Dog Drives: How Do Urges Shape Pet Behavior

Dog drives are biological impulses that motivate your pet to perform an action. Despite their evolution over the years, dogs continue to have these drives in their genes, shaping their behavior and helping them survive. Even dog drives play an important role in the preservation of dogs’ skills, abilities, and instincts.

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Understanding dog drives is important to train your pet, find out the cause of his unpleasant behavior, regulate and redirect his instincts, and identify alternative outlet for his yearning. Here are the most prominent drives that compel your dog to act.

Guarding Drive: The Most Prevalent of All Dog Drives

Dogs, such as Rottweilers, Dachshunds, German Shepherds, Dobermanns, etc., have a stronger guarding drive than Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Poodles, etc. The drive makes dogs to protect anything they like and even this may not augur well for many owners.

A dog with strong guarding drive growls, snarls, barks, and even attacks to prevent anyone taking away his preferred things. There are instances when pets attack owners or family members for taking away their toys or food bowls.

With adequate socialization and training a dog when he is a puppy, you can prevent the negative fallout of the guarding drive.

Defense Drive: The Fight or Flight Impulse

A key aspect of survival, the urge to defend is well perceived in dogs. Defense drive can be interpreted as the “fight or flight” response by a dog. However, its manifestation differs from breed to breed and from one dog to another in the same breed. While some dogs react strongly to threats, others prefer to run away. This drive also results in aggressive behavior.

Dogs with strong defense drive do not prefer to run away in the face of a threat. They are more likely to stand their ground and counterattack. Those with a weak drive are likely to run away and avoid fighting. However, there are dogs that are not aggressive enough to counterattack but do so when cornered.

Food Drive: The Most Potent of All Dog Drives

The strongest of all dog drives, this is the key to your pet’s survival. Your dog must eat to stay alive. Dogs have a high urge for food and tend to be hostile if you disturb while they are eating. On the brighter side, you can manipulate this drive to train your dog successfully. Dogs often respond positively to treats and are always ready to obey you or work to have these.

The urge for food often causes your pet to eat more than he requires.  As a result, obesity and weight gain pose health risks. Pet parents must pay attention to their dog’s daily exercise routine to counter it. Make sure your dog has proper nutrition according to his age and health.

Retrieve Drive:  The Urge To Chase, Bring Back

A prominent among all dog drives, the urge to fetch, retrieve, or find out things is a natural instinct visible in your pet. Retrieve drive is a corollary of a dog’s hunting instincts.

Though all dogs love to get hold of a thing and bring it back, certain breeds, including Golden Retrievers and Labradors, have a greater liking for it compared to other breeds. They always look keen on pursuits and fetching tasks.

This dog drive often urges your dog to chase things that you throw away. He even intervenes to get hold of balls or disks you are playing with. If you have a young puppy, restrict his retrieving instincts to avoid the risk of injury.

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Prey Drive: The Offshoot of Hunting Instincts

Another upshot of hunting instincts, this is an innate quality in dogs. Originally hunting animals, dogs have a tendency to chase prey. Even after years of giving up hunting, dog drives, including the prey drive, continue to be strong in their genes.

Dogs are born to chase, and it is common for you to see your dog chasing children, vehicles, objects, or animals. Although the impulse to kill is not so strong, your dog still loves to chase. So, whenever you see your dog chasing cats, children, or moving objects, consider it a natural instinct without being concerned about his behavior.

If your dog has unwanted, high prey drive, you should focus on his socialization. Training and redirecting his energy into games may reduce his urge to chase.

Territorial Drive: The Bedrock of Dominance

Every dog has an instinct to protect his area. Often we interpret this as his guarding instincts or related to aggressive disposition. However, this is a separate drive and even dogs not aggressive tend to protect their territories uncompromisingly.

Like other dog drives, the intensity of territorial drive too differs. Dogs with a strong urge do not hesitate to attack approaching strangers while those with a weak drive are more likely to bark and sniff alone.

Sexual Drive: The Change Impulse

The most expressive among dog drives, sexual drive often leads to behavioral changes in your pet. Female dogs turn restless and prefer to bow and submit before male dogs. However, female dogs that are in heat for the first time are more likely to avoid or even attack males.

On the other hand, strong sex drive causes a male dog to mount, hump, and follow other dogs. They may become over aggressive and their behavior could be an embarrassment for owners. Your dog may mount on peoples’ legs when he has strong sexual drive. However, humping is not exclusively an instinct. It may be a learned behavior.

Pack Drive: The Urge To Live With Family

Have you ever wondered why dogs want to be with family? Why do they love to be in groups? This is due to their inherent pack drive.

One of the strongest dog drives, pack drive causes your pet to stay in unison with his family and friends. He feels safe when is in a group. The urge forces the dog to stay with family members, follow them constantly, and even lend a helping hand in certain tasks, such as cattle herding.

The pack drive is the key factor that makes dogs loyal family pets. They always try to please you and earn rewards. However, such dogs are more prone to psychological problems, including separation anxiety, when kept alone for long. Your pet may also be too clingy.

Play Drive: The Desire to Please

The strong desire to please the owner and get applauded is influenced by dog drives. While the pack drive plays a part, the play drive is another contributing factor.

This drive is high in puppies, who have a natural tendency to play. With age, the urge subsides. However, certain breeds, such as Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Dalmatians, Corgi, Jack Russell Terriers, and English Springer Spaniels, are more playful than others due to their strong play drive. They love to hang loose and have fun. Even in other dog breeds, a playful owner can rekindle this drive.

While playing with your dog, you should pay attention to his physical and mental maturity.

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