DO GERMAN SHEPHERD HAVE HIGH PREY DRIVE
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The German Shepherd we know today is descended from the broad family of German herding dogs that varied quite a bit from region to region until the late 1800s. Their primary role in every region was working and protecting different types of large livestock. This role means that they are quite capable of working with prey animals in a constructive way, but also fearless in protecting them from other animals. When they are raised with and taught the appropriate behavior around livestock of any size, German Shepherd’s can appear to have no prey drive at all. Like I mentioned a moment ago, all canines have some prey drive and it varies between breeds and individuals and German Shepherds are no exception. One of the best things you can teach your German Shepherd is a reliable recall and 'leave it' command for their own safety and when curiosity gets the better of them, and of course, keeping them out of situations where they are set-up to fail.
Part of what made the German Shepherd’s ancestor an effective shepherd and modern day military canine is their energy and stamina. You'll find that the modern German Shepherd still has one of the highest energy levels of any large breed and is often considered one of the most intelligent. They are also quite protective of their territory, which makes any strange animal fair game. They might simply be curious about a new creature, but with nearly 100 pounds of muscle and teeth coming at them, most small animals are going to bolt. From there, instinct kicks in, and the German Shepherd both fast and agile enough to catch just about anything they set their mind to.
As I mentioned before, when German Shepherd’s are raised with potential prey animals like cats, chickens, and rabbits, they can appear to have little to no prey drive at all. That's not to say, given the right set of circumstances, that they wouldn't go after something they usually don't bother. Even though German Shepherd’s are highly trainable and excellent farmyard guardians, it's best to keep an eye on them around small animals even after their puppyhood. You can direct their playful puppy energy to obedience training and games; just be mindful of the games you chose. You might want to avoid things like a Flur pull until they are older and established around small prey animals since this activity taps directly into their prey drive. Frequent obedience work is a great way to build this relationship, and you can check out my course shop which includes a Puppy Training course and a Bootcamp training course that's perfect for canines of all ages.
Being a guardian breed with a high energy levels means German Shepherd’s can be quite reactive, especially if you have more than one or other dogs in the home. Allowing too much roughhousing or depending on the other dogs to work off the German Shepherd’s energy is a recipe for disaster. German Shepherd’s can and will think for themselves, and their large size means they are more reactive and play rougher well past the time they are full grown. They also form deep family bonds, making them effective guardians and helping them excel at protection work in a professional capacity. Some German Shepherd’s will be more reactive to a situation while others may be more proactive, and either way, it's vital that they see you, and every member of your family, as their canine leader. While they aren't likely to see you or your family as prey, they can get over-excited when playing, and it's critical that anyone who is home with them be able to control them in any situation.
The German Shepherd generally has a low to moderate prey drive once they reach maturity, but this will vary between individuals. You'll want to introduce them to any small animals in your home at the youngest possible age, so they grow up seeing them as part of the family. Always supervise their interactions with potential prey animals or make sure there are plenty of secure places for the smaller animals to get to if you'll be a step away. Most German Shepherd owners never have a problem, but I can't stress this enough, these are large, powerful canines that must have a calm, consistent leader.