Drive is a term commonly used in the world of dogs.  If you happen to have a retriever, herding dog or any other type other than a couch potato you may have seen it from time to time.  Some dogs have moderate drive, some have none at all and then there are the ones that have drive and then some.  What is drive?  To put it into easily understood definition, it is the desire to chase.  Some would call it work ethic but I think it goes beyond that.

Tilley had off the charts drive, even as a softly spoken, princess like girl she had endless hard driven drive.  She had so much drive that with a lack of chase objects being thrown for her she resorted to shadow chasing; a common fall out behavior of too much drive and not enough to chase.  Because of her strong drive she became an amazing frisbee dog once we channeled her drive.  Directing or channeling is very important.

Prey drive is where it all started but most dogs with strong drive now immerse themselves more in the chase than the kill.  Being that killing is not on the agenda for most families today.   I remember years ago when Tilley chased down a rabbit, it was like watching a lure coursing trial.  When she finally caught it she promptly brought her prize to show us.  It of course died of fright but Tilley had not killed it intentionally, rabbits die of fright very easily.  I'm thinking that being in the mouth of a dog would be a frightening experience.

With different degrees of drive comes the different levels of control required.  Drive is something that you need to get control over, especially if it is in the very high department.  Elsa has got huge drive as well, she is much like Tilley although she has yet to indulge in shadow chasing.  Although I have seen her notice and watch a couple but I've put the brakes on that behavior immediately.  Deciding what you are going to allow and not allow your dog to chase is important from the get go. Many dogs with high drive become car, bicycle, skateboard and roller blade chasers which can most definitely be a dangers game.

Teaching your dog to direct their desire to chase can be difficult but it most definitely can be done with work.  The tough part will be if you have allowed an undesirable chase to go on for some time before trying to stop it.  Often people use flashlights or laser lights to entertain their high drive dogs, this is a big mistake.  Drive can turn into OCD very quickly so a high drive dog needs a great deal of guidance and channel work.

For those who are desiring a driven dog, there are lots out there and most people have a specific reason for wanting drive.  Many people want a dog that simply retrieves a ball; there is a big difference in levels of retrieving.  There are dogs with low level drive that love to retrieve and then those that will retrieve all day long, like Elsa.  But luckily Elsa does have an off switch which many driven dogs do not have.  The Border Collie is a high drive dog that often comes without an off switch.

Drive can be a huge hassle if you are an inexperienced owner who knows nothing about it or how to deal with it.  My advice is to quickly get training in, serious obedience training.  You need to work around high distraction areas once you've got the easy stuff done.  Control, control, control.  You must be able to have your dog stay in a high drive situation. Basically you need to teach your dog that there are other things to do instead of chasing.

Drive is something that you cannot simply ignore and it will go away.  It comes with the dog, so as long as you have the dog you will have to deal with the drive.  That is if you have a high drive dog.
Sadly drive had been a serious enemy to many dogs.  Dogs who end up in a regular family home who know nothing about drive.  These dogs can become out of control very quickly and many end up being re-homed or brought to rescues or shelters.  There are breeds that tend to have more drive than others but any dog can have drive or overdrive.

Many high drive dogs make wonderful performance dogs; with their drive they can excel at agility, flyball, frisbee or any other canine sport.  We directed Tilley's drive first to a ball, then moved it to frisbees which she lived for.  She loved nothing more than the chase and catch so we indulged her desire albeit curtailing it to objects that were allowed.  I simply taught her that chasing of shadows was not allowed anywhere other than her own backyard and she obliged.

Drive can be your enemy if you just want it to go away, but if you take on the challenge and channel it drive can become the making of an amazing working dog.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Y'all,

    So glad you did this post. Most people who buy or adopt a working dog have no idea or are not willing to put in the time training and working with a low drive dog, much less a driven one. Even if they take them to training they don't follow through day after day. It's like trying to take a performance horse and only taking it out of the stall to ride on the weekends...great way to end up with something broken.

    BrownDog's Human


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