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Extract from Aunty Kaye’s Doggy Dictionary of Training and Behaviour

A “drive” is a collection of inherited, instinctive behaviours. The combination and intensity of these drives in each individual dog has a great influence over its temperament and overall type and behaviour. For our purposes, we can talk about four drives, as used by Wendy Volhard:



Defence (fight)

Defence (flight) 

According to the Volhard system, there is a questionnaire about the dog’s typical untrained behaviour. Based on your answers, your dog gets a score out of ten for each drive. How strong your dog is in each of the main drives will determine your dog’s “drive profile”, which is a convenient way to put your dog’s instinctive behaviour in a nutshell.

It is interesting to realise though that four factors, each with a score from one to ten, gives us over 5,000 possible drive profiles – that is, over 5,000 possible “nutshells” based on the dog’s tendency to behaviour in certain ways. That is a lot of nutshells, and should be detailed enough to flag the issues which will be important in training a dog of this particular type of dog.

Prey Drive

A drive is a collection of instinctive behaviours or tendencies. Prey drive refers to those behaviours that are associated with predatory behaviour, the hunting, chasing and killing of prey.  In domestic dogs, these instincts have been modified by generations of selective breeding. Herding breeds specialise in the stalking and rounding up aspects of predatory behaviour, but not the killing that results in the wild. If you see a kelpie working sheep, it is easy to see how this behaviour originated. It is harder for the average person to see the predatory origins of behaviour such as fetching a ball, especially when it is your much-loved family pet who would never harm a fly doing the fetching. But it is essentially part of the dog’s prey drive. However, since prey drive encompasses such a mosaic of behaviours, and different dogs have widely differing selections of pieces, some trainers find it useful to distinguish between prey and play. Dogs that specialise in one aspect of predatory behaviour, such as following a scent on the ground, may not be interested in playing fetch or tug games. That being the case it makes sense to distinguish between play and prey. Motivating a dog with high prey drive involves finding the aspect which appeals to the dog, rather than assuming that the dog must automatically like toys.

Pack drive

The basic trait of this drive is reproductive behaviour and desire to be part of the group. The origin of Pack Drive is the need for the dog to co-operate and fit in with the social life of the pack in order to survive, hunt and reproduce. It is stimulated by the dog’s rank order in the pack. Physical contact, playing, social interaction, resting together, licking, reading body language and breeding are all pack behaviour. In the domestic pet dog, reproduction is usually not part of the picture, but dogs have a strong sense of “togetherness” in their relationship with their human owner or family. This is expressed in the way they live together and go out together for walks.

Dogs are very sensitive to human facial expressions, tone of voice, body language and movement. They are also sensitive to the issue of who solicits and receives attention from whom. All these factors can be used in training and in every day life relationships with our dogs.

See also Pack Issues


For an interesting article discussing different Prey Drive in different breed groups (American classification) see http://www.best-behaviour.com/prey-drive.html


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