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Behavior Science Blog

My webinar notes are written out and sketched on my ipad Pro using the notability app. I welcome feedback, questions, discussion, corrections. Some of these notes may be reworked into infographics in the future.


Predatory Behavior and Wellbeing

I am slowly working my way through some of the The HeartDog International Wellbeing Summit videos.

First a quote from this blog post (Academy of Dog Trainers) about normalizing predatory behaviors in dogs.

We easily accept predatory behavior in cats for some reason, marveling at the “good little hunter” that dropped the decapitated mouse at our feet while we washed dishes. We might find it unpalatable, but we rarely classify it as a moral fail, nor worry the cat is deviant and a potential threat to people. We don’t mistakenly assign labels like “aggressive” to our rodent-killing cats.

This is very true. All the cat welfare literature puts "predatory activities" high on the list of species-typical things that cats need to be happy and healthy. Nobody wants their cats to kill wildlife so interactive play and catios are recommended as safe outlets. Funny - we don't often think about dogs as predators or as having predatory needs.

Also, something I saw on Twitter:

PREDATION = Distance-decreasing behaviors ( I'm gonna get closer to you)

AGGRESSION = Distance-increasing behaviors ( get away from me!)

In my education on cat needs and especially PLAY, I've learned that the activity we call "hunting" is much more than just "attacking/killing something". Watching prey is a big part of play/hunting even if a cat doesn't eventually make a move, and remains in the same spot, focused, watching. The watching part is an essential part of the hunting sequence.

[illustrations from my book]

I found Tracey McLellan's presentation on Predatory Behaviors and Wellbeing in Dogs really interesting and she confirms it is normal for a dog to be interested in only one part of the "seek/hunt-orient-stalk-chase-grab-hold-kill-eat" sequence, and that it may be enough for our dogs' wellbeing if we provide for only parts of the sequence, especially sniffing/hunting. Domesticated dogs don't need to hunt to eat.

By contrast, it is recommended that we feed treats to our cat at the end of a play (hunt) session.

P.S. Here is a photo of my late dog Boogie, on one of our neighborhood walks. Boogie was about 4 years old in this photo. He would eventually just sit at the foot of the tree to observe the squirrels. He was never interested in chasing or catching them (unlike my neighbor's Yorkie)

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