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The Predatory Sequence...and how to exploit it

This sequence is still relevant to our dogs now as it is a primal state of being for them. By establishing a social connection with others, the dog is able to forage, scavenge and hunt with much better efficiency and efficacy. Through this social network the dog is able to achieve a better rate of success.

In looking at the predatory sequence we can determine that there are the following phases in the sequence (according to the Coppingers):

Search quite literally scenting and listening for clues as to the whereabouts of suspected prey candidate


This is the hard stare that some herding breeds are known for, this hard stare results in a stand off by which both prey and predator can gauge who has more will to succeed.


This is the positioning of the canid in preparation for the next phase


Once the animal is isolated and potentially stared down, an earnest chase can begin.


When the canids catch the prey animal, they will generally attack from the back. Since wolves prefer undulates (hoofed animals) the back tends to be away from the horns and more agile front hooves.


Canids will combine their efforts to kill the prey animal if it is large enough.


Once dead the animal will be dissected and specific organs will be targeted and then muscle, fat and bone will be removed from the carcass.


During this stage what has been dissected will be eaten, in certain situations a canid will hunt for food, perhaps consume, bring it back to the home and deliver it to the pups or regurgitate the consumed food for the pups.

Some data indicates that canids are successful on 20% of their predatory activities. That begs the question, with such a large fail rate (80% gets thrown around and a fail rate of 92% has been documented by Allen and Mech) why continue?

The answer appears, from other studies, to be related to the Dopamine Effect, whereby the anticipation of the rewarding event is reinforcing. This anticipation alters the chemicals our body produces and we experience good feelings associated with our action in pursuit of an end goal. The same effect occurs in our dogs bodies as well. This has been researched and documented.

Now that we can understand that, there are physiological reasons to alter our approach to training our dogs we can then exploit the very nature of being to achieve a relationship whereby our dog will work hard to guide us through difficult terrain in inclement conditions and bring us to the target object, be that what it may.

This has many uses from Detection to Search and Rescue and Conservation to Hunting, these are the humane aspects; essentially the outcomes. I wanted to spend some time talking about the canine end of the lead.

We use Social to realise Prey, then once Prey has been realised we revert back to Social. This is an important emotional sequence for our dogs that in my opinion we should be active in emulating.

The vast majority of dog breeds have an altered predatory sequence:

Spaniels will engage in Search, Chase and Grab,

Herding dogs are known to Eye, Stalk and Chase

Retrievers will Search, Chase and Consume (to bring back waterfowl for example)

We as humans have altered the basic underlying predatory reflexes of our dogs to achieve a specific purpose. However, we can still use this sequence to fulfil our dog’s needs.

Food treats for example can be viewed, in this model, as the fulfilment of the consumption phase. Tug toys and spring poles assist in realising the grab phase.

This all adds up to create a balanced and centred dog that is able to achieve, even if limited, the inherited predatory sequence.

We can take our beloved but savage beasts and ensure they are fit for civilisation by enriching their lives with their basic needs.

Each dog will be different but there are reasons for furry squeaky toys having their innards strewn about the lounge room, reasons for dogs chasing children, pouncing on mice with their front paws, staring hard into the upwind shadows before taking off at top speed. Learn to read your dog and you will be able to create a reward event that will increase the social bond between you.

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