Predatory drift among dogs occurs when the energy level of play becomes overly heightened and morphs or “drifts” into something more aggressive or predatory. Typically, there are two factors that lead dogs to be aggressive: anxiety or arousal. Predatory drift hinges on the latter.
Usually this sort of maladaptive behavior is first seen among adolescent dogs and is exacerbated in large groups as the energy is naturally more palpable in such an environment. Dogs pickup on and feed off the energy of the pack. And arousal builds up over time. You will see among a hyperactive group of dogs, volleying from one play scenario to the next without naturally taking breaks from play – or as I like to call them “time outs” – a higher likelihood of the sort of “drift” described above. A natural remedy to this is human interaction or interruption – forcing dogs to take breaks to re-group and prevent exhaustion (which in and of itself can lead to other behavioral issues).*
Dogs that frequently exhibit predatory drift tend to do much better in smaller groups; again, this is because the overall energy of the group is less heightened. Less dogs = less energy. Fortunately, at Dingo’s, we have various means to separate dogs so the ones that are not appropriate for large group play, can be kept in smaller groups. There’s an old saying about matchmaking that there is a “lid for every pot”. Our matchmaking is more of the friend variety, and it involves dogs, but stay with me here, I feel there is a playgroup or outlet for every pup (except in rare and extreme circumstances). While we have various means of separating dogs and putting together groups of dogs that we think will work well, if our daycare doesn’t have the solution for your dogs energy expenditure needs, I’m sure we can point you in the direction of an alternative option that may be more suitable, whether that be group hikes, solo walks, or even another (often home-based) daycare.
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*Because human interaction is so important among large packs of dogs, it is extremely important to have a high staff to dog ratio at a daycare. At Dingo’s, we boast the best ratio of any licensed daycare on the northshore!