3 year old female with strong prey drive problem

We have a three year old female Rottweiler who as she has gotten older exhibits a strong prey drive. Lately she has become aggressive around small dogs.

We walk her at least four miles a day so she is getting exercise. We also have her in an agility class. She has learned all the basic commands, sit, stay, down, come, heel etc. Something about small dogs sets her off. There are four other dogs in our group and when they run the course our dog immediately wants to give chase .

We have worked with her to watch our eyes , but today she went off. While getting ready to run the course some of the people in the next class came in and the rule is dogs are to be crated until they run. The person came in with a small poodle which started barking in a high pitch tone and jumping around. My wife gave our dog the command to start the course and she beelined straight at this other dog which was on the other side of the training facility . She immediately became aggressive with this dog and started to fight.

We broke it up before any damage was done, but now we are concerned that this could escalate. She will not do this type of behavior if I am handling her, but with my wife she will if loose chase after squirrels, birds, and especially rabbits.

What should we do ? Thanks.

This is certainly a situation where there could be a tragedy if your Rottie gets loose when there is a small dog or other small pet around… and you’re right to want to deal with it quickly.

However, you need more help than I can provide as I really feel some professional hands-on evaluation is necessary and training to ‘reshape’ her behavior and control this instinctive behavior.

Chasing prey is a very deep-rooted canine instinct, and some breeds (and some individual dogs within each breed) will have a stronger prey drive than others. When it’s a large or guardian breed then obviously the risk of someone, or something, getting hurt is much greater. It’s difficult to control this behavior (both for the dog and the human) because from the dog’s point of view it’s instinctive and therefore they don’t even think about it they just go! From the owners point of view that makes it happen very fast, often it’s unpredictable and there’s an element of preventative care needed.

Anything that moves quickly, unpredictably or in a jerky manner is a target… if the movement is accompanied by high-pitched noises, it’s even more of a trigger. This is why small dogs, small pets and even children all trigger the prey drive in dogs.

Agility is a great sport that both dogs and owners enjoy, but because of the level of excitement and arousal that running a course at speed entails, it will ‘ramp up’ your dogs prey drive and make the situation worse. I wouldn’t want you to stop the agility, but I really would recommend getting her into an obedience class (or get some at-home lessons) where you can get hands-on, one on one help from a professional trainer who will be able to help you find ways to deal with your dog’s tendency to chase anything down.

It won’t be a ‘quick fix’ because the behavior is so instinctive, but with time, patience and repetition you should be able to at least manage it. But personally I absolutely recommend getting professional help to get things under control.

Sorry I can’t help more but I hope you find someone who can and that you manage to control her behavior so that she and the other dogs (and you and your wife!) can enjoy agility together.

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Feb 08, 2012

owner NEW
by: jim

I appreciate all your comments. I agree that the agility training raises her excitement level. She gets along very well with the dogs in our group. Most are small dogs and she has not had any problem with them. When they run the course she does want to chase them , but I am also at the class and will have her in down and she will hold herself . That day there were other people with their dogs awaiting the next class yet it was this one dog that she locked on. She didn’t look at any of the other dogs and actually ran right past them to get to the dog that was causing the commotion. As a matter of fact our dog spent most of the day playing with my daughters five month old puppy. The two rough housed for the better part of a day without any problem . I am baffled by the behavior to some extent. Our dog is definitely a dominant dog and a social climber if given the chance. Since submitting my post we have gone back to the basics with her and are awaiting a call from the lady who runs our agility class. She has much experience with Rotts so we will see if she can recommend a trainer with experience in this sort of behavior.

Feb 08, 2012

@ Anonymous NEW
by: Christopher Bayhi

@ Anonymous

I don???t believe this is the proper forum for a tit-for-tat. However, since you asked, I have bred & trained canines (specializing in German Shepherds) professionally for executives, governmental agencies and overseas use for 10 years, including basic, advanced basic, personal protection, explosives detection, and narcotics interdiction. I???ve used German Shepherds professionally in the same capacity for 10 years. I???ve trained Rottweilers for about a year after getting away from the GSD. Forgive me if my experience in the field leads to a ???novel??? or makes me seem like I have a need to ???outshine??? anyone. Far from it.

The OP clearly stated the dog responded to her husband but NOT to her. In your opinion, schutzhund training a Rottie that does not obey one of its handlers would be a great idea. I???m certain your protection trainer would agree that the dog must obey ALL basic handler commands from ALL handlers prior to delving into more advanced training. IMHO the OP needs to do training with the dog until such time as the dog will obey HER commands. Then I would agree with the schutzhund training with the FAMILY involved.

If you have an issue with my comments, posts, opinions or anything else I might publish on this website, I would recommend you send a polite email to Sue, the website owner. I???m certain that if she disagrees with something I have contributed she???ll either pull the post or ask me to refrain from posting in the future.

Feb 08, 2012

high prey drive NEW
by: Julie

Hi there, my girl is just over 2 years old and has developed a very high prey drive also, and like your dog against little dogs. She has injured a cat that wandered onto our property. We have started walking her early in the mornings around our neighbouthood (on lead) and keep a look out for cats and rabbits and the minute she shows any interest we tell her to “leave” and distract her. I am doing dog obedience with her and she is very good with her stays, if there are too many small dogs around I will put a muzzle on her so that if she does get away at least the damage won’t be so bad. We don’t do agility but do Rally-O which she likes and keeps her focus on what I am doing. It is not high excitable activity and less restrictive than obedience. I always keep her on a long line when we are walking in public areas and have accepted that she does have a high prey drive and I have to try and control it. Good luck and if you have any suggestions please let me know.

Feb 08, 2012

@christopher NEW
by: Anonymous

you do seem to know alot and not so much all at the same time because my protection trainer involves my entite family wife and kids. just to make sure your dog is well trained to stage of off leash. where my daughter has complete control. maybe your getting bad info. schh has so much ob involved dogs will only bite the sleeve. check out the videos from.my trainer. if you have a dog trainwd in schh and agility he will be a well mannered well behaved rottie. www.bvdt.com and ive seen over a dozen first hand trained in both.


Feb 08, 2012

why the novel? NEW
by: Anonymous

@Christopher Bayhi
just curious why you respond with a novel to each post? are you a trainer? breeder? or just opinionated? you may benefit from opening your OWN site to share your information..This site ALWAYS gives valuable info but you always seem to want to out shine what is given..(annoying)
just my opinion..cheers..

Feb 08, 2012

Retrain your girl NEW
by: Christopher Bayhi

If the dog will listen to you but won???t listen to your wife, you need to have your wife train with her more. You are the Alpha and your wife should be secondary. But as it sounds she is not.

I would have your wife work the dog on a long leash without distraction, reviewing the basic obedience commands. I would also train her on a ???break & return??? if she is not already trained to do so. The most important thing to remember is that the dog MUST obey commands given by your wife. I have done this with my wife and my 9 year old son. Both my 110# male and 90# female Rottie (18 and 20 months respectively) take verbal and hand commands from both of them as if it were me giving the command. I showed my wife and kid how to train. At first, when the dog didn???t respond to a command I gave the ???NO???. When the dog did respond correctly the wife or kid would give the praise and a treat. Now they can train and work the dog independently of me.

Schutzhund training may be good for the dog as it concerns her drive, but the dog MUST also mind your wife. You don???t want a dog trained to this level-which includes bite work-that does not obey commands from your wife. I can see the ugly liability issues that would come up should she be on a walk with the dog: The dog attacks someone or another dog, and the victim finds out the dog was ???protection trained???, yet you knew the dog would not take commands from your wife. UGLY!

Feb 08, 2012

schulzhund NEW
by: Anonymous

how about put her in schulzhund it trains in ob plus it might teach her when to use that high drive i kniw lots of people who do both schh and agility.

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My name is Dr. Winnie. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Duke University, a Masters of Science in Biology from St Georges University, and graduated from the University of Pretoria Veterinary School in South Africa. I have been an animal lover and owners all my life having owned a Rottweiler named Duke, a Pekingese named Athena and now a Bull Mastiff named George, also known as big G! I'm also an amateur equestrian and love working with horses. I'm a full-time Veterinarian in South Africa specializing in internal medicine for large breed dogs. I enjoy spending time with my husband, 2 kids and Big G in my free time. Author and Contribturor at SeniorTailWaggers, A Love of Rottweilers, DogsCatsPets and TheDogsBone