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What Drives Your Dog?

Aug 17, 2007
Understanding what drives your dog can help you teach him more quickly and efficiently.

Similar to humans, dogs have unique personalities and learning styles thus respond differently to various training methods. Whereas one person learns better from seeing, another learns better from touching. Same with doge, some respond better to hand gestures, others to voice commands - techniques that work with one may not work as effectively with others. Therefore, when developing a training program it is important to consider what motivates your dog.

Professional trainers Wendy and Jack Volhard observed how different dogs behave when faced with various stimuli and categorized these behaviors into four distinct drives: prey, pack, fight, and flight drives.

The prey drive is demonstrated through behaviors that mimic hunting and foraging. For example, dogs that seek and chew their toys (or household items), chase moving object, steal food or stalk other animals express a strong prey drive. In order to ensure a dog with a high prey drive is satisfied a handler must present many opportunities for him to employ his instinct to hunt, such as hiding toys/treats for him to find and playing fetch.

Behavior Dog Training Tip: Since dogs with a high prey drive may exhibit aggressive behaviors towards people and other animals, it is important that they be thoroughly socialized - exposing them to as many different people, places and things as possible, at a very early age.

Dogs who need to be around people and enjoy other dogs demonstrate a high Pack drive. Such dogs cry when left alone, initiate play, solicit touch and are attentive to their handler's voice. Participating in such activities will ensure that your dog feels satisfied.

Behavior Dog Training Tip: The high pack drive dogs require less effort to motivate in that they express a strong desire to please and respond well to enthusiastic praise.

The Fight drive is strong in dogs who maintain their self-confidence in stressful situations. Dogs that exhibit a strong fight drive will not back down when approached by other animals, guards his territory/food and enjoys activities such as tug-of-war.

Behavior Dog Training Tip: In order for any dogs, especially that with a high fight drive, to control their defense drive and properly assess threat, they require ample socialization.

The Flight drive is also a defense drive and indicates a dog's lack of self-confidence. A dog with high flight drive may hide behind his owner when approached by new people or dogs, is stressed when separated from his owner, lays on his belly when reprimanded or may panic when cornered.

Behavior Dog Training Tip: Dogs with a strong flight drive again need socialization so as to accurately assess and appropriately respond to stressful situations. They also do not respond well to compulsion training which may propagate their fears. Dogs with a high flight drive tend to be nervous and fearful and require an abundance of attention and positive reinforcement.

I hope this article will prompt dog owners to learn more about, what I term, Behavior Dog Training. Discovering what motivates your dog will enable you to manipulate a dog's inherent drives in order to reinforce appropriate behavior and build a stronger more satisfying relationship.
About the Author
C Henry has more dog training articles at dog training and dog obedience training and dog school training
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