Do Dogs Really Develop A Taste For Blood? (Trainer Answers)

Do Dogs Really Develop A Taste For Blood

As much as we try to love and train our dogs, they sometimes act in a way that can rock our trust in them. Whether it is killing a small animal or attacking another dog, seeing your dog taste blood is understandably horrific and frustrating.

Dogs have sensitive noses as well as sensitive tastes. They are also easily patterned. So what happens if they taste blood, will they try to seek out that taste again?

Can dogs really develop a taste for blood?

Your dog doesn’t have a taste for blood but instead has a high prey drive or aggression. Prey drive is usually a personality trait and some breeds have a higher prey drive. Dogs that don’t have an outlet for their prey drive or lack impulse control are more likely to attack again and become aggressive.

In this article we will discuss why your dog is not rewarded by the taste of blood but by the act of chasing, killing, or attacking. We will give you information to help you determine if your dog’s behavioral issues are caused by high prey drive or aggression and what you can do to help manage your dog’s behavior.

Do Dogs Really Develop A Taste For Blood?

If your dog has the proclivity to chase or kill birds, squirrels, or other small animals, they probably have not developed a taste for blood as much as they have developed a strong prey drive. In the animal world, prey drive refers to the instinctual need to stalk, chase, bite, kill, and consume prey.

Prey Drive In Dogs

Dog breeds have been selectively bred over centuries for different aspects of the prey drive sequence. For example, herding dogs like German Shepherds have a high prey drive, but a well-trained one will only engage in stalking and chasing. That is all they need to herd livestock.

Meanwhile, dogs bred to kill game like Greyhounds will run prey down until they catch it and then will kill the prey. These dogs have not developed a taste for blood, but instead instinctively want to chase prey and kill it.

Hounds, terriers, and other hunting dogs will probably go after small animals regardless of whether they have ever tasted blood and should be carefully monitored around small dogs and cats.

For these kinds of dogs, it is often in their nature to chase and bite, so they might need to be leashed whenever they are outside of the house or in a secured fence area. Though they do not necessarily have a taste for blood, they do love the thrill of chasing and have a harder time listening when they see a small animal. For emergencies, also practice a solid recall with your dog.

If A Dog Tastes Blood Will It Attack Again?

A dog will not necessarily attack again if they have tasted blood. Anyone who has had a puppy understands how difficult they can be when they are teething. Not only are they chewing on everything, but they probably are biting you. Those little puppy teeth are surprisingly sharp and can easily draw blood.

How many puppies grow up to attack again simply because they tasted blood while play nibbling? probably very few.

Furthermore, play can get rough for adult dogs as well and they might puncture enough to draw blood. When I operated a dog daycare, puncture wounds were usually not caused by dog fights but by play-time getting too intense, and the dogs who tasted blood did not suddenly become problem dogs attacking again.

Dog Aggression

Aggression in dogs is much more complicated than tasting blood. Depending on the breed of dog, their personality, and their life experiences, dogs tend to have certain triggers that might cause aggression.

Triggers include territory, food, fear, defense, or possession. Dogs who are likely to attack again are not attacking because they have tasted blood, but because they have been put in an environment or position where aggressive behavior seems to be their only option.

Once a dog has learned that aggression and biting saves them from unwanted interactions, they might resort to this behavior again. It is not because they have tasted blood, but because they have picked up on a pattern and learned a new behavior.

In the dog behavior world, aggression is usually different than prey drive. Aggression or the threat of aggression means your dog is trying to protect themselves, a resource, or you. Meanwhile, prey drive is the instinctive need to capture prey.

Please enlist the help of a professional trainer or behaviorist if you are worried your dog is becoming aggressive. They can help you with a training and management plan so your dog can be successful.

Usually, dogs show warning signals before they attack, like avoidance, yawning, lip licking, growling, or snapping. If you would like to know more about dog aggression and how it can affect dogs, please check out this video.

Once A Dog Kills Will It Kill Again?

Once a dog kills, they are likely to kill again, but not because they have specifically tasted blood. Dogs kill because of a high prey drive or aggression, so killing is just them evolving their chase and bite behavior.

In the case of prey drive, it is a huge reward to finally be able to catch and kill whatever they are chasing. While some dogs might be satisfied with simply chasing and grabbing your leg, others might take it too far and grab and shake small animals.

Dogs like terriers have been bred to find and kill small vermin, so they have a very high prey drive. Once they have killed once, the behavior has been rewarded and patterned and they are more likely to kill again.

Dogs who kill because of aggression have also created a pattern of behavior that is likely to be repeated, but not because they like the taste of blood. Once they have attacked, bitten, or killed, the threat goes away. Now they have learned how to keep themselves and whatever they are protecting safe

Dog aggression can be caused by a traumatic past or violent incident. Some breeds are more protective by nature and likely to become aggressive without proper socialization as puppies or young dogs.

For example, Great Pyrenees were bred to be natural protectors of their pack, both animal and human. Without proper training and socializing, this normally gentle livestock guardian dog can become aggressive.

Socializing your dog when you bring them home is important to aiding them to grow up into happy confident adults. Take them to new places and allow them to meet new animals and people. Most importantly, teach them to ignore new things as well. This is called impulse control and will help shape a dog who is less likely to act upon prey drive or aggression.

How To Manage This Behavior

A puppy drawing a little blood while nibbling ears or a dog accidentally biting too hard during a play session is not rewarding enough for a dog to develop a taste for blood. Based on the person’s or other dog’s reaction, there is probably a negative reaction and they are less likely to do it again.

However, dogs with high prey drives or aggression learn to enjoy either the chase and kill or the satisfaction of knowing that they are safe.

While it is clear that dogs do not actually “develop a taste for blood” they can be patterned after being rewarded for either attacking or killing and are likely to repeat the behaviors.

So besides understanding what triggers your dog with a high prey drive or aggression and keeping them on a leash, what can you do to manage their behavior?

1. Outlets For A Prey Drive

Giving dogs with a high prey drive an outlet for their natural behaviors will not only help them learn impulse control but stimulate the urge to chase and bite in safe environments. The easiest way for you to engage your dog’s prey drive without letting them attack and taste blood is to play with toys or other games that tap into a dog’s prey drive.


According to the AKC, dogs like squeaky toys because the squeakers “stimulate prey.” Hearing the squeaker and ripping it apart is very satisfying to dogs with a high prey drive or who might be aggressive. Even dogs that do not traditionally have a high prey drive enjoy squeaker toys.


However, if you are tired of cleaning up after your dog or worried that they might eat the toy fluff, there are other ways to entertain your dog with a high prey drive.

Fetch, like chasing a ball or stick that you throw and your dog brings back, mimics the chase and bite part of the prey drive sequence. Many breeds love to fetch, but dogs that were bred to have a higher prey drive or herding instinct like Border Collies or Labrador Retrievers especially love fetch. Fetch can be a great way to distract your dog from their instinct of killing small creatures and potentially tasting blood.

Flirt Pole

The flirt pole is not only a great way to engage a dog who is aggressive or has a high prey drive, but also a fantastic way to exercise dogs in a small space or on a cold day.

A lure is placed on the end of a long pole and dogs are encouraged to chase it. A dog toy or piece of rabbit fur can be particularly enticing to your dog. You can find them commercially or make one. This video shows you how to use a flirt pole.

2. Dog Sports

Dog sports are amazing for energetic and high-drive dogs. Even nontraditional breeds like Great Danes can enjoy popular sports like agility.

However, some sports specifically tap into high prey drive. Fast CAT is a 100-yard timed dash where dogs track and chase a lure. It is a great way for dogs to release their pent-up energy, prey drive, or aggression in a safe and controlled environment.

Barn Hunt was designed for traditional vermin hunting breeds but has become very popular for all sorts of dogs. Dogs use a combination of scent work and prey drive to find live rats in some sort of maze, usually made with hay. Do not worry, the rat is safely contained and your dog will not taste blood in Barn Hunt. For more information about Barn Hunt, check out this video below!

3. Enrichment

Finally, dogs who have a high prey drive or are aggressive, therefore prone to attack or kill after they have already tasted blood might need more enrichment.

Enrichment, which allows dogs to engage in innate behaviors, leaves them physically and emotionally satisfied. There is a broad spectrum of enrichment for dogs. It could look like a long walk where they get to sniff all they want, dog sports, fetch, or giving them a challenge on how to eat their meals.

There are lots of dog food puzzles that you can buy at your favorite pet store, but also several easy DIY ways to enrich your dog’s meals, like in the video below.

Final Thoughts

Dogs are a lot of work and when they are suddenly fixated on killing small animals, chasing cats, or attacking other creatures it is stressful. It might appear that you have bitten off more than you can chew with your canine best friend and that they have developed a taste for blood.

While some dogs might love to have a cat companion, certain dogs are not good with small animals. It is not because they have developed a taste for blood but because of their prey drive. Dogs are naturally interested in the smell of blood, and don’t “develop” a taste for it. 

While the level of prey drive can differ based on individual dogs’ personalities, dogs that tend to have the highest prey drives include herding dogs, scent hounds, sighthounds, terriers, Spitz dogs, and some hunting breeds. These dogs have innate instincts to chase, bite, or kill small creatures.

Meanwhile, some dogs might kill or attack because of aggression. Aggression can be caused by a traumatic experience, breed traits, or even a lack of training and socialization.

Once they have been rewarded by the scary stimuli they were aggressive towards going away, they have been patterned so they might attack again. They have not developed a taste for blood but still need extensive training so they learn to be confident and safe.

Finally, any dog regardless of breed, prey drive, or tendency to be aggressive or reactive, needs to be socialized and trained as soon as you bring them home. Socialization will give them the confidence to be in uncomfortable situations and training will create a relationship so you have control of them if they decide to chase or attack.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *