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Dogs Drives, Aggression, and Threshold

Drives are internal impulses that motivate the animal in a certain way to take some form of action.

Pack Drive: the desire to be with the master of the family. Control is achieved by the handler acting a s a superior of the dogs own pack and making a request to be subordinate. The dogs innate need for security of its position in a pack is triggered for this mode and is vital to the well balanced social dog.

Prey Drive: instinctive desire to chase anything that moves. This includes more than living animals such as squirrels, birds, deer…it includes balls, toys, frisbee’s and it is extremely useful in dog training. It incorporates the act of chasing, pouncing, biting, pulling, shaking and carrying.

Defensive Drive – reactive aggression due to a threat related to self preservation – related to flight instinct but the dog chooses to stand and fight. The harder the fight the more defense is shown.

Flight Instinct: instinctive response to a perceived threat in which the dog feels it must fee to preserve it’s safety. Dogs that have high levels of flights usually have weak nerves and generally have fears of loud noises, new environments, people etc. The dog must be trained to understand that flight is negative and working through it’s fear is obtainable and positive.

Active Aggression: directly related to Prey Drive. Usually seen in dogs with very high levels of prey drive. Dog actively demands it’s prey, either when it can’t get it or when the prey stops moving. Barking turns high pitched in order to panic the prey into moving so it can seize it.

Defensive Aggression: reactive aggression due to threat related to self preservation. This is also related to Flight instinct. The dog will react when fear is initiated and will show aggression to back off the fear. This is where you find fear biting dogs.

Social aggression: desire to establish pack dominance. This is a true form of aggression and is the most dangerous. This is a dog that will challenge most people it comes in contact with. It will not back down as if flight instinct. It is not limited to the owner if pack order has not been established. This should be addressed immediately.

Environmental Aggression: – “territorial aggression” – Also known as resource guarding aggression. True form of aggression when dog guards objects and areas it perceives as it’s own. If not addressed immediately, the dog will become more confident with its guarding and take over the family/people/and home.

Displaced Aggression: Aggression that is misplaced or displaced. Commonly seen when dogs become overly excited with one another and get into a fight, or you are overly playing tug of war with your dog and your dog becomes frustrated and instinctively grabs your hand instead of the toy.

Displaced Fear: Typically used in the psychology of pet containment fencing. The dog receives a correction severe enough to be remembered and associates the place or object where he rec’d the correction. This behavior occurs a lot with the misuse of electric collars or you will see this when first putting on a prong collar on a sensitive dog.

Sharpness: to some this is used to describe a nervy, spooky, or jumpy dog. In hunting dogs, it is used to describe the level of intensity and attitude they kill their respective prey. In old style sport, it is used to refer to dogs that become aggressive without much provocation.

Threshold: Threshold is the stimulus of the drive. This mean’s how easy or difficult it is to trigger the drive and the intensity with which the dog carries out the action. A dog has reached its drive threshold just before the dog moves into defense and avoidance, or just before the intensity level changes within the drive. An example, how far is the dog willing to go to overcome its fear before it reverts back to its fear based tendencies. As such you have low thresholds and high thresholds. A low threshold of defense is where the dog begins to understand its being threatened and begins to bark with seriousness. The upper threshold is where the dog is stressed to the point of avoidance.

These are a few common descriptions when working with your dog in which you describe “what makes them tick”. There are slight variations depending on each persons terminology but the concepts are the same, started to help trainers understand how dog think, learn, cope, and adapt while we constantly add more demands on their training programs.



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