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Tip of the Month

10/28/2006 Behavior Tip - What Motivates your Dog?

What's Driving Your Dog's Behavior?

Understanding Behavior Drives

In dog training, behavior drives can be defined as the instincts that contribute to making a dog act and react the way that he does. Almost everything a dog does (e.g. digging or chasing) can be attributed to a specific behavior drive. Drives are usually genetic and are consistent within a breed or breed group. Most purebred dogs are bred to enhance certain drives which will make them more compliant during animal training or better at their job. For more information about different canine breeds, check out our “breed spotlight” articles on some of the most popular dog breeds. Educated owners who are aware of (or can identify) specific behavior drives can potentially use them to make training sessions more effective and rewarding.

How Behavior Drives Can Be Useful In Training

One example of a behavior drive is prey drive. Examples of prey drive can be a dog’s willingness to chase and catch an object or to play tug-of-war. A dog that enjoys chasing a ball or toy will be excited if presented with one of these objects as a reward for a job well done during training or otherwise. If you have a dog that has a high prey drive, try to reward him by throwing his tennis ball as a reward during training sessions, like after he has done a great sit-stay. Throwing the ball during dog training instead of giving the dog a treat is more valuable to him and helps reinforce the desired behavior. Be aware that some dogs have a higher prey drive than others. When attempting to use a dog’s prey drive for training, it may be necessary to limit exposure to his favorite ball or toy to animal training sessions only. Remember, a dog with little or no prey drive (i.e. doesn’t like to play fetch or tug-of-war) will not consider this a reward. Without prey drive, using a toy as a reward may be an exercise in futility.

Learn Your Dog's Behavior Drives

Preventing potential problems due to certain behavior drives is a good reason to understand your dog’s breed’s tendencies. For instance, knowing that your dog’s breed has a high pack drive and what problems may typically occur from this type of behavior drive can help to better prepare you in preventing possible separation anxiety issues. In general, doing a little study on your dog’s breed is always a good idea. While other factors (like environment and past history) will also influence your dog’s behavior, the more you understand about your dog the better off you will be as a dog owner in providing for his needs.

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