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Does prey drive in big dogs rule out getting a small dog?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
I need some input from the wise dog mamas.

My two dogs (GSD and lab/shep) are both fairly prey driven. They've killed rabbits, moles and snakes. One of them recently brought me a (live, unharmed) possum. The other met the business end of a skunk at close range and took a shot right in the face a couple of months ago....They're housedogs, even. They don't like being outside unless I'm out with them, so all of the predation they do is either on a 10 minute potty break, or while I'm outside too.

Last night one of them killed a cat. I was outside, but they were way down in the yard and it was dark. When I heard the ruckus, I called them, inspected their faces for injuries and brought them in for the night. I discovered the cat this morning. My yard is fenced, it wasn't my cat, I knocked on doors, it didn't belong to any of my neighbors....I don't know which dog did it. I would guess the GSD, but really, it could have been either. Not that it matters.

I don't like living with cats, so I won't be getting one, but I have considered adopting a small (10-15lb) non-shedding dog for my middle child to call her own (I would be ultimately responsible, of course!)

My dogs go places with me all the time. They have met small dogs many, many times. Neither of them have ever shown any inclination to be aggressive with little dogs, even when little dogs are barky or squeaky, or rude and jumpy. Off lead and in the yard, though, that might be a different story.

Until now, I hadn't really worried about my dogs harming a small dog. Should I worry about it?
post #2 of 7
I can tell you that for my very prey-driven dog a cat/squirrel/chipmunk is totally different than a small dog. For example my MIL has a 4 lb chi-mix and she reacts to her totally differently than a cat (who most times is bigger than the chi). We've also met other small dogs on walks, etc. and they have not gotten the prey reaction either. The only exception is if someone is carrying a small dog and she can't see what animal it is. As soon as it's on the ground and moves like a dog you can see her go "oh, ok, never mind".

I would be cautious with that large of a size difference though. A friend of mine has a standard poodle and a maltese and she needs to watch them pretty carefully. The little dog has gotten hurt before in very good-natured play just because he's so much smaller, so now she can't let them play at all and she says it sucks, takes a lot of supervision too. My two dogs are 35 and 75 lbs and I don't think I'd like the size difference to be much bigger than that.

How about considering a slightly bigger dog? Beagles are fabulous "kid dogs", at least all the ones I've met. They seem to have lots of energy to play, but a good "off switch" also (I'm sure it depends on the individual of course, getting one that's a couple years old would improve the odds IMO). They do shed though, but to me that is better than the non-shedding dogs who need regular grooming and coat maintenance. Or maybe just a medium-sized pound mix, since you're an experienced dog owner I'm sure you could find a nice one there. Definitely have your other dogs meet the newbie first to make sure everything goes well and supervise closely at first.
post #3 of 7
I know many people that own both larger dogs and small dogs without a problem. While a small dog is a sometimes prey-sized for larger dogs, I've never seen dogs regard eachother as prey. I agree that a potential concern would be when the dogs are playing. There is a chance of a smaller dog to get injured in that situation, so I would keep an eye on them while playing. I recommend introducing any potential new dog to your current dogs before making a final decision, if possible. This would ensure that your dogs will get along with the new one.
post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the responses.

I have to say-- I have a major bias against beagles! You're right though, every one I've ever met has been super kid-friendly. I want a non-shedder b/c my child in question is interested in learning "fancy" grooming (my sil and her partner are professional groomers, so we're not starting from scratch.) Dd is a patient and kind child. She'd do fine with a lap dog. I know someone who would love to give me her problem maltese, but it's even smaller than that poor cat....

Maybe I should just keep waiting. My big dogs are 5 & 6. In three years, my oversized, poorly bred, heartworm survivor GSD will be 9. She'll probably slow down a little.
post #5 of 7
In this case, I probably would be concerned. Yes, many homes have large and small dogs living together just fine. But in the OPs case, the dogs have a proven prey drive for smaller animals. with prey driven dogs, this is one thing they caution about- small dogs. A small dog on a leash is different than a small dog suddenly dashing enticingly across the yard like a rabbit. This is one reason that they have separate small dog play areas at the dog park- in addition to the concern of injury from friendly play with a much larger dog. On one of my lists recently for a breed of gun dog, someone mentioned that their dog had met a small dog for the first time in a play situation- and the larger dog had picked it up gently and tried to retrieve the little dog to hand! Thankfully no one was hurt (and in this case, the dog was not prey driven so much as birdy). Some dogs simply have a hard time distinguishing that little dogs are still dogs and different than prey.

If you really want to get a little dog, I would consult with a trainer first to have your dogs safely evaluated. Otherwise, if you can wait, do. Cats and Possums are both larger than many small dogs.
post #6 of 7
My dog is also high in prey drive and has attacked possums, cats, and many small dogs. She doesn't distinguish.
post #7 of 7
My high prey drive German Shepherd goes to a well-run, small doggie day care. Her favorite dog to play with?! A weenie dog! She also loves the puppies. Her prey drive does not keep her from being playing with little dogs.

She is, however, a dominant dog. She likes being boss, which is fine around most other dogs. But a major consideration for me if I were to get another dog would be the temperament of the new dog.
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