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5 Real Reasons Why Dogs Are Hunters (Updated 2023)

Are Dogs Real Hunters

Your Fido loves to chase anything that moves.

May it be squirrels, birds, or frisbees.

They’ll stalk for a few minutes.

And when the time’s right, your dog will pounce on them excitedly.

Which makes you think…

“Why do our furry friends enjoy hunting so much?”

Keep reading to find out:

  • 5 real reasons why dogs are hunters.
  • If this is normal behavior for all canines.
  • 7 dog breeds with the highest prey drive.
  • Whether all dogs are considered hunters or not.
  • And many more…

Are all dogs hunters?

All dogs are hunters to a certain degree. They evolved from wolves, who are successful predators in the wild. So every canine has an innate prey drive, but the intensity depends on their breed. For example, active Huskies are bred to catch vermins and are more motivated to hunt than Shih Tzus.

Why dogs are hunters – 5 reasons

#1: They’re descendants of wolves

First, dogs got the urge to hunt from their great ancestors.

“Who are they?”

You may have heard about this before. But canines came from gray wolves.

Those wild animals are carnivores, so they hunt for meat. 

And they mainly go for prey, such as:

  • Elk.
  • Deer.
  • Hares.
  • Bison.
  • Moose.

Now you might wonder…

“How did dogs evolve from wolves?”

According to experts, humans lived with wolves 130,000 years ago.

Then as these wild animals stayed near people…

Some of the ‘less timid’ wolves passed this friendliness to generations. And they evolved into early dogs.

But although these 2 species split genetically 27,000 years ago…

Dogs still have some of their ancestors’ instincts. 

And one of these is to hunt.

Wolves as hunters

Like dogs, wolves are also ‘apex predators.’

“What does it mean?”

These are animals at the top of the food chain. And they’re responsible for balancing the ecosystem.


‘Apex predators’ like wolves mostly hunt weak or sick animals.

By doing this, healthier prey will survive. And the animals may produce babies in good condition too.

Trivia: In a year, a wolf eats meat equal to 15 to 20 grown deers. And specialists say they need at least 3.7 lb (1.7 kg) of it a day to sustain their needs.

Okay. Let’s go back to wolves’ hunting skills.

Experts also share that they hunt in packs.

So when the prey’s large, wolves scatter and surround their target. Then they’ll attack from different sides.

And since wolves have a fantastic sense of smell…

They mainly depend on their noses to look for prey too.

“How about dogs?”

Today, most Fidos may still have the ‘hunter’ inside them.

But usually, what you see in your pooch are only behaviors that mimic a hunt.

These are:

  • Stalking.
  • Chasing.
  • Pouncing.

“But why?”

Since canines have lived with us, they now seek help from humans when hungry.

Meanwhile, stray dogs depend on our food waste. 

As if they’re saying…

“Why bother to hunt if I can just get scraps from the bin?”

So technically, what they do is ‘scavenging,’ not hunting.

One more thing.

Unlike wolves, dogs aren’t ‘pack animals.’

Our furry friends look for food on their own.

So if ever they hunt together…

A group of canines will likely be loose and unorganized. And they’ll not hunt as effectively as a pack of wolves.

However, the 2 species have 1 striking similarity.

“What is it?”

Dogs and wolves both have excellent noses

It’s one of the things that aid them in hunting.

But wolves have a superior sense of smell than Fidos. 

And a study discovered why:

Scientists found that it has something to do with the dog’scribriform plate.’

It’s a bone in the nose. And it transmits information from the smell receptors to the brain.

Then during the tests, they found that the said bone’s smaller in dogs compared to wolves.

So the study says it might be why our furry friends’ noses aren’t on par with wolves.

#2: They’re trained to do so

Dogs Are Hunters Because They're Trained To Do So

Aside from ancestral genes…

Some Fidos were also man’s hunting buddies 20,000 years ago. And they were mainly bred for that purpose.

That’s why certain breeds have more desire to chase smaller animals.

And also why they’re better in these hunting skills:

  • Tracking.
  • Retrieving.
  • Detecting scents.

So what breeds am I referring to?

These are hunting dogs.

People grouped these breeds into 2 types based on their jobs.

And it’s because hunters seek different kinds of ‘games’ or wild animals that:

  • Fly.
  • Run.
  • Conceal.


Hunters use these dogs when they need to follow a sprinting animal, like:

  • Deers.
  • Rabbits.
  • Coyotes.
  • Raccoons.

And these Fidos have 3 types:

LurchersUsually track hares and rabbits.Greyhound Terrier mix.
SighthoundsHunt mainly using their sight and speed.Salukis.Greyhounds.
ScenthoundsPursue mostly using their noses than sight.Bloodhounds.Basset Hounds.

Speaking of scent hounds.

Since they were bred for it….

‘Scent breeds’ detect odors better than other dogs.

And a study shows that these Fidos perform well in scent tasks like wolves.

Again, they’re not on par. But it says that Bloodhounds have an accuracy rate of 96%.

“What about wolves?”

Based on the same research, wolves get better as they repeat the task.

So what experts did was they made both species sniff 4 upside-down ceramic bowls.

Each of them has a container with a lid inside.

Then every trial, only 1 bowl contains food. 

So dogs and wolves had to determine which was it.

But it has 5 levels of difficulty depending on the type of container lid:

  1. Level 1 – no lid.
  2. Level 2 – the lid has 5 holes.
  3. Level 3 – there are 3 holes in the lid.
  4. Level 4 – the lid has a single hole.
  5. Level 5 – no holes are on the lid.

And the results?

Both Bloodhounds and wolves outdid non-scent breeds like Whippets. 

But dogs’ ancestors perform at 90% in the most difficult level.

On the other hand…

‘Gun dogs’

People trained these Fidos to find hiding games. 

And also to retrieve downed birds in the water, such as:

  • Ducks.
  • Grouses.
  • Waterfowls.

Some examples of gun dogs are:

  • Setters.
  • Spaniels.
  • Pointers.
  • Retrievers.
  • Water dogs.

And since these Fidos need to get the birds and bring them to the hunters unharmed…

Most gun dogs have a ‘soft mouth.’

In other terms, it means they can control the force of their bite. So they won’t damage the game while carrying it in their mouth.

If you want to know more, read this article: 7 Weird Reasons Why Dogs Are Gentle With Eggs

#3: They have a ‘high prey drive’

All dogs are natural hunters.

But some Fidos have a stronger urge to hunt or what they call ‘prey drive.’

“Why’s that?”

Oftentimes, it’s due to the breed’s original purpose. And it might also be connected to #2.

Since hunting dogs used to catch prey, they tend to pursue smaller animals. 

For example, people trained Terriers and Dachshunds to chase and kill vermin.

However, herding breeds also have a high prey drive

I’m talking about the following:

And it’s because these dogs have an innate urge to stalk and control animals.

In other words, they ‘hunt.’ 

But they don’t finish the chase by killing.

So these dogs will likely enjoy doing these 5 stages of hunting during play:

  1. Searching.
  2. Stalking.
  3. Chasing.
  4. Catching.
  5. Killing.

Note: In most dogs, the last stage only refers to the shaking of a stuffed toy or shoe. It’s an action that means ‘to kill’. And even cats do these to their toys to release their instincts and energy.

Now, in contrast to these motivated Fidos…

Other dog breeds have a low prey drive. And they’re as follows:

  • Bulldogs.
  • Maltese dogs.
  • French Bulldogs.
  • Great Pyrenees dogs.
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

Check out also:  Why Does My Dog Nip? 13 Questions Answered + 15 Tips

#4: They do it for the ‘thrill’

Some dogs don’t have a modified skill for hunting, unlike Retrievers and Terriers.

Plus, their jobs aren’t related to it at all.

But how come they have a high prey drive?

I’m talking about a few working breeds here, such as:

Like the dogs earlier, they also like stalking animals. And some may even actually kill their prey.

Then they’ll do the act of ‘gifting.’

“What is it?”

It’s when pets like dogs and cats proudly bring a dead mouse or bird to their parents.

And this could be a:

  • Mirroring behavior – your Fido mimics the way you serve food to them.
  • Bonding behavior – your dog loves you and brings you a ‘valuable’ object.

But let’s go back to the 3 breeds I mentioned above.

What do they all have in common?

It’s their high energy levels…

Due to this, these Fidos love to stalk, run, and chase on their own accord.

Plus, smaller animals often amuse them. And basically, that’s the behavior of a ‘hunter.’

“So, what’s the reason for their high energy?”

Siberian Huskies

A study found that these dogs have genes linked to ADHD.

These are short ‘alleles’ or versions of DNA named:

  • D4 (DRD4).
  • Tyrosine hydroxylase (TH).

Before, experts also discovered these genes in German Shepherds. And these Fidos are famous for being hyper too.

Also, Huskies are ‘sled dogs.’

And ‘Chukchi,’ the people who first bred them, let these Fidos roam during summer to hunt for food.

So these could be the reasons why Huskies enjoy the act of hunting so much.

Alaskan Malamutes

Next, this is another type of Huskies.

Alaskan Malamutes or ‘Mals’ love doing something. 

Plus, they’re playful and always ready to go.

That’s why their energy is too high. And they could chase anything that moves.

Doberman Pinschers

These Fidos are often police dogs due to their stamina and energy.

Also count their:

  • Alertness.
  • Guarding instincts.

You may get a Fido who finds it fun to stalk. And also pursue small animals nonstop.

Warning: These dogs may need supervision. Especially around smaller pets. But with proper training, you could lessen or manage their prey drive.

#5: They hunt for survival

Lastly, I also said that most pet Fidos don’t usually hunt and eat their prey.

But if a dog, to a certain degree, was strongly motivated by hunger…

They may also hunt to survive.

Note: For dogs like this, always keep them on a leash when going out. And ensure they’re getting enough food and nutrients.