Dog training and ‘Instinctual Drift / Drive’ in dogs explained in my own words, and how this may affect the training of a dog with some examples.

Dogs have instincts in-built within them which nature has created to assist with their survival. These instincts can go from the drive to hunt, breed, to guard humans, another animal, food, territory or an object such as their own toys and sometimes objects owned by people.

This can often have an affect on training dogs if their instincts override the task we are working with them on at the time. For example, if a dog’s hunting instinct kicks in whilst training them to recall, the dog may be distracted by following its instinctual drive to chase the Pheasant passing by.

When considering various breed types we need to take into account what we are asking the dog to do, based upon their breed traits and if their instinctual drives are potentially an overriding factor in such situations. For example if we consider what Border Collies were breed for in terms of working with a Shepherd in keeping a flock of Sheep moving in the right direction and the high level of intelligence and focus that requires, any other distractions cannot take priority as the sheep must be guided diligently.

Gun dogs must also have focus and awareness of the handlers and their environments to safely navigate their way to retrieving the prey, and returning with it to the handlers without eating it themselves. If their instincts to eat the prey are stronger than what they are being trained to do then this will be counterproductive for their handlers of course. I once worked with a client who’s dog was also a gun dog and had become aggressive to other dogs, I spoke of the need to help their dog away from the other dogs on shoots as the dog’s instincts to protect itself were it’s highest drive.

Only with successful rehabilitation could the dog return to working in close proximity to the other dogs, and this must always be considered as each dog is different and needs understanding and patience.