Many dogs love to chase squirrels or run after tennis balls. Their canine instincts tell them if potential prey is running, they better follow at top speed. This is referred to as prey drive. Essentially, it’s a dog’s urge to stalk, hunt and, eventually tackle or eat a moving target. Domesticated dogs have pretty much outgrown the kill and eat aspect of prey drive that wolves use to survive in the wild. But many breeds—primarily hounds, herders, terriers and sporting dogs, according to the American Kennel Club—still have very high prey drives. If you are considering getting a dog but already have other small animals in the house or don’t want a dog who will routinely catch and devour rabbits in your yard, go for a breed with low prey drive.
10 Dogs with Low Prey Drive (and 6 Breeds That Need Careful Training)
What does low prey drive mean?
Low prey drive basically means the dog doesn’t feel a strong urge to hunt potential prey. It doesn’t mean inactive or lazy; a low prey drive is more akin to a go-with-the-flow personality. Distractions like birds and squirrels don’t affect low prey drive dogs much, nor do they have trouble controlling their chasing impulses. They respond well to training - especially when it comes to obeying commands like “stay” or “come.” Low prey drive breeds can still be obsessed with play time and enjoy running around with their puppy pals at the dog park, don’t you worry!
It’s worth noting that if you have a smaller breed, beware of larger breeds with high prey drives. It’s also worth reiterating the importance of leash laws. You never know how your dog will react to a new canine. Leashes help prevent situations where a high prey drive breed is chasing after—and could potentially injure - another dog.
Why might you want a dog with low prey drive?
Walking a dog with low prey drive will be much easier than walking one with high prey drive. This is because dogs with low prey drive are far less likely to bolt after squirrels or yank the leash as they desperately follow a scent. In fact, some high prey drive dogs are often mistaken for being aggressive because of their large reactions to stimuli. It’s just their instincts to hunt kicking in! But dogs with low prey drive are typically easier to train and less likely to display reactive behavior while on leash.
It’s also wise to consider a low-prey-drive breed if you already have other animals, like cats. One look at a cat from a high-prey-drive dog could result in a destructive chase around the house. The same could be said for families with small children. Herding dogs have been known to “herd” small children, which basically means running around them in circles. Could be a little terrifying for a 2-year-old. Just saying.
10 Dogs with low prey drive
1. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
One trait you’ll find over and over again on our list of low prey dogs is adaptability. No breed encapsulates this more than the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. These dogs are up for whatever and love to please their owners by learning and retaining commands. They get along with kids, other pets and any visitors they trust.
Think of the Great Pyrenees, then shrink it down to an apartment-friendly size. You’ve got the Maltese, another low prey drive dog with fluffy white fur and an up-for-anything attitude. Both breeds are gentle and cuddly - the Maltese just might fit on your lap more comfortably.
A funny ball of fluff, the Pomeranian is an energetic dog breed that works well with others. Definitely start leash training early, but once they get the hang of it, they’re good to go. Chances are they’ll be more interested in chasing after you, wherever you go, than rabbits or squirrels.
6 Dogs Who Need Careful Training
Beagles are actually part of the hound group. They tend to be big sweethearts, but definitely have that hunting instinct.
The AKC describes the terrier group as “feisty and energetic.” Dogs like the Airedale terrier and the West Highland white terrier have hunting instincts in their blood, specifically when it comes to household pests like rats and mice. So, they may make great farm dogs, but may need extra training if you don’t want them chasing everything that moves.