You’ve probably heard the dire warnings before. . . Once a dog has killed another animal, he develops a taste for blood and you’ll never be able to stop him. You may have heard similar things in different contexts, but the point is always: once your dog does something, he has developed a “taste” for it and it will be next-to-impossible to stop him from trying to continue the behavior.
But is that really true? I have not seen any studies to indicate one way or the other, but I will share my own experience. Anyone who knows me, knows that I do my best not to cause harm to other living creatures. So, I am not happy that this happened, but I do want to see what lessons I can learn from it.
Romeo normally is walked twice a day, and most of the time he is off-leash. When he is on leash, he knows that he is not allowed to chase rabbits. However, when he is off leash, he sometimes does. Normally, the rabbits are close to their hiding spots or thick scrub oak, so it’s never been a problem. Until recently. Romeo came around a corner and there was a bunny. The bunny took off, but Romeo caught it within about 15 feet. Romeo is normally excellent at “drop it” but we have not had a chance to practice it with a live bunny in a couple of years. Yes, he has had his mouth on a live bunny twice in the past. And I was able to get him to drop it both times. But this time, the adrenalin was a little too high. It took a little longer to get him to drop the bunny, who then ran away.
I put Romeo in the house and went back out to find the rabbit had run about 30 feet away, but was now unable to move. Shortly after, he died. Some would say that now that Romeo has killed a rabbit, he will have more desire to do so in the future. But based on what I have seen since then, I do not believe that is true.
The bunny did not die instantly, and I do not believe that Romeo had a desire to kill the bunny. He did not grab and shake the neck. He was simply trying to hold on to the bunny. So I was curious to see how he would respond after that incident. Would he now have a stronger desire to catch bunnies?
Actually, no, that is not what I have seen. Now that he “knows he can” I believe the desire has actually decreased. He still loves to chase the bunnies, but he often seems to be less intent about it now. There is not that same intent to catch that there used to be. Now, sometimes he won’t even chase if they are farther away, or he will run toward them but not continue pursuit.
So, what is my point in all of this? I think that sometimes we focus so hard on NOT letting our dogs do things because we are afraid it will increase their desire to do it in the future. While the case might certainly be different for different dogs, I do believe that at least in some cases, by allowing our dogs safe opportunities to do some of these “forbidden” things, that we will actually decrease their desire to continue doing them.
From a strictly anthropomorphic standpoint, it is almost as if Romeo had “catch a bunny” on his bucket list, and now that he has crossed it off his list, there is not that same strong desire to do it again. He just wanted to know that he could do it.