If you try and find a dictionary definition for drive, relating to dogs, there isn't really one. There are a lot of different opinions around what "drive" actually is, i'm going to run you through some of those roughly, so we are on track to understand this blog post, these aren't necessarily my own opinions of what drive actually is, they are examples to help you understand what I'm nattering on about.
A dog labelled "high drive" is usually a dog that has a high level of stamina, is mentally very active, hopefully very human orientated, extremely motivated and focused. When you put it like that it makes a "high drive" dog sound amazing but it is not always that way! These dogs care A LOT about getting what they want and this leads on to us talking about the dogs drive types. There are, also, a few different layouts and theories around how many and what drive types dogs have, we will highlight one of these, prey drive.
Prey drive is the dogs natural desire to chase and capture prey. This manifests in different predatory action sequences depending on the breed, for example, a collie would eye, stalk, chase, where as a terrier would, chase, shake, kill.
So over the years we have bred more and more, and now we have some breeds, or types that we would refer more often to as "high drive" such as the malinois, greyhound, ridgeback, bull terriers, huntaways, etc etc. These dogs tend to have a much higher want to practise their predatory action sequence than something like a pug, cockapoo, or other such breeds - i'm not saying these breeds don't have a P.A.S, i'm just saying it will be much more prevalent in the breeds that we have bred to continually enhance in these specific ways. For example, general purpose police dogs. We need police dogs to have a high prey drive so that they can perform their job well, therefore we have selectively bred breeds suchlike the malinois, german shepherd, and dutch shepherd to have very high prey drives, making them successful working dogs. After all, if they didn't care that much about catching the bad guy, what use would they be?!
How does this post actually relate to anything? Well....we have had a lot of high drive dogs through our puppy class recently, which i love, and we made this class specifically for them, which is also great for breeds who aren't high drive as it means they will receive a top notch level of training which covers all the bases and not just stuff your basic bits and bobs.
The reason we created a puppy class specifically designed for high drive dogs is because i felt i was meeting a lot of owners who simply hadn't considered how different these dogs would be to own and then came in to trouble training things like recall and impulse control. They would be the owners of the really chasey dogs, scenty dogs, dogs that won't settle, dogs that bite things a lot - and these owners and dogs need a different level of training to your average pug. These high drive dogs are so satisfying to train, but sometimes harder to live with.
The title of this blog post is "Cutting out the drive battle" and i am about to get there now.
If you have a high drive dog, don't focus on things like preventing the dog from chasing, preventing the dog from sniffing, telling the dog "NO" when it bites....work with what you have got! Research the breed before you get the dog, and work out what things you are going to find harder than most other puppy owners, for example if you get a malinois puppy, you are going to get bitten roughly a thousand million times more than another dog owner because this is what they are bred to be good at! Instead of trying to pick a fight with an alligator and telling it "NO!" every time it bites (which, newsflash, doesn't mean anything anyway) - work with the behaviour, channeling it into play, reward experiences and suchlike because trying to stop it biting is a battle you are going to struggle to win. There are also sports and activities you can do that specifically tap into those things that your dogs loves to do, like gundog work, sheepball and working trials, and these don't have to be competition based, you can just do them for fun! What I'm trying to say is, if you have something like a scenthound, and you are struggling with recall, stop focusing on what the dog is doing wrong, think of ways you can satisfy that dogs need to scent, and change the way you reinforce the dog, because however exciting you may think you are, this just isn't going to cut the mustard against following a fresh fox track through a field, nor is sausage and cheese, so maybe you teach a premack recall where you reward the dog with a track for coming back??
If you know someone who is struggling with a prey drive issue or is about to get a high drive puppy please send them our way!
Here is an example of a chase recall, rewarded with a bite.
Train the dog that is infront of you!
Bryony is a qualified dog trainer from North Somerset.