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Predatory Aggression in Lurchers and Greyhounds

An inherited predisposition

Lurchers and greyhounds are born with an inherited predisposition that makes them likely to become efficient predators capable killing small prey.

This predisposition is stronger in some than others – some have a strong instinct that makes them very intent on catching and killing prey, a small percentage are not really interested and, in between, there are dogs with varying degrees of interest.

In addition to their inherited prey drive, they have been selectively bred to be fast runners, making it possible for them to catch up with most prey animals.

In some dogs these traits have been encouraged and developed, as in the case of racing greyhounds or lurchers used for lamping or coursing. Once inherited traits have been developed, and the dog has learnt to enjoy the chase and kill, nothing can be done to help the dog ‘unlearn’ this behaviour.

What triggers an ‘attack’

If the predatory drive has been developed, it is likely to be stimulated by typical prey characteristics. These include fast movement, erratic movement (injured/lame animals are more likely to be preyed upon), being small and furry, squeaking/squealing as if injured. There is more likelihood of a chase and kill being made if more than one dog is involved since two or more dogs will form a pack to make the ‘hunting’ more efficient. However, many dogs are capable of chasing and killing without the backup of being in a pack.

Prey animals

‘Prey’ that may be targeted are wild animals, cats, small dogs and small pets such as rabbits. Dogs that have been well socialised with different breeds of dogs from an early age are less likely to pose a threat to them than those that have only lived with other greyhounds/lurchers (as is the case, often, with racing greyhounds). Humans are unlikely to be targeted since they are very ‘un-prey like’ (not small and furry) and most dogs have been well socialised with them when young.

Loving, loyal pets

This all sounds very dramatic, but, in reality, these traits are present in many pet dogs. The reason for this is that they all descended from the wolves that evolved to be highly efficient hunters.

However, these traits have been selected out of many breeds because they are undesirable (e.g. in border collies who are needed to chase sheep but not to kill them).

In greyhounds and lurchers, these traits have been accentuated and this is why we need to take special care with them.

Many dogs that have a strong predatory instinct make loving and loyal pets.

For much of the time they can live in peace and harmony with their surroundings, particularly if their owners are knowledgeable and take special care. To prevent any incidents of predatory aggression, which can be very unpleasant for all concerned and potentially fatal for the animal attacked, we have produced the following rules to keep to.

Special care for greyhounds/lurchers

  1. Your dog should wear a well-fitting box muzzle at all times when in a public place or somewhere where your dog may have access to small animals or they may appear unexpectedly.

  2. Your dog should be kept on a lead in places where small animals, particularly other dogs and cats, run free. (A large dog wearing a muzzle can cause serious injuries a small animal even if it cannot bite it.)

  3. Your dog should only be allowed off lead in areas where there is a very low risk of encountering other small animals. During this time, your dog MUST wear a muzzle.

Please also see Gwen Bailey's article on
A Greyhoud or Lurcher in the Family

& Ingredients for the Perfect Puppy

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