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Drive Me Crazy


October 9, 2012 by Julia

One of the most ambiguous terms I’ve encountered in dog sport is “drive”.  You hear it thrown around a lot – “those lines have great drive”; “that dog has too much drive for a pet home”; “my dog is very drivey”.  But it seems to mean different things to different people and getting a consistent answer is difficult at best. So, what is drive and what do you do with it?

What is Drive?
The most common definition I’ve found for drive in dogs is instinct or instinctive behavior. 
 Instinctive drive behaviors exist without being trained or coached, though they can be built up. This is similar to how human talent is defined in professional development – “a recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied” (Gallup).

Types of Drive
If you look around online, you’ll find various lists of the different drives a dog can have.  The most consistent/frequent list I have been able to find has three types of drive – Prey, Pack, and Defense – and is usually credited to the Volhards and their 
Dog Personality Profile

  • Prey – Linked to food, chasing, jumping, and hunting behaviors
  • Pack – . Playing, grooming, and social behaviors
  • Defense – Both fight and flight behaviors are included in this drive
I’ve found that when most people say “drive” they mean Pack or Play drive because they are commonly applied to training.

Training with Drive
I’m still figuring out how to incorporate drive in training and it isn’t always clear to me how  to go about it.  One place where I have deliberately used drive is in the dumbbell retrieve. 

Xena had almost NO prey drive. A fleeing rabbit once bounced off our fence and hit her in the face… her reaction was to walk off and find a spot to pee. Retrieving – an exercise that using jumping, chasing, and grabbing – was not naturally in her wheelhouse. But she was a food hound and she loved praise, so we worked with what we had.  I used a dumbbell training method that worked her prey drive through food and her pack drive through lots of praise and touching.  I built up her instinct to chase by gently waving the dumbbell around in front of her and encouraging her to go after it. It was mild compared to other ways I’ve seen trainers use drive, but she was a pretty mild dog and the exercise obviously had her interest.

Delta has so much more drive than Xena and I am struggling to harness it in an intentional way. Her Prey and Pack drive are both very strong – she is the most social dog I’ve owned or lived with as well as extremely food driven.  Harnessing part of her Prey drive is easy because I use food as both a reward and a lure (and sometimes a bribe, I’ll admit).  I benefit from her Pack drive because she wants to work with me and I play with her during classes to keep her engaged. I know there is much more I could do with both, but I am not sure how to proceed.

Balancing Drive
I know that some trainers are so invested in drive that they will avoid correcting unwanted behavior in the fear of killing drive. I’ve seen things that range from annoying to downright obnoxious. I am evolving my expectations for canine manners to allow more room for drive, I’m not ready to trade one for the other. 
I have to find my balance… how do I use drive more in training without sacrificing a civil home life?  

Ideas, observations and comments are always welcome… Oh, and if anyone knows how to use drive to STOP countersurfing, I’m all ears!! 


  1. Anonymous says:

    I do think some drive is inherent in the lines, but I use A LOT of caution with boxers as they 'shut down' SOOO easy. To get Whitney to work well . . we play . . EVERYTHING's a game! We NEVER drill, 2 or 3 (max) times for any new or learned behavior. We may go back to it again during a session, but she bores VERY easily. Whit had a ton of 'drive'/speed when she was a pup, but after 2 attacks within a 2 week period at trials, she just didn't want to go and was totally shut down . . tongue hanging down to the knees, looking over her shoulder. There's still 'stress', but she's overcoming and as long as I keep it 'FUN', she does well. It's also important for me to critique myself as how I act when I'm at a trial v at school/home . . my stress/concern goes right down the leash! Rene Fulcher suggested 'tug' games to us which has helped and I also use a 'chuck it' for weaves. She gets these toys ONLY for training/practice and goes nuts to get them with a treat reward for the fetch (bringing the toy back to me). We have an open floor plan and Whit escaped her x-pen on day 1, learned to go down the stairs at day 2, and up them on day 3 . . the day she turned 8 weeks old! 'Leave it' was learned EARLY with 'time out' in the crate for noncompliance (which about killed my little supervisor!). I got one of those sprial wrists bands for my clickers and had one on at ALL times with a pocket full of treats. One thing I've learned with my boxers is if they get by with it once, it's on their 'can do' list! My attitude is 'let her run' and I'm the one who haa to learn to handle it! Hope this gives you some ideas to try . . what's worked for me may not for you, but don't give up . . there's ALWAYS a solution! Brenda Simmons

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