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Understanding Dogs Drives & How It Affects Behavior


Understanding Dogs Drives & How It Affects Behavior

By understanding your dogs temperament or personality you will be able to effectively communicate and handle your dog. You are going to invest a significant amount of money in a professionally trained dog and we suggest you invest a little time to understand dog behavior. In this article we will discuss a dog’s DRIVES.

All dogs have certain basic drives, which are internal mechanisms that push the dog into taking specific action or to behave in a certain way. Drives are the energy that stimulates a dog to act instinctively, For example, when you throw a ball and your dog chases it with enthusiasm, the dog is displaying pray drive. The differences you see among dogs are due to the great variations in drive intensity and thresholds-threshold meaning how long it takes for the drive to kick-in. For example, some dogs will respond quickly if a ball is simply rolled in front of them; other dog you may have to bounce the ball or stimulate the dog more. A dog with LOW threshold reacts quickly, a dog with HIGH threshold requires more stimulation before it goes into drive.

PREY DRIVE represents a dogs natural desire to chase and capture prey. If you throw a ball and it falls out of sight, a dog with high prey drive will not stop until he finds it. This type of dog with what we refer to as over the top prey drive is ideal to train for search and rescue and detection work but not for family protection work as the dog would be bouncing off your walls. Having high prey drive is not an indicator of poor temperament, however, it’s not ideal for family or personal protection work. Sports dogs have high prey drives.

DEFENSE DRIVE refers to a dogs instinct to defend itself and its pack. When a dog is in defense drive its because it perceives something as a threat and displays it by barking and biting. The ultimate goal of a dog displaying defensive drive is to push the threat back or away. Here again we must consider two important issues: drive strength and threshold. Strong defense drives must be balanced with strong nerves. A dog with strong nerves doesn’t scare easy with noises or sights. If a dog with a strong defensive drive has low threshold or weak nerves and its easily freighted it could be a menace. In other words the dog may perceive a threat that does not exist and over reacts with aggression.

FIGHT DRIVE could be described as prey drive & defense combined. Fight drive can not be trained into a dog, its a genetic trait that can be seen when the dog has matured . These dogs can be very social but when its on, its on. A dog with high fight drive will engage his opponent with intent and purpose and its confident that it will win. Fight drive is just that, a fist to fist, mano a mano, between the dog and its opponent.

RANK DRIVE is related to the hierarchy in a pack of dogs. A dog with a high rank drive is referred to as a dominant dog. These dogs are usually very confident and demanding but can actually do very well in obedience. The other side of the coin is a dog with a low rank drive which is referred to as a submissive dog.

Harness is a term you may hear but its misleading and worth mentioning. It’s not a negative connotation. Harness is synonyms with resilience and a dog with certain degree of resilience is desired as they can handle environmental stress well and make them easy to handle.

PACK DRIVE is a dog’s natural desire to be part of a group. A dog with a low pack drive is referred as independent. At the other extreme, dogs with a high pack drive often suffer from separation anxiety. Pack drive is very important to training as a dog with sufficient pack drive is eager to maintain its place in the pack, which requires pleasing the higher ranking member of the pack-you. On the other hand, dogs with low pack drive are difficult to train because they could care less.

In conclusion, dogs with extreme drives have their uses but is not family or personal protection. A family or personal protection dog most posses’ balanced drives and solid nerves to make it in our program.