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Testing and identifying drives

Testing and identifying drives

First of I will try and explain the bases of Modal Theory in very basic terms and then talk about the Inherited way we speak, understand and label drives.

In basic principles, there are only two drives, Prey and Defence.This presents a problem for trainers when they are trying to describe or categorise certain behaviours that do not seem linked to either prey or defence so we in laymens terms may list drives more readily such as those that follow: –

Prey Drive

The desire to chase and or capture prey or items like prey or items that have been defined as prey (toys, sleeves etc)

Hunt Drive

A more developed cognitive element of prey drive, hunt drive in a dog may not be limited by the dogs ability to see prey movement, but can be triggered into hunt/prey drive through memory, imagination and other attributes such as environment, smell and reward history. A dog with very little hunt drive may chase a toy all day but would struggle to give any duration in scent work as there are no viable prey triggers to establish the behaviour.

Food Drive

The ultimate goal of a dog that goes into prey drive is to catch its food, but of course with dogs being domesticated, not so many dogs have to hunt to survive so they have developed high desire for food, is food drive.

Ball Drive

Really you could have Ball drive, tug drive, retrieve drive and the list goes on and if the dog has a strong desire for something, you could technically have “laying on the couch drive”. Remember the word before the word “drive” is simply a descriptive term of the trigger. Ball, Tug, Sleeve, Suit, Food etc. so these terms may be not all be used by you but it doesn’t mean that they don’t have value for other people.

Pack Drive

This is the desire to understand social hierarchy and interact with other pack members. Some dogs have really high value for the interaction with their people and just being near people and interacting with them is highly rewarding to a dog. As an example, the lines of Malinois I breed are super affectionate people loving dogs, not all Malinois are like this however. I have clients with Malinois who report that their dogs like playing with toys, balls etc but once these items are put away the dog has no interest in the family / handler.

Strong Pack Drive is very important to me because I aim to spend a great deal of my life with my dogs and I don’t want that relationship to only be based on what I toys or food I have on me at the time.

Defence Drive

The desire to maintain life and fight / flight threatening stimulus. Defence drive can be seen in a dog as early as 2 weeks but prey drive not until at around 4 weeks, if you think about the priorities, rightly so.

Defence drive is often recognised by the deep tone of the bark, open stance of the front legs and teeth displayed in the bark.

We can get quite in depth when talking about defensiveness when diagnosing and working with aggressive dogs but this becomes less accurate the more we train in defence and modify the attributes. An example would be, a young dog of 15 months sees someone acting in a threatening way up ahead. The dog is restrained on the leash and the threat (stimulus) is enough to take the dog over the threshold into defence. The dog begins to bark.

We would diagnose this barking and the open stance as “Distance increasing signals”, in this young, untrained dog; but if we were talking about a dog that had been trained in protection, with a solid foundation in prey, whilst the body language of the dog would be similar and the bark may also be deep, the dog is not asking for the space to be increased, this dog wishes access.

The attributes have been changed and although the dog had entered defence drive, it has desires to be met in prey and defence.

Rank Drive

Many people will just cal this Dominance and they are not wrong, but Rank Drive is a better description of a dog that wants to or is motivated to escalate its rank.

Some dogs like to push the boundaries and enjoy unrest, dispute and conflict.

History says that I choose male dogs for my own dogs that have strong Social Dominance. Whereas history says that the females I pick are more defensive / aggressive, as in the last perhaps 40 dogs I have owned have stated this although I may go to pick the dogs without these goals, that is how they turn, raising them the same.

Rank Drive in a dog is like having a dog with the ultimate confidence in itself and when trained well, I find these dogs unbeatable partners.

I would also like to lay down some terminology here to help you understand the elements of the mode we call DRIVE.

Trigger or Stimulus

This is the initial event or trigger that occurs to begin the mode. Triggers gain their value through Premack, which means they can be anything.


The threshold is the inherited resistance for the dog to respond to the trigger or stimulus. So we might have a dog that bounces up and down the moment he sees the ball, this dog would be classed as “Low Threshold”. Meaning the dog has low to no resistance to enter that particular (prey) drive.

Initialise Drive

This the the assigning of behaviour used to complete the mode. In prey drive for example the dog might cognitively decide to chase, which includes running, turning, capture etc.

The behaviours used in this section can be designed by the dog to gain success or designed by you for the dog to gain success.

Training IN drive means that we trigger drive before the dog begins any other mode.

Drive Peak

The dog becomes emotionally invested in the activity and this causes the dogs systems to prepare for action, expect increased cardiac rate, increased respiratory rate and adrenalin flow.

You will likely see the dog taking action now by displaying the behaviours designed within the initialisation stage.

Positive Reinforcement / Drive Satisfaction

The dog must gain reward from all of these drives, even defence has intrinsic reward that is the release of Endorphin. The Drive Satisfaction of the mode is the reason the dog will instinctively design these behaviours for the first time. Dogs that have what we call Ancestral Memories hunt, herd and chase by design, it is bred into them.


So now we can relate to the sections of the mode by name, we need to look at our pups and make some notes about the drive interactions you see. You should detail the trigger, the environment, the drive, the threshold, the action and the reward.

Try to score the level of drive and lets call it out of /10. Meaning 10 would be extreme and 5 would be adequate.


I need you to show us some video of your pup in food drive and prey drive. In your report, please include how you triggered the drive, how do you determine the dogs level of drive and what drive it is.

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