All dog breeds have certain instincts or behaviors that they are predisposed to.
For some breeds, including huskies, this means they have a high prey drive. Their prey drive can drive them to chase and even attack smaller animals, if not managed properly.
- Do Huskies Have A High Prey Drive?
- Where Does This Prey Drive Come From?
- Prey Drive Stages
- Things To Consider With Husky Prey Drive
- Can Huskies Be Around Small Animals?
- Can Huskies Lose Their Prey Drive?
- Husky Prey Drive Bottom Line
Do Huskies Have A High Prey Drive?
The short answer is, yes, huskies do have a high prey drive.
This is a natural instinct that helps them survive in the harsh conditions of the Arctic. The truth is, all dogs have a prey drive. It’s simply a matter of how strong it is, and which aspects of it are present.
Prey Drive vs. Aggression
It’s important to understand what a high prey drive means, and what it doesn’t mean.
Many owners associate a high prey drive with aggression, but these are completely separate behaviors. Prey drive is instinctual. A dog chasing a squirrel doesn’t dislike the squirrel, they are chasing it simply because it’s their instinct to do so.
Aggression, on the other hand, is an emotion-based behavior. Dogs become aggressive when they are frightened, guarding their resources, or attempting to assert dominance.
A high prey drive only makes the dog dangerous to animals the dog sees as prey. This doesn’t make them inclined to be aggressive toward humans, or other dogs.
Generally, huskies will view smaller animals as prey. This includes cats, birds, squirrels, and rabbits.
Where Does This Prey Drive Come From?
All dogs have some prey drive, because of their wild ancestors. Wild dogs had to hunt for themselves to survive. Dogs are considered omnivores and can eat plant matter as well as meat. However, meat makes up the majority of their diet, which means they needed a high prey drive.
Their prey drive is essentially their hunting instinct. It’s what tells them what they can hunt and eat, and how to go about it.
Why Huskies Have a High Prey Drive
So all dogs are descended from canines with a high prey drive. Why do some breeds have a high prey drive, while others have a low prey drive?
In the huskies’ case, it comes down to how they were domesticated. They were originally domesticated by the Chukchi people of Siberia. The tribe would allow them to roam and hunt for themselves during the warm summer months.
When the conditions grew cold and the food grew scarce, the huskies would make their way back to the tribe.
They became domesticated, but still retained their high prey drive because they had to hunt for themselves on a regular basis.
Prey Drive is Enjoyable for Huskies
Prey drive is enjoyable for huskies, and other breeds. This is why your dog enjoys playing chase and fetch. Acting out the stages of the prey drive triggers the pleasure center in your dog’s brain.
Animals, including humans, have behaviors that trigger their pleasure centers. Usually, these behaviors are good for them, or necessary for their survival.
It’s important to remember that the prey drive isn’t negative, but it can manifest in unhealthy ways.
Prey Drive Stages
A dog’s prey drive can be broken down into 5 stages. All 5 stages are essential for successfully hunting and consuming food. Since most domesticated dogs don’t need to hunt to feed themselves, aspects of the prey drive have fallen away.
Depending on the breed and its purpose, different breeds have retained different aspects of their prey drive. Some breeds, like the husky, have retained enough prey drive to hunt successfully today.
The stages of prey drive are searching, stalking, chasing, biting to grab, biting to kill, and consumption. Prey drive begins with searching. Once they spot their prey, they will begin stalking it. However, some breeds will move right to chasing.
When they catch up to their prey, they will bite to grab it. Next is the stage that most dog owners want to eradicate, biting to kill. Lastly, consumption occurs.
What Triggers a Husky’s Prey Drive?
Most breeds, including huskies, are often triggered by their prey running. This is why many dogs will chase cars. The movement of the vehicle triggers their prey drive, even though a car is far from a husky’s natural prey.
This means when a smaller animal runs out of fear, this can cause the husky to chase them due to prey drive. What happens from there depends on the individual husky’s prey drive. Some will only act out portions of the prey sequence, but some may hurt or kill their prey.
Things To Consider With Husky Prey Drive
Prey drive doesn’t just drive huskies to chase or attack smaller animals. It’s also why dogs love to play fetch and tug of war. Their prey drive is also essential to their survival, even today.
Without the consumption part of prey drive, your husky would starve! Prey drive can be inconvenient and even concerning, particularly if your husky is spending time around smaller animals. However, it’s important to remember that it serves necessary purposes as well.
Prey Drive Tunnel Vision
Your husky’s prey drive isn’t just a concern for the local cats. It can also put your husky in danger. This is because prey drive often comes along with tunnel vision.
When hunting is essential for survival, this makes sense. Everything else falls away, and the dog is hyper-focused on their task, catching their prey. Today’s huskies don’t have to hunt for their food, but the prey drive can still cause this tunnel vision effect.
If your husky begins chasing a cat, for example, they may dash across the street after it. They won’t stop to see if there’s a car coming, and this is also a common reason why huskies can get lost or run away so often.
Can Huskies Be Around Small Animals?
Huskies’ prey drive does make it challenging to own smaller pets. However, it’s far from impossible. To be successful, you’ll need to get a good start.
Along with your own pets, you’ll need to consider the safety of other animals in the neighborhood as well. In addition to training, you’ll need to keep your husky confined or supervised.
It’s important to note that prey drive typically starts at 3 to 4 months of age. As a husky begins to mature, you’ll need to keep a close eye on them while their prey drive is developing.
Huskies and cats can get along, but they need to be introduced to them early. Much also comes down to their individual personality as well. If you intend to have a cat and a husky in your home, you should choose a husky puppy or an adult who has been around cats often.
Huskies are highly pack oriented. This can work to your advantage if you want your husky to get along with your kitty. If they view the cat as a part of their family, or pack, they will tolerate them or even become friends with them.
Keep in mind that just because your husky gets along with your cat doesn’t mean that they are safe around other cats in the neighborhood.
Some huskies can get along with all cats, but many will chase and potentially harm strange cats.
Other Small Animals
Huskies shouldn’t be unsupervised around small animals. Rodents, birds, and reptiles can be viewed as prey to a husky.
If you choose to have a husky in your home with other small animals, keep them in a cage out of the husky’s reach when you can’t keep a close eye on them.
When in Doubt, Use Caution
If you have any concerns about your husky around smaller animals, err on the side of caution. This can mean simply supervising your pooch around other animals. It may also mean keeping them in a well-fenced yard, or on a leash when out for walks.
Can Huskies Lose Their Prey Drive?
Huskies will never completely lose their prey drive. However, training, exercise, and proper introduction with other animals can help you manage their prey drive.
Training your husky is extremely important. They are very energetic and large dogs, so you have a responsibility to keep them under control. You should always use positive reinforcement when training.
One way to keep your husky’s prey drive under control is with a simple command. This is often called “watch me”. The purpose is to bring your husky’s attention back to you.
You’ll want to begin this training with a treat. Use the word “watch me”, or another command word of your choice. When they look at you, give them the treat.
Eventually, you should be able to use the command and have your dog look at you, regardless of what has their attention. However, this takes a lot of training.
Once they respond to the command well, you can use it to control their prey drive. When you notice them tracking or stalking prey, use the command. Be sure to give praise or a treat when they look at you.
Breaking their attention this way will usually stop the prey drive sequence.
Huskies need a lot of mental and physical exercise. Plenty of mental and physical activity can reduce their prey drive. In addition to walks or runs, playing games like fetch is helpful. Puzzle toys, obstacle courses, and teaching new tricks or commands can provide mental stimulation.
Games like fetch and tug of war can allow them to express portions of their prey drive, so these exercises are particularly beneficial.
Because they have high exercise needs, they do best with a fenced-in yard. This allows them to get plenty of activity. However, this is not a substitute for structured playtime or exercise.
Proper Introduction to Smaller Animals
You can train your husky so that smaller animals aren’t viewed as prey, but you must start early. You’ll need to introduce cats and other small animals your dog may be exposed to early on, when your husky is a puppy.
Don’t allow them to stalk or chase the animals. Have them stay calm, and use positive reinforcement for proper interactions with them.
You may need to keep your husky on a leash, particularly when beginning introductions.
Husky Prey Drive Bottom Line
Your husky’s prey drive can make life challenging. It’s something that you should be prepared to manage as a husky owner. Being aware of their prey drive, and the reasons behind it, can help immensely.
Ultimately, it’s your responsibility to keep your husky, and other animals around them, safe. If you are concerned about their prey drive, supervise them or keep them on a leash.
If you are having a hard time handling your husky’s prey drive, it’s a great idea to contact a professional trainer.