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The problem with prey drive

Have you ever seen a news story about a dog bite and read quotes of disbelief from the dog's owners? They probably insisted that the dog was always nice and kind around the house. They probably said that it came out of nowhere. They probably seemed just as confused as the person who got hurt.

It's easy to shake your head and assume that they did not know their dog well enough, but that may not actually be the case. The reality is that dogs are still, in their heart, wild animals. They have instincts that kick in at certain times, which their owners may really not understand until it happens.

Prey drive is one prime example. When a dog sees something that it thinks is prey, it may instinctively run, chase, bark and even bite. This often happens with joggers. When someone runs by the dog, its instincts tell it that it (the dog) is the predator and the jogger is the prey. It honestly may never get that same stimulation in the house, so people do not have any idea that the dog will attack until it happens.

Owners can train their dogs to combat this instinct, but it's not easy. "This is one instinct from Mother Nature that is very difficult to overpower," said one expert. "Prey drive is almost always a rehabilitation case that will take some time."

That does not give owners an excuse. They need to understand their pets and take steps to protect others. If they act negligently, those who suffer bite injuries may be able to seek compensation.

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