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Prey Drive or Herding Instinct?

April 25th, 2005, 02:19 PM
Hi folks. As Phoebe has matured, she's been exhibiting some behaviour that I can't figure out. How can I tell if it's prey drive or a herding instinct? She's an All Canadian (aka mixed-breed). As far as we can tell, she's a GSD/Collie mix. Can't tell if it's Rough Collie or Border Collie, and when we got her, we were also told that there's Golden Retriever and Husky in there as well (which is no longer that evident). Anyhow, she has taken to chasing birds off our lawn - not agressively, just happy to be running after them. That's not what's worrying me though. Our friends have a Schipperke (small black dog, about 12lbs soaking wet). They are my sister's neighbors, and they share a yard. Now, whenever we go for a visit and let the dogs in the yard, we have to bring Jade (the Schip) inside. Otherwise, Phoebe will chase her relentlessly and corner her under the air conditioning unit. Phoebe thinks it's great fun, but Jade is quite upset by this (see, she's older and thought she would be the boss :D ). Phoebe displayes a milder form of this behaviour with our cat (who clearly knows he's the boss ;) ). If he moves, she's instantly alert. If he walks out of the room, she follows him slowly. If he runs, then he'd better run fast because she's right on his tail. She never hurts him (but if he stops, she'll mouth him a little), but the movement seems to get her "going" (of course, she gets a "Leave it!" when I see her doing it, but she's just not giving up). So, do I have a herder on my hands, or is she going to start bringing home squirrels? :(

Lucky Rescue
April 25th, 2005, 02:46 PM
Herding drive IS prey drive that has been modified so as to eliminate the actual attack and kill. You can see this clearly with border collies, who "stalk" the sheep. In some herding dogs,(or mixed breed dogs) the prey drive is not modified or inhibited and then you have a sheep dog who might attack or kill the sheep.

Your dog might or might not follow through eventually. Most dogs have some degree of prey drive - from mild to off the scale.

I would not allow a dog to "mouth" a cat in my home, no matter that it seems playful. Just one bite can kill a cat. Your dog may only be playing but the result can be tragic so she needs to know the cat is off limits.

April 25th, 2005, 02:48 PM
I would say definintely a herding behaviour. If it was prey drive, I think the Schipperke would be hurt.
Good Luck with your pup! :)

April 25th, 2005, 03:10 PM
I would not allow a dog to "mouth" a cat in my home, no matter that it seems playful. Just one bite can kill a cat. Your dog may only be playing but the result can be tragic so she needs to know the cat is off limits.
We have been working on that, hence the "leave it" command. But she doesn't seem to be able to help herself. The movement of the cat (or a bird, or a leaf) just grabs her attention. She will "leave it" if I'm there, but if I'm in the washroom (for example) and the cat decides to change rooms, she's after him. I don't know how else to teach her that he's off limits other than to continue working on "leave it". She's entirely too quick for a squirt gun (if I'm close enough to take aim, then she's already lying down on her bed, looking up at me with the "What? I wasn't doing anything!" look in her eyes). Any suggestions would be appreciated! Too bad I can't train the cat to walk instead of run!

Having said that, he is 16lbs, fully matured and fully clawed. He makes his displeasure quite evident when he's had enough (although he has never, and I do mean never, used his claws on her or any of us, even when terrified at the vet's office - he's such a good boy! ;) ). And, being the little :evil: that he is, he will instigate play at times (I swear he does it just to watch her get into trouble). How do I deal with that??

But, I'm also afraid for the Schipperke. She was always the dominant one with my sister's 70lb Berner cross, and tried to dominate Phoebe when she was a pup. It worked, until Phoebe realized that she's bigger and faster than Jade. Then the tables turned in a matter of days. Now we can't have them in the yard together, and even if they're in the house and Phoebe's ignoring her, Jade gets completely stressed. :( I guess LuckyRescue's advice about two females has now become an issue here. I would swear that she just wants to play, but I'm afraid that it'll progress, as Lucky said.

April 25th, 2005, 04:04 PM
Wendy Volhard is an excellent trainer. you can do a canine personality profile on your dog at

I have 4 dogs, 3 are males and I can tell you, it can get out of hand and when I see prey come out (they seem to go after the weakest one) I am instantly telling them to settle. I would never leave them unattended just in case. I never put the 3 boys out to run at the same time as this seems to build up and gang up on the weakest.

It has been a rough hull with 3 males, but I do see a great improvement, I am the boss and although I am not of the same species I am still the *itch!

April 25th, 2005, 04:39 PM
Having said that, he is 16lbs, fully matured and fully clawed. He makes his displeasure quite evident when he's had enough. And, being the little :evil: that he is, he will instigate play at times (I swear he does it just to watch her get into trouble). How do I deal with that??

My dog also chases and 'attacks' my cat. And the cat will also instigate it if he's feeling rambuncious. If I didn't let my dog near my cat, the cat would just get incredibly obnoxious and I swear he would try to entice the dog to chase him, simply to get the dog in trouble, and to amuse himself. They're like step-siblings that live in the same house but don't really get along yet.

My cat has various safe zones, where the dog cannot get to. If he doesn't want the dog bugging him, he's free to retreat to one of those. And they are all places he spends most of his time, anyways.

I used to worry about the dog accidently hurting the cat, but there's a pretty big distance between chasing a cat and actually attacking a cat. And he's old enough now that I know his personality and ways enough to trust them alone together.

He'll mouth the cat's neck and head occationally, but his favorite game is to try to nip at the cat's stub tail. The cat can't stand his tail being touched and he makes up a right old fuss, while the dog thinks it's a great game.

Sometimes if the cat is on a chair, the dog will be walking around and around the chair trying to get his tail, while the cat is turning around and around trying to keep the dog in front of him. It's pretty funny.

The only real danger I see is actually the cat putting a claw through one of the dog's eyes. Which *is* a real possibility.

April 25th, 2005, 05:01 PM
Well, Aussiemedogs, that was a very interesting questionnaire! Phoebe is apparently high prey & pack (only off by 5 points) and very low fight & flight (slightly higher flight). So, I apparently have to figure out how to bring out the "pack" drive and try to inhibit the "prey" drive (?). Should be interesting! We'll see what the obedience people have to say at her next agility class.

Beetlecat, that is pretty funny. :p They are exactly like step-siblings! My cat does the same thing (hiding on a chair under the dining room table), except that he sticks his paw through the gap between the back and seat of the chair and bats at the dog as she goes by. He even rolls onto his back and bats at her face (again, never any claws) when they're playing, so I think he's pretty comfortable with the dog's style of play. I just worry, because this behaviour seems to have come out very suddenly. Might be just a phase (she has entered the "teen" years, I believe), but I'd like to curb it if possible.

doggy lover
April 25th, 2005, 05:35 PM
Tucker my BC tries to herd my cats too but no mouthing no way, if I see him trying to stare them out and know that he is going to chase them he gets told to leave it and then I make him go into a down, stay. It works great the cats even tease him by walking a few inches from him, you can just see how angry he is that he can't chase them, but he doesn't. Work on your leave it, it works great on other things when you are out walking, squrrels other dogs cats ect. Tucker even watches motercycles and I use it on them too as I don't want him even to think about chasing things on the road. Alot of herding dogs have a bad habbit of doing this.

April 26th, 2005, 12:31 AM
I use Justice to herd other dogs. lol
This time of year has been bad for dogs escaping from owners in my co-op. Today a Bouvier got out of her collar and went running into the park. Wouldn't come for the life of the owner. So I sent Justice out after her. They came back together just fine. lol Justice chases after my cats, but they run around the apartment like mad cats anyways. They always chased each other, now they just havea third (much larger) animal playing with them. justice thinks she's a cat anyways.

April 26th, 2005, 02:31 PM
Today a Bouvier got out of her collar and went running into the park. Wouldn't come for the life of the owner. So I sent Justice out after her. They came back together just fine.
LOL! Well, she is a retriever, isn't she? :D

*Sigh* I'm just hoping she grows out of it or settles down. The last time we were at my sister's place, I let our two dogs out back and brought Jade (the Schip) into the house with us (the pups and the children in both houses seem to feel they're interchangeable - they're always running back and forth between the two houses - I told my sister she and her neighbor need to build a tunnel connecting the houses! :D ). Anyhow, Jade had only caught a glimpse of Phoebe, but was already so stressed that she actually peed in the house when I went to greet her (something she hasn't done in at least 6 months). She's already a nervous dog, it looks like Phoebe's new "game" is making matters worse for her. :(

April 26th, 2005, 09:43 PM
LOl, she figured she should have a job... rounding up the dogs when lose seemed like a good idea. (let me clarify that, DOGS SHE KNOWS. i don't send her after strangers)

I'm sorry to hear that you are having soo much trouble with Phoebe there, it does sound like an over active herder instinct. I mean, she thinks its a game, so she probably doesn't know shes creating a problem. I wish I had some advice for ya, all i can offer is support, vent to the website! Where is tenderfoot anyways, maybe they'll have an answer?

April 27th, 2005, 09:02 PM
Yeah, I've been wondering where Tenderfoot is as well. :confused:

Anyhow, I spoke with our instructor today after agility class. She agrees that it sounds like a herding instinct (and being a breeder/trainer of Aussie Shepherds, I'd say she knows all about that! ;) ). One of her males used to try to "herd" the cats all the time. She would give him a "leave it" once. If he tried to go after the cat a second time, he'd get a minute's time-out (not too sure where - in another room? in his crate?). It didn't take him long to figure out that "leave it" means "for good", and not "for now until Mommy isn't looking".

The little :evil: - know what she did the other day? The cat went streaking up the stairs (I swear he's doing it to get her in trouble), so naturally she made as if to go after him. I gave her a "leave it", and she came back to me. "Good girl!" and pats. Once I was done patting, she turned around and went back to the stairs. "Leave it!", so she comes back to me, and gets a "good girl!" and more pats. Now she's figured out that I'm not going to let her go after the cat, so she walks around behind me, into the dining room/living room, lies down in there for a couple of minutes, and then tries to sneak by me up the stairs! I swear she was making an extra effort to get past me unnoticed because I didn't hear her nails clicking on the tile like I did the first couple of times. Luckily my chair in the kitchen faces the stairs to the bedrooms, so I can see her sneaking past me quite clearly! :p

April 27th, 2005, 09:25 PM
LOL! ooh got a lil sneaker have ya? Justice can walk without making her collar jingle when she is trying to hunt something.
The time out, I've alwaystold not to use the crate for time outs, it's their safe place, not some thing to use for discipline. I would suggest if you are going to time out her, do it in another room.

April 27th, 2005, 09:52 PM
Yeah! What is it with dogs and their blasted tags?! Phoebe has like 4 of them on there. When she's "stalking" the cat, she can move without making a sound. Yet, when I want her to be a little quieter because the baby's sleeping, she'll stand right outside his bedroom door and have an almighty shake! :evil:

Totally off-topic (I think I'm highjacking my own thread! :eek: ) - we had agility class tonight (it's unanimous that Phoebe and her buddy the Cocker Spaniel are easily the best in the class). One of the instructors had been telling us that she's getting a new puppy. She already has two GSDs, but only one of them has NO agility talent (the male is a little too goofy), so she decided to get an Aussie Shepherd pup, and had reserved one from the other instructor's latest litter. Well, the pups were old enough to go home today, so the breeder/instructor brought the two that she's keeping plus the one that the other instructor is taking, to school tonight (no, they didn't interact with the other dogs - hubby held them out of reach ;) ). OH - My - GAWD!!! What adorable little furballs!! Just the cutest little fuzz-muffins I've ever seen in my life! And sweet! Gave me such a hankerin' for another pup. I almost smuggled one out under my jacket, but I think that would have been grounds for divorce for hubby. :sad:

April 29th, 2005, 09:24 PM
Yeah i think I'd get kicked outta my house if I were to 'adopt' any more dogs.
there is only one I will be allowed to save, with approval from my parents
but that Welsh Terrier LR posted about in the adopt a dog thread .. OMG, makes me want to drive up to montreal!! *melting*

April 30th, 2005, 08:22 AM
I am sorry I thought I had addressed this one already. I can't do it right now because I am on my way to teach a big clinic, but I will be back later to chat. Thanks for thinking of us.

April 30th, 2005, 04:29 PM
Phebes (can I call her that?) is in her teenage months?
As fun as it is to identify the drive 'prey, pack, herding...'- it is still bad manners no matter what.
I would say that the very bright Ms Phoebe is working out how much rope she can hang herself with. "I can get the cat when mom's not looking, I can terrorize little Jade in the yard, what can I do next?" She is testing where her power lies - though it might all be in fun right now - it could progress to something worse.
Remember if she has a strong connection to her leader (you) then she should look to you first before she ever starts to react to chase. You recognize her 'check in' and help her make a better choice with the 'leave it'. The key is to stop her when she is THINKING about acting not when she has already reacted. i.e. stop the ball before it starts rolling down the hill, it's easier on you both.
So I would teach her how she is to behave, which you have tried with the 'leave it', but I would take it a few steps further. I would practice the 'leave it' with all kinds of tempting treats. Then practice with tempting treats that are falling to the ground in front of her. Moving objects are so much harder to resist. Drop cookies, cheese, balls etc. in front of her and work the 'leave it' until she looks at the object and then instantly to you for permission. And you reward her with a soft voice "good, leave it". Place a tempting object on teh ground between you and teach her to 'leave it' as she walks to you and around the object - giving the object a respectful distance. The message is all things (including cats and other dogs) belong to you and she must respect that.
Learn to read her mind - what does she do when she is just thinking about chasing? I am sure that you are aware of the subtle signs she gives, eyes narrow or widen? ears forward or back? tail twitching or laying low? head down or up? What are her personal signals? Interrupt the thought before you have to interrupt the action. This will help her to learn 'impulse control' - which is what is getting her into mischief in the first place.
Set her up to teach her correct behavior. Put her on the leash...take her to the cat. When the cat walks and she flinches, you are ready. Correct any bad choices and reward the good ones. But keep taking her back to the cat until she doesn't even look at him and just looks to you for guidance. Now we are creating a balanced and respectful relationship.
With poor little Jade, you need to do similar work. Take Phoebe into the yard on the leash and teach her how to play nicely. Working the 'leave it' and the 'easy' or 'gentle' command when she gets too rambunctious. It would be ideal for her to be able to play with Jade, but start having some self control. And poor Jade needs to see that you are looking out for her best interests and that you won't permit your dog to terrorize her. This will help Jade feel protected and less nervous as well.
As Phoebe is successful in each situation then you put her on a longer leash and teach her to have more self control but you still have the last word because you have the leash. Gradually you want to wean off the leash and just have her respecting your words. 'Gradually' can be minutes to days depending on how much respect she has for you currently.
I hope this helps.

May 1st, 2005, 03:29 PM
Thank you, Tenderfoot! You can call her Phebes if you like. Her nicknames are many and varied - the latest being "demon dawg" :evil: . Aren't the teen years just lovely? :p What are her signals? Oh, she's very easy to read! Head up, ears forward, body rigid, eyes fixed on her "prey". If she's standing, the tail is right up like a flag, one front paw is up "Pointer style". At times, I'm almost too distracted to stop her because she's just so darned pretty! :D

She's pretty good with the "leave it" command when it comes to food. I can drop a hot dog (her absolute favorite!) on the ground and say "leave it" and she'll look at the dog briefly and then back at me until I give her the release word (worked very well this morning when the toddler launched half an Oreo in her general direction, but I doubt she'd "leave it" if I didn't give the command quickly enough :rolleyes: ). Of course, there's plenty of room for improvement. I like the idea of having her walk around a treat to get to me - I'll have to work on that one with her. :thumbs up I do try to anticipate her actions when it comes to the cat, but a lot of the time the "action" starts when she's sleeping in the other room and I only know something's going on when I hear the mad scramble of her claws on the laminate floor as she tries to gain traction.

But, alas, poor Jadie's problems seem to go much deeper than the Phoebster's unwanted attention. She has apparently started submissive peeing lately, which I thought had happened that day because of Phoebe's attention, but her mom told me she's been doing it in the house for a while now. Her owners (being complete dog-owning newbies) haven't got a clue as to what's started the issue. She's always been a nervous dog, but obviously something's up that I don't think can be completely attributed to Phoebe's new-found confidence since they only see one-another once every other week or so - although I can't see that helping. :( I'll try working with them in the yard together. Too bad I can't get Jade to myself for a couple of weeks to see what the peeing issue really is.

Thanks for all the great advice folks, as usual! :cool:

May 1st, 2005, 03:45 PM
I would drop the hot dog and NOT release her to it. You pick it up. Do this sort of 'leave it' a lot so that she is not waiting to grab the item, but realizes that it is not hers to grab. It's kind of like when people teach the 'stay' but then always call the dog to 'come' out of the stay. That way the dog is always in a perpetual state of readiness to 'come' instead of just relaxing into the stay waiting for the person to return for them. So just make the 'leave it' more definite - not 'leave it' and then you can have it. Just a note in case you weren't doing this already.