Drive? Where?

13 Jan

Not this kind of drive.

Let’s talk about drive for a minute. Pull ten different dog people from various sub-genres of the dog world and every single one will give you a different definition of drive. It can be  a good thing ( “My new Farfenhound is soooo drivey. He’ll be fantastic at farfing”), or it can be a bad thing (“Fluffy’s prey drive is so high, she’ll never be able to be around cats”).  And sometimes people just flat out misuse the term (pro tip:  hyperactivity does not a drivey dog make). At this  point, we’re pretty sure it’s just a word people throw around to make themselves look like they know what they’re talking about. (“I really wanted a drivey dog, that’s why I went with a pet bred miniature dachshund.”) We’re also pretty sure that many people who claim to own a “drivey” dog would poop their pants if they actually encountered one.


Here’s the thing about “Drive”. It’s not a fixed concept. Drive is fluid. It can be built. It can be quashed. It’s really mostly a load of horse-shit because in the long run it’s not the drive that matters. Want to be dismissed off-hand by people who actually know what they’re talking about? Talk about the drives incessantly. Prey drive, defense drive, fight drive, play drive, tug drive, sex drive, one drive, two drive, red drive, blue drive… Seriously. We get it. You read a lot of books and watch some youtube. We bow to your superior understanding of buzzwords.

Among us, we’ve never met a dog completely devoid of drive. We’ve met plenty of trainers that can suck any desire to work right out of a dog. We’ve met plenty that have an out of control dog and blame it on too much drive. Then there are the poorly trained and undirected pets that dominate the suburban landscape. Lastly of course, there are the trainers that are willing to maintain and build a dog’s natural eagerness to work while also maintaining control. Here’s a hint, those aren’t the trainers that are always bragging about how full of drive their dogs are. I know we preach this a lot, but it stands true. In dog training, the loudest talkers often know the least.

… so let me announce it to the entire world wide web!

For funsies sometimes we fact-check Facebook announcements on drive etc. (You would be amazed how much pure information is available online about any and every dog exploit you’ve ever had).  While we have full understanding of careers cut short by injury, ring sourness, and general lack of interest by the handler, if you’ve never done anything and bitch about how a young dog lacks <insert pointless drive buzzword here>, it’s not the dog.


So here’s the deal. Real training peeps recognize drive and can build or quash for their needs. They don’t have to talk about it ad nauseum. You shut up about drives, and we’ll stop yelling about how meaningless buzzwords dilute the value in actually educational training discourses,  Mmmkay?


9 Responses to “Drive? Where?”

  1. Diana B. January 13, 2015 at 2:04 am #

    I am over come with the drive to declare my undying love for you or maybe it’s pack drive?

  2. donnasoderstrom January 13, 2015 at 7:07 am #

    Two similarly suspect words: “heart” and “honest”. I used the latter around an old pro with depth and breadth in the dog world. She arched her eye brow. I was chastened, somewhat. Yeah, literally every dog has (a) heart. I have had a few dogs, or seen in client dogs, a dog who tries his best, and if, a little stressed, digs in a keeps trying. They don’t make mistakes to avoid working, or to take a short cut. So, while “drivey” is, indeed, overdone, I can take buzz words in small doses. Which sport uses buzzwords the most? Agility folks, defend yourselves.

    • Erin January 13, 2015 at 4:19 pm #

      In my sport – power and grit are over used. Everyone thinks they have or want a powerful strong dog, that’s gritty with no quit to get the job done. There’s a time, place and need for those types of dogs, but definately very few handlers that have the time, experience and type of work to train those dogs and keep them happy and bea successful team.
      So many more but I’ll stick to those.

  3. Kitten January 13, 2015 at 5:49 pm #

    The term “drive” has its uses. It is a useful term for turning pet people away from a performance bred litter that would undoubtedly “drive” the pet person crazy and “drive” the dog to despair.

  4. originalwacky January 13, 2015 at 9:21 pm #

    As somebody who had a dog that those folks would call “high drive”, I can vouch for the fact that the average dog owner does NOT want one of those. What I say is that he was a great dog for what we needed/wanted, and it was up to me to figure out how to channel whatever *IT* was into a dog that could live in society. I have no clue what kind of drives he had more or less of, I just know that if I could motivate him the right way, he did exactly what I wanted.

  5. Ann Schnerre January 13, 2015 at 9:32 pm #

    The “drive” discussion will drive a person crazy, especially if you’re into WL GSD as I am….these ppl will nitpick the “drive” TO DEATH!! Semantics, semantics….IMO, a dog has a certain level of prey drive, a drive to learn, a defensive drive and that’s about it. KISS 🙂

    • Arlene Hunt January 16, 2015 at 6:46 pm #

      I have a SL GSD, and I still get that load of guff.
      Recently a man with a pretty nice sable GSD pup stopped me in the park to ask about my male, Archer. He pondered if we went to the local GSD club to do bite work.
      ‘No,’ said I, pink faced from a 15 k run, while Archer sat, bemused at the puppy squeak-barking up a storm- ‘I use this dog for long distance running’ (he’s trained to pretty much ignore most people/dogs/slow moving squirrels. I don’t need him to Bite/Hold/Platz or OUT in any way shape or form). I’m no in law enforcement, my aim for my dog was to have a steady even tempered dog that can accompany me anywhere and do a particular job.
      For some reason this translated to my dog being untrained and I got the lecture on ‘building drive’, he then proceeded to tell me about his OTHER bitch, a black GSD, who was so ‘vicious’ he couldn’t take her to the park as she’d go for every dog there. I did the nodding thing, and said, ‘well best of luck with your pup’, released Archer and off we went. But I wonder what kind of building he did to get a 2.5 yr old bitch into such a state he can’t even walk her locally, and why on earth he thought he’d add a puppy to the mix. Nowt stranger than folk.

  6. pommom101690 January 14, 2015 at 2:44 pm #

    I, personally, think a “prey drive” is higher in some breeds than others, just by the nature of the breed. I mean, there is a reason they use greyhounds for racing and not Pomeranians. My Pom isn’t going to chase the lure, for starters.

    We use this term in rescue because it is one to which people can relate.

    For instance, we had a Great Dane in rescue. He spent who knows how long on the streets of Birmingham. As a result, he was painfully thin (like 75lbs, instead of 120lbs), and he was covered in sores. A likely combo of poor genetics and life on the streets meant he was going to chase anything that moved. So, when we had people with toddlers, Chihuahuas, and cats ask why they weren’t a suitable home, well, we had to explain, as politely as possible, that his “prey drive” was so high, he will chase anything smaller than him that moves. For a Great Dane, most things are going to be smaller.

    It all worked out well though. The trainer that had been working with him fell in love, and she decided to adopt him. He is doing much better. He resists the urge to rundown toddlers, but he will likely never be able to peacefully coexist with smaller animals.

  7. tinylurcher January 20, 2015 at 11:29 pm #

    I have a drive-y dog. I am not ashamed to admit it. I also compete in that sport that apparently needs to defend itself. When I see some of the crazed aussies and borders that run like nutters, and bark eardrum piercingly and are encouraged in this behavior by their handlers who are looking for MACH 12 instead of efficiently handling their “drive-y” dogs, I have second thoughts about that term. I enjoy instead the british word “keen”, and combined with the awesome british adjective “biddable”, which as far as I can understand means the innate ability to be directed, calmed, checked, called off and restored to it’s senses during “drive”. My dog is successful, but I have an awesome trainer, and have realized most of my dogs early bad behaviors were due to my handling. We are in our second year of AKC trials, and we have earned a few titles, and this is my first agility dog, but I couldn’t be happier with her performance. Drive is great, if you have the tools to keep it under control.

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