Building Your Dog’s Drive in Preparation for Obedience
“Drive” has nothing to do with cars, motorcycles or the like! “Drive” is all about using your dog’s natural instincts to get them to do what you want, namely your dog’s Prey or Play Drive.
Almost all dogs have prey drive. Prey drive, the drive that encourages them to chase, catch and kill their prey enables dogs to survive in the wild. Prey drive is a basic instinct, although in some breeds the prey or chase drive has nearly been bred out. For these dogs, it will be hard to train them in “Drive”, because the strongest drive comes from wanting to chase toys or other animals. A lower level of “Drive” can come using food as a reinforcer, but the best way is to use a favorite toy and a game.
Some dogs will have to be taught to play with you! Often people work on strict “obedience” and compliance to the laws of the home, but they don’t readily teach their dogs how to “PLAY”.
If your dog doesn’t eagerly play or retrieve with you, I recommend you start here. Your dog’s success in learning how to play has everything to do with how willing you are to get silly and animated while playing with him. For example, your dog will probably not be successful if you just expect to stand there and monotonously throw a ball, unless you are blessed with a high drive dog!
Get energetic and silly and actually PLAY with your dog! You will both enjoy it and you will build a lasting bond if you learn to both work and play together.
Once you and your dog have learned to play together you can begin building your dog’s play/prey drive. The first thing I recommend is adding excitement to your dog’s toy. Use your dog’s favorite toy! For some dogs that might be a ball, for others it is a jute or leather tug toy, and some may even like playing with a piece of garden hose. Just about any toy can be utilized as long as it is big enough and safe for your dog.
This is YOUR toy and only to be used by you and initiated when you are training. Do not leave this toy or a similar toy in your dog’s toy box, this diminishes its uniqueness! This toy is ONLY used when you decide to play with and train your dog
As I recommended in the previous article “Teaching Your Dog to Retrieve Using His Play Drive”, you should put your dog’s toy on a string. The string element allows you to whip and drag the toy. You can put the toy on the ground and using a pole or just the string drag it along the ground just out of the grasp of your dog!
You can also grab the string and whip it quickly past his face over and over again playing keep away and trying to keep it out of his mouth.
This quick movement in addition to him not being able to readily catch the object builds his excitement, obsession and his “Drive” for the object. It is true, we all want what we cannot have! And, teasing him builds the anticipation, fun and enthusiasm when he finally catches the item. Frustration builds drive!
Be careful to keep your body parts out of the line of fire while you are first teaching this and playing with your dog. Some dogs inadvertently bite their owners when they see a hand, arm or leg move simply because they are trying to seize the ball or toy! I put my dog on a leash so that I can better control him in the early stages, because I have been bitten more than once teaching this game. I can keep one hand on the leash while the other hand drags and whips the toy. You can also use a tie out or tie down to ensure your body parts are safer while you are playing!
Once your dog is going nuts for the toy eventually let him catch it and play with it for a moment or so. Sometimes I hold onto it and apply some back pressure. Once he has it, it is time to whip out toy number two (it should be the same toy) and again play this keep away game. Your dog should almost immediately spit out toy one and go for toy number 2. As he spits it out be sure and tell him what he is doing “Drop It” “Give” whatever you decide.
This game and the fact that he is eagerly dropping the toy helps you teach him to give up his toys and perhaps other items on demand. “Give” should be almost as fun as “Take It” or “Fetch”. And, giving up items is crucial in the lives of all dogs!
Continue to play this game daily! Just take your dog out, tease him a bit, then let him grab and play with his toy before you start in again while asking for a “Drop It”. This game builds drive. The shear excitement should drive him nuts and leave him wanting more!
Don’t exhaust him or do this till it isn’t fun anymore! You want to stop the game while he is still amped up and having a good time.
Always end on a good note and praise him for giving up his toys.
I always keep my dog’s toys in the same place and ask him “You want to go train?” prior to getting them and getting started. The thrilled look on his face should tell you when it is time to begin using his “Drive” for more fun and obedience!
More on using “Drive” in obedience in another article, so keep your eyes out!
As always, get out there and have some fun together!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.