiles that’s a lab though. I’m not saying it might not be possible to train but I honestly don’t know how likely it is with a lurcher x.

Pasithea Mon 15-Jun-20 14:08:07

Try clicker training. I’ve successfully got an ex beating ESS to live with my chickens.

vickyq1983 Mon 15-Jun-20 14:10:10

We've had our rescue hound x for 6 years and have tried EVERYTHING to train his prey drive out of him. Nothing has worked. When he sees cat / squirrel / rabbit / you name it, he bolts and becomes completely deaf to any of our commands. He's older and slower now so never actually catches up with anything but there would be no way on earth we could have any other animals whilst we have him.

Funnily he was cat tested and we have the video of him seemingly fine with cats but as soon as he got home to us and relaxed and became himself that was it.

Indecisivelurcher Mon 15-Jun-20 14:10:39

You can get a lightweight house lead to leave on at all times, it's a bit like a long bit of washing line. Then you can stand on it / grab if you need to.

RedRed9 Mon 15-Jun-20 14:10:42

What a rubbish situation OP.

If I were you I’d be calling the rescue. Explain that you need behaviourist training support or you’ll have to give him up. Remind them that they approved him as being suitable for living with cats and that they’ve evidently got this very wrong!

Worrieddog Mon 15-Jun-20 14:14:03

Thanks RedRed9, I actually feel so upset about this. We were adamant that we wanted a rescue dog, did our research and took their advice. It's not something we went into without carefully considering it. I feel so guilty at the thought of even considering giving him up so soon but if he killed one of the cats, I would be devastated.

OP’s posts: |
Floralnomad Mon 15-Jun-20 14:14:46

I would also give him back unless you can absolutely commit to keeping them separate . My late mother had 2 terriers and a house cat and she kept them totally separate with both having plenty of family time and attention but it was a total pain always having to know where everyone was and that was without adding children into the mix who may forget to close a gate or door .

cabbageking Mon 15-Jun-20 14:16:33

I have had cats and a sight hound.My dog soon recognised his own cats and they would snuggle up with some. He would chase other cats and squirrels but didn't know what to do if he cornered them. I think you are only one who can judge his character. A GS is easier to train than a sight hound and it depends on his character.

SirVixofVixHall Mon 15-Jun-20 14:17:57

Well on the plus side it is very early days, he is young, hasn’t been cruelly treated, and may well be trainable. My past puppies have always been very interested in my cats and wanted to play with them, but have learned to be gentle and friendly.
I would get advice on training around cats, my dogs have always been terriers, first one thought he was another cat, didn’t chase them. Second one would play with my one playful cat, and so would run after a running cat, but avoid a cat sitting still. My dog now has not grown up with cats and will chase them ,which is a shame, as she is the sort of dog who would get on well with a cat.
My pups were small enough to be told off by cats, you are in the position of not knowing if your dog just wants to be playful, or if he would actually hurt your cats, so that is more tricky, and professional advice is needed.

Windyatthebeach Mon 15-Jun-20 14:18:20

Can you put a baby gate up temporarily? Give them a chance to nose to nose? Lots of treats as dcat approaches...

Worrieddog Mon 15-Jun-20 14:21:15

To be honest Windy, a baby gate would not hold this dog. DH is big and v strong and he struggled to hold him once the cat was spotted. It's like tunnel vision, he doesn't seem to hear or see anything else once he sees the cats

OP’s posts: |
sillysmiles Mon 15-Jun-20 14:23:50

@RedRed9 Yes totally, labs are not sight hounds. But if @Worrieddog whats to give him a shot, she is going to need a behaviourist and in the interim, training a solid leave and providing safe space for the cats.

RoLaren Mon 15-Jun-20 14:38:42

On one of those 'Police, Stop!' programmes there was a police dog handler exercising his GSD off lead. Suddenly it shot off across the fields after a rabbit, completely ignore the recall commands. I felt so much better about my dog when I saw how even the most highly trained dogs sometimes can't resist the chase. One week is not long, OP, and you should give things a chance to settle before writing the dog off as unsuitable. It sounds like a hectic environment, with you, children and cats all in lockdown together.

GrumpyMiddleAgedWoman Mon 15-Jun-20 16:41:26

There are two issues here.

Firstly the rescue ignored your need for a dog that was safe with cats. If you return him (and you may have to), that is their responsibility, not yours. You will feel badly about it, but you don't need to: it's not your fault.

Secondly, if you want to keep the dog, yes, you might be able to control his prey drive but my understanding is that it is likely to be a long old job involving a lot of time and commitment on your part (I don't think I'd be up for it TBH). There is a podcast called the Canine Paradigm run by a couple of dog trainers and there's an episode where one of them describes dealing with just this issue - the episode is called something like 'greyhound versus cat'.

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