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Dog Training/High prey drive training question


Hi Barb,

I have a question about my 3 year old German Shepherd, Husky, Weimaraner mix named Karlie.

Karlie has a very high prey drive, she is constantly on the lookout for wildlife (we have woods surrounding us). Unfortunately, no matter how hard I try, she has gotten away from me a few times this summer chasing mostly rabbits. When she is chasing these animals I don't exist in her world, she is so focused on chasing that animal. I have been lucky that the few times she got away I was able to catch her (only because the animal hid somewhere and she stopped with it), but I worry that that may not always be the case or she may get hurt.

My question is, how do I get her to come to me when she is in her prey mode? She has completed 3 obedience classes, so it's not a matter of she doesn't know what "come" means, she is just so focused on that animal that she doesn't hear anything else.

Thanks for the help,
Ricki and Karlie

Thanks for your email, Ricki.  Recalling a dog once the prey sequence has kicked in is one of the most difficult things to do. You will need to go back and practice basic recalls until she is 100% reliable in the house, in the back yard, in the front yard, in a open field, etc.  Keep in mind that the best reward for coming to you is something she really wants at that moment in time.  It could be a treat, it could be opportunity to play tug, it could be to chase you, OR it could be the chance to go back and do what she was doing before you called her.  Never call her to end her fun.  So many dogs learn to ignore their names because most of the time we use it we're interrupting something that they enjoy doing.  Whenever possible, let her go back to what she was doing before you called her.

It requires lots and lots of practice and SUCCESSFUL repetitions before you can say you have a reliable off leash recall.  In order to call a dog off prey, it almost has to become a conditioned response - the dog automatically turned her head when she hears her name.  While you're training, don't allow her to ever be off-leash and in a situation where she will ignore you.

You don't say how she's getting away from you, but I would encourage you to teach her to wait at all thresholds (doors, gates, car doors, etc) and have your "OK" before crossing. This can quickly become a habit if you enforce it at each and every threshold.  

Please google "Susan Garrett Recallers Course".  I believe she offers this online class each year and you will learn excellent techniques for getting a reliable recall, even with distractions.  If you search YouTube, I'm sure you'll find some video examples of the dogs who have taken it.  I highly recommend the class.

You can also search for Leslie Nelson, Really Reliable Recall.  I believe she has a book and/or a DVD that can help you.

Let me know if you have questions about anything I recommended or need clarification on anything.  Good luck!

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Barb Gadola, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP


I can answer questions related to problem dog behaviors, teaching polite manners, puppy raising, and any type of training-related issues. My website page, offers a wealth of information on training and behavior issues as well.


I've been training dogs since 1989 and own and operate Distinctive Dog Training LLC in Keller TX. I specialize in providing practical and positive solutions for families through personalized training in their home.

Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner
Victoria Stilwell Positively! Licensed Trainer
Association of Pet Dog Trainers
Association of Animal Behavior Professionals
Truly Dog Friendly Coalition

BS in Education
Graduate work in Behavioral Psychology
Karen Pryor Academy Dog Training Program
Certified Professional Dog Trainer

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