July 04 , 2009




Almost every dog has some degree of prey drive — it’s in his genes — some more than others. You may experience it when your otherwise well mannered dog suddenly takes off chasing after a rabbit, squirrel, or a jogger. The old approach to solving this problem involved the use of “corrective” devices like choke chains and electronic fences. A better approach includes training and management techniques that reward your dog for choosing to focus on and stay near you, the owner.
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Clarissa von Reinhardt has been working on the issue of how to deal with unwanted predatory behavior for many years. In this fascinating and inspiring book, she takes the readers step by step through her training methods, inviting them to learn more about a dog’s complex spectrum of behavior, and ultimately to maintain as much control as possible over the urge to chase prey.

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What reviewers are saying...

“Dogs with a strong instinct to chase things can be frustrating to manage. A dog that suddenly takes off after anything he considers prey - squirrels, joggers, bikes, cars - can be a danger to himself, his owner, others and whatever he's chasing. Von Reinhardt describes predatory behaviour and takes the reader step by step through her training methods, including such intriguing techniques as the "sausage tree," and addresses the causes of failure in training. Chase! delves into a fascinating and complex behaviour, and offers a training program that leads to as much control as possible over the urge to chase, while rejecting the use of aversive stimuli”.

“This book is the how-to manual for owners dealing with dogs who have high predatory instincts. I have had several clients and friends approach me with this issue, and it is one of the most frustrating for me (and for them!) to deal with.The book is geared toward pet dog owners, not trainers. The author does an excellent job explaining what prey drive is, where it comes from, and that it is a natural instinct within dogs. I appreciated that her problem-solving refers to "management" of behaviors, and does not promise to cure the problem. She comes down quite hard on anyone recommending the use of aversive methods to change this behavior. There are several really interesting exercises outlined in the book that I am eager to try, including "communicative walks" and a "sausage tree." There are also a lot of the exercises you would expect her to recommend, including sit/stay and several variations on recall. On the one hand, I like the idea of offering a number of different exercises whose ultimate purpose is to move the dog in the direction you want him to go (usually toward you!), so I appreciate that there are a variety of recall exercises available so you aren't simply calling your dog with "come" every time. On the other hand, I wondered if having this many seemingly different exercises to master might feel daunting for an owner, when in truth a really dynamite recall would suffice.Von Reinhardt does an excelling job describing how to teach certain behaviors, including many lovely photo illustrations. However, there were a couple of exercises, including "to me" and "look here" that were illustrated with pictures but not thoroughly described in the text. I imagine a qualified trainer could work out how to teach these behaviors, but a novice owner might be left wondering. I also found her description of teaching the "move slowly" exercise to be a bit confusing.The section dedicated to encouraging owners to be aware of their body language, energy, and tone of voice is excellent and so very important. We never want to admit that we might be contributing to our dog's unwanted behaviors, and von Reinhardt point out, in a way that is both compelling and kind, and not at all blaming, that we always need to consider our own behaviors while working with our dogs.The author also does a great job of explaining why positive reinforcement training is not just "bribery" on page 29: "Would you live with a person who you didn't get anything from, neither emotional nor financially, nor in terms of respect, nor anything else? We all want something for ourselves, which is socially accepted and, of course, perfectly okay." I gave a hearty "amen!" to this sentiment!The book is, for the most part, beautifully illustrated with photos including a range of dogs. However, there are a couple of places where photos are replaced with cartoon drawings of dogs. These seemed out of place and substantially less helpful to illustrating the point than photos would have been.My biggest issue with the book was von Reinhardt's assertion to playing fetch with a highly prey-driven dog is not a good idea. I have far less experience in this area than she does, so I won't just dismiss this advice. However, she later argues that games like nose work are excellent for these dogs, because they "offer the dog the chance to act out this natural instinct and drive" (p. 88). This seems contradictory to her statement that playing fetch teaches your dog " run after the fleeing 'prey,' which, once caught, leads to the 'shaking to death' aspect of prey behavior" (p. 78). I do see some distinction here, but I am not clear why certain outlets for a dog's innate prey drive are acceptable and others are not. Also, my own dog is highly ball-driven but does not care much about live prey (except his fascination with cats), so it seems to me that at least some dogs can understand the difference between a toy that is thrown and an animal to be eaten. Again, I am not arguing that von Reinhardt is wrong; I just found that the potential for contradiction a bit confusing. Finally, because I am always cautious with owners I am counseling about this behavior to tell them that some dogs simply can never be trusted off leash because their predatory instinct is so high, I was hoping the book would offer some concrete tips on assessing which dogs are most likely to be manageable with good training, and which are not. The book ends with the story of a dog whose drive was so high that she swims a rushing river twice to get to potential prey, and von Reinhardt uses this tale to illustrate the point that certain dogs have more prey drive than even an accomplished trainer can manage. However, I wish she had gone further to talk about how to look for this, and how common it truly is. Perhaps it is something that can only be learned with experience. If that's the case, I would have liked to have it spelled out for me. Overall, I enjoyed this book and felt it would be a valuable tool for owners as well as dog trainers coping with the issue of a dog with high predatory instincts. It is accessible and easy to read, and contains a great deal of valuable insight into a frustrating but natural part of our lives with dogs.”Adrienne Hovey, managing editor of The APDT Chronicle of the Dog

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