Have you heard of predatory drift?
I didn’t until a short time ago and I think it’s a pretty important concept that all dog owners should be aware of since it’s a cause of some dog on dog aggression. Before you take your dog to the dog park or day-care centre you really should understand this behaviour.
First of all, there is some debate as to whether “predatory drift” is really a thing and not just typical dog predatory aggression or natural genetic instinct. Whether or not the behaviour is accurately labelled, dog owners need to keep this behaviour in mind when they see 2 dogs playing of a big weight/size difference.
Why a dog might attack another dog unprovoked
Predatory drift or predatory aggression happens when a large dog who is friendly and playing with a small dog suddenly perceives the small dog as a prey animal. The dog’s brain will one moment be in play mode, then instantly switch to its ancient predatory instincts to hunt and kill. Predatory drift behaviour can occur even in a dog who has never before been aggressive. This instinctive drift in dogs may be the reason why your dog is suddenly aggressive to a small dog. It can happen even if the dogs are friends.
It can be triggered out of the blue by a dog who is much smaller and looks or acts like prey (like a rabbit or squirrel). The trigger may be the smaller dog yelping, squealing or just running away. The larger dog may then grab and shake the small dog like they would a toy. This is why some dogs enjoy playing with the flirt pole. It uses their prey-drive instinct.
Sounds pretty scary especially since this dog aggression towards other dogs happens without warning and quickly.
How to stop dog aggression towards small dogs
You can avoid this predatory aggression/drift situation from happening by not allowing large dogs to play with much smaller sized dogs. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Dog Day-Care Centres should avoid mixing large and small dog breeds together. Off-leash “dog parks” don’t usually separate dogs by size, so either avoid them or only use them if the dogs present are of a similar size to yours. As a general guideline, play partners should be within 25 lbs of each other.
What to do if you see a dog fight?
If you saw a dog fight later today, would you know what to do? I think most people would naturally panic, shout or freeze in shock. Please try not to get emotional and add to the chaos. Dog fights look intense, but sometimes they are just a show of dominance with lots of posturing, and not life-threatening. But in the case where a dog has grabbed hold of another dog by its powerful jaws, action needs to be taken immediately. There are different options to stop a dog fight, from the wheel-barrow method, distraction with water hoses/sprays, making a loud noise, using a dog break-stick in the mouth, or placing an object (like a chair) between the dogs. These methods may or may not work. Here is another option to consider if you’re ever faced with this dangerous situation.
Do you let your Doberman play with small dogs? Have you heard or seen “predatory drift”?
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1 thought on “The Little Known Reason For Dog on Dog Aggression”
I think what anyone with children needs to think about is this, I think small chance but still it happened
14 month Doberman, positive training @ socialisation perhaps slightly spoilt but worked for everything and certainly was not allowed to sleep on owners bed but rules were relaxed in day time and sofa
Pertfect dog, until on day it decided to first pray on me and launch attack and then some days later almost killed my partner. The reason he got second shot is because everyone is in denial that reality is you do not know and I advise anyone with chilren to understand the warnings signs at very least