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Untapped Potential: Harnessing Drive and Focus

Apr 04, 2024

Training a dog is much more than teaching basic commands or performing tricks; it involves understanding and harnessing the innate drives that motivate your dog. Building and channeling your dog's drive and focus, is one of the most challenging aspects of training.

The Myth of the "Gifted Dog"

Many of us fantasize about a "gifted dog" – a canine so genetically superior that it naturally excels in focus and drive, supposedly making training a breeze. This notion, while attractive, is misleading. The truth is, even with a genetically gifted dog, the handler's involvement, understanding, and skill in guiding and shaping this drive are paramount. Without these, a dog's natural drive can become a handler's worst nightmare. Likewise, a dog with little or no drive or focus can also wreak havoc on training. In both cases, the handler skill is just as crucial. 

Understanding Drive

Drive is the energy, intensity, and passion a dog exhibits towards a specific stimulus that isn't necessarily the handler's attention. This can manifest in various forms, such as:

  •  Food Drive: The desire for food, a common motivator in training.
  •  Prey Drive: The instinctual interest in chasing and capturing moving objects, rooted in the dog's natural hunting instincts.

While defensive drive is also a type of motivation in the dogs world, for training it pertains more to protective or competitive scenarios and will not be our focus here. Instead, our attention turns to prey drive, which, for many dogs, is a powerful source of motivation and energy.

The Art of Building and Channeling Drive

The essence of training lies not in suppressing your dog's natural drives but in understanding and directing them towards productive outcomes. It's about turning their instinctual behaviors into a cooperative effort towards a common goal.

Step 1: Recognize the Drive

Identify what naturally captures your dog's interest. Is it a toy (prey drive) or the prospect of something to eat (food drive)? Recognizing these drives is the first step towards using them as tools in training.

Step 2: Build the Drive

Encourage your dog's interest in the your chosen motivator. This could involve playing games or using movement and lure that simulate hunting behaviors, which can enhance their prey drive in a controlled setting.

Step 3: Channel the Drive

Once you've built up their interest and energy, the next step is to redirect it towards a desired behavior. This will eventully mean transitioning from play to training exercises where following commands leads to the reward (the object of their drive).

Step 4: Master and Control the Drive

The ultimate goal is to have your dog willingly choose to perform a task, even in the presence of distractions. This is achieved through consistent training that rewards focus and obedience, gradually teaching the dog that following your lead is the best way to fulfill their hearts desires.

The Challenges Ahead

Training a dog to harness their drive and focus is no small feat. It requires patience, understanding, and a willingness to learn the skills and techniques you need alongside your dog. The journey can have it’s challenges, as high-drive dogs can be demanding and sometimes overwhelming. Low drive dogs can be frustrating. However, with the right approach, these traits can be channeled into a strong, cooperative relationship.

Remember, High or low drive isn't a problem to be solved but potential waiting to be unlocked. By building and directing their drive, you're not only enhancing their training but also deepening the bond between you. So, embrace the challenge, and let the adventure of training deepen your partnership with your dog.