Whippets are clean, quiet, affectionate, and highly intelligent dogs. Most people love having this dog breed because they come with many benefits and very few drawbacks.
However, many owners often start to have concerns when their whippets start chasing rabbits and squirrels uncontrollably.
For most first-time owners, it’s always hard to admit how this well-mannered, loveable, calm, and shy dog breed has such solid killer instincts. This brings us to the question, do whippets have a high prey drive?
Yes, absolutely. Whippets naturally have a high prey drive, but it’s manageable. Here’s is comprehensive detail about whippets prey drive, how you can manage it, and other essential prey drive tips for your dog to be safe, reliable, and well-mannered.
What Does Prey Drive Mean?
In simple terms, prey drive describes a dog’s desire and ability to locate, pursue, and seize prey. Typically, all dogs have this instinct to some extent, only that some have more than others, for example, whippets and greyhounds.
Usually, the prey drive sequence for most dogs is searching for prey, then stalk it, chase it, grab it by biting and kill it. This sequence might manifest differently from dog to dog.
For instance, herding dogs have a higher chasing drive while hounds love flushing out and stalking prey.
Are Whippets Known To Have High Prey Drive?
Whippets’ historical background has a lot to do with their personality and temperament. Initially, they were bred for hunting and entertainment.
Since it’s a breed that is closely related to terriers, whippets’ prey drive is primarily high unless tamed and helped to control it.
Have you ever wondered why whippets have the nickname, the poor man’s greyhound’? Initially, people used whippets as working dogs which helped them to hunt and chase bunnies in sports arenas (rabbit/hare coursing) due to their high racing speed.
They could release rabbits in an open field for whippets to chase them and catch them for entertainment and betting. Nowadays, this form of entertainment is illegal in many parts of the world.
After some years, hare coursing became condemned because of its cruelty, leading to a new sports track tracing which gave whippets their popular nickname, ‘the poor man’s racehorse.’
Most miners used this dog breed as a source of entertainment when they’re off the clock, whereby whippets chased after a waving rag, and the leading dog to catch became the winner.
Most families put their whippets into these competitions to earn a living and gain pride. For this reason, many miners trained their whippets to have a stronger prey drive and extreme agility.
What’s The Difference Between Prey Drive And Aggression?
It’s often easy to confuse aggression and prey drive in dogs. Especially since sometimes a high prey drive can somewhat look like aggression. The key difference between these two traits is their driving factors.
Dogs become aggressive due to strong feelings, for example, fear, while prey drive is purely instinctive.
Confusing these two dog behaviours can really make things hard between you and your dog; therefore, it’s crucial you understand how it behaves.
Another difference is the distance your dog keeps with its prey. If it’s out of aggression, your pup is more likely going to distant himself. With prey drive, your dog will almost do anything to reach its target/prey.
Luckily, it’s usually easier to manage the prey drive issue in dogs than aggressions based on emotions.
This is good news to whippet owners because you’re now sure your whippet’s high prey drive isn’t something you’ll handle forever. But to easily manage your whippet’s hunting instincts, you have to start early.
How To Manage Your Whippets Prey Drive
After knowing why whippets have high prey drive, you might be curious to know what you can do to curb or manage your lovely friend’s enormous prey drive.
Maybe you’re a little worried this behaviour is starting to get out of control, it’s annoying, or simply eager to diversify your arsenal about whippets.
Whichever your is, this article provides just the right answers for you. Here are some ways you can control the whippet’s hunting instincts to ensure his happiness, safety, and reliability.
Involve Your Whippet In Games That Help Tame His Prey Drive
Whippets are extremely fast and love hunting, which is why they can sometimes have a stubborn prey drive.
Playing games with chasing, retrieving, and catching can greatly help with their prey drive. It’s like you’re redirecting the prey drive to something else other than real prey.
You can also engage your whippet in games that can help work on his impulse control. Simply, impulse control is the ability your pet has to resist his impulse and urges.
Some of the common features of dogs with poor impulse control are frequent barking, dogging, jumping on people, chasing, humping pillows, stealing, whining, and getting in trouble a lot.
If your whippet learns to control his impulse, then managing his prey drive won’t be hard too. Play games that teach your whippet the essential commands such as leave it, settle down, look. It would be best if you made the games as fun, brief, and engaging as possible.
During the game sessions, have your whippet wait for a treat (it’s best to use treats he loves the most). For the first few days, he’ll try to grab the treats from your hand, but after a while, he’ll learn to wait until you allow him to have it.
Don’t think of it as punishment, but a way to teaching your pup to ease his drive and think carefully through his actions.
If your dog has good impulse control, he should always be looking at you for permission before chasing down his prey instead of acting instinctively.
Train Your Whippet To Recall
It’s highly crucial for dogs with high prey instincts to learn how to recall. You should call your dog more often in different places, not just at home. During recall training, you’ll need to use high-value treats to motivate your dog.
If you reward him every time he responds correctly and promptly, he’ll always want to do the right thing knowing he’ll get a treat. Make the training super-duper simple. Don’t just train indoors; outdoors are more effective due to distractions and available space.
You want to train your puppy to come to you even when around distractions; training outdoors provides just that.
As it improves, gradually increase the distractions, distance, and duration until your whippet can reliably and promptly adhere to commands no matter what distraction is near them.
Find Ways To Train Your Whippets Prey Drive And Keep It Under Control
Knowing why do whippets have a high prey drive can make you think that the only way to tame your whippet’s strong predacious behaviour is through strict supervision.
But that’s not all; there are effective non-strict methods too, for example, the Look At That (LAT) game.
This game focuses on training your pup to look at you before chasing anything. For this game, you’ll need a clicker, treats, leash, and a friend to help.
For the first few lessons, sit with your whippet in a room, click the clicker, and reward him for looking at your friend when he enters.
This stage aims to make your whippet develop a pattern of seeing interesting things and looking back at your treats. With time, train your dog in more distracting areas.
If it forgets to look back at you, you can always start over until he learns to always look at you no matter the distraction present.
Since whippets are highly predacious, you can opt for prey-like distractions to see if it still looks at you. This approach will help it learn to always look back at you even when he sees a live rabbit or squirrel to chase.
Keep Your Whippet Safe And secure
Guaranteeing your whippet will always keep its prey drive in check is almost impossible. Therefore, it’s best you secure your whippet, especially when you’re not around, to prevent your whippet from harming himself or other pets and kids.
It’s advisable not to allow your dog near other pets and children without close supervision, especially if it has not yet learned how to control its prey drive.
Do Not Tolerate Any Unwanted Predacious Behaviour
If your dog engages in predacious activities and you don’t do anything, it will become a habit. For example, if you encourage your whippet to chase after other animals to learn how to run, he might embrace that trait, even when you don’t want him to.
Such a trait can make your dog get into accidents or follow dangerous preys without knowing.
Redirect Your Whippets Attention From Prey
Your whippet might tend to sniff a lot and follow prey when outdoor. If you see, you should distract him with something he loves without reprimanding or yelling at him. Doing this will make him concentrate on you and forget about the prey.
- Walk him while off-leash if he has learned how to recall and on areas with no cats, dogs, and kids.
Dogs’ prey drive usually varies with breeds, with hunting dogs having the most of it, including whippets. Fortunately, this behaviour is controllable with various control tactics. It’s best to ensure you understand your whippet’s prey drive to manage it easily.
If one method doesn’t work for your dog, it doesn’t harm to try another one. If what you try still doesn’t work, you can seek professional help for your whippet.
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Hello. I’m Luke- the founder of WhippetCentral. I’m somewhat of a whippet nut and have been for most of my life. In that time, I’ve owned and raised numerous whippets. Bonnie is my latest girl; she is currently eight years old and keeps me very busy! Understanding the need for whippet-specific content, I decided to create this blog to share what I have learned and to share my expertise regarding owning and raising whippets – the right way!