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Identifying Drives in Dogs.

Drive is an innate desire linked to survival and self preservation. Through time and selective breeding we have been able to manipulate these...
By Stefan, Sep 9, 2016 | Updated: Sep 10, 2016 | |
  1. Stefan
    Owner One: My boy has great temperament drives,he's very biddable& environmentally sound. He's aloof dog, who takes a little time to warm up to you - indifferent, but not aggressive to strangers. Nice ball, food, prey & hunt drive paired with good aggression in protection.
    Owner Two: My dog has great temperament and drives. Lovely boy.

    If you are to rate or buy a pup off any of these two owners,which would you choose? My answer is as right as yours, owner one for sure.
    Ways we describe our dogs mostly define how much we care about our them, time we share with them and how truly we know about them. At least, a parent should be able to describe his/her own child!
    When we talk temperament in humans, our minds drift to the theory of personality... Sanguine, Choleric, Phlegmatic,... Temperament is a way we react to situation, our actions,and behavior.
    By temperament in dogs, we are refer to a collection of drives, thresholds, traits and instincts that are inherited and innate. These are genetic components of animal,and it goes to show how they react to situations whether trained or not. Though training and socialization will do the work,but under stress even a professionally trained dog who has wrong drives will crack. So genes is everything, it's a foundation to build a structure on like a house.
    So when we talk temperament, we talk drives. What are drives?


    Drive is an innate desire linked to survival and self preservation. Through time and selective breeding we have been able to manipulate these basic survival drives to work towards a task or job. Have it at the back of your mind that these drives are on a continuum, meaning they range in intensity. We have very high,medium, low,and many in between.

    PREY DRIVE: This is one of the most bandied around words among us. This drive is tied to a dog's survival instinct,because a dog who cannot chase down and kill a prey in the wild has a low possibility of surviving. Many people confuse high energy or hyperactive dogs as being prey driven, they're not the same thing.
    Prey drive is the ability of a dog to chase and catch any moving object. It is a foundational drive for many sorts of works in working dogs arena.

    HUNT DRIVE: This is closely related to prey drive in the sense that a dog needs to be in prey mode in order to keep interest in hunting for its game. Hunt drive is the ability of a dog to chase and find out an hidden or not too easily to find object. It is a drive used by people in the Search and Rescue work. A dog with a good hunt drive will stay in drive coupled with nerves will stay on course despite distraction.

    FIGHT DRIVE: I usually view fight drive as similar to gameness(A word used by American Pitbull Terrier fanciers). The same mentality of loving to fight, not concerned with getting hurt and getting more jacked the more pressure and opposition they get. Maybe not as extreme but still just a love of fighting with no thought of consequence or harm. It's not aggression in the sense of driving a threat away but is violent and the intention is to harm their opponent. It is when a dog engages a threat head-on in a bid to kill or be killed without backing out. This is an highly desirable trait in a working dog.

    HARDINESS: This is a dog who can handle correction and/or "combative" stress (physical as well as verbal, although more physical. However many dogs cower under strong verbal reprimand they are most definitely the opposite of "hard") without breaking down and can continue to push forward through the stress of correction to complete the task/job at hand.

    Soft is the exact opposite of hard. Some dogs can be handler sensitive but can still be "hard" when dealing with stress from other sources such as the decoy. A soft dog however is one that doesn't handle stress well IMO and you have to "walk on eggshells" so to speak to not offend their senses and shut them down. I love the soft dogs with good nerves. Reason is that they can be good for an inexperienced owner,and also they have a stronger bond with their handlers with high level of pack drive in some settings(not a rule).

    CIVIL: This is a dog who will bite without equipment. Period. It does not speak to nerve or highlight any other aspect of their temperament. To me a civil dog can be a junk yard dog or a highly confident dog who will bite under the right circumstance/encouragement.

    NERVES: This is an highly desirable trait, i would do anything as a person to care for a dog with rock solid nerves. This has to the with the dog’s reaction when placed in a stressful, or possibly potentially threatening situation. A dog with solid nerves will not back down from a challenge. In protection work, when the helper gets tough, the dog gets tougher. They show confidence and courage in every situation and when faced with a threat, the dog will confront the threat rather than try to avoid it. Dogs with strong nerve are not rattled easily. By contrast, a weak nerved dog is easily rattled, and may become nervous and frightened when faced with strange people, sights, sounds, objects and places. He will perceive threats when none in fact exist, and will react to a threat by trying to escape. If he can’t run away, he will either shut down, cowering and showing submissive and avoidant body language, or will lash out in an attempt to make the threat leave. He will not meet the threat head on, with confidence. A weak nerved personal protection or patrol dog is a life threatening liability.
    "Such shy animals are in all circumstances an encumbrance to their owner, who must be ashamed of such a dog, and a disgrace to their race. Under no circumstances whatever must they be used for breeding, however noble and striking they may appear outwardly."
    Max von Stephanitz, The German Shepherd Dog in Word and Picture (1925)

    Not only must the dog possess strong character, but he must also be what we call "environmentally sound". A dog with strong nerves is not bothered by loud and hectic surroundings, crowds, traffic, sharp noises, slick floors, enclosed spaces, darkness, unsure footing or heights. Environmental soundness is another aspect of nerve that is imperative in a good working dog.

    DEFENSE DRIVE: This is a dog's fight or flight instinct. A dog in defense is exhibiting aggression (reactive) in response to a perceived threat. The purpose the defensive dog has is to drive the threat away. A dog in defense can get pushed into flight what determines that is their nerve and threshold. Each dog is different but some will choose to fight much longer than others.

    When I said a dogs inability to handle drive is a nerve issue what I meant is the aren't able to remain clear headed. So their defense drive for example on a weak nerved dog would manifest as a dog who could be a liability or cowers away because they have a strong defense drive yet cannot handle it thus react inappropriately to stimuli. A dog like this cannot handle their defense with weak nerves and perceives imaginary threats while in a defensive state that was brought on by an overreaction to its environment. They become aggressive towards neutral passerby's or become terrified of people not even paying attention to them for example.



    This is the best article i have seen so far explaining some of these elements of drives and temperament very well!
    (Elements of Temperament, by Joy Tiz )

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