top of page

How understanding a dog’s Drive can and should affect your decision to find the right dog for your family

Welcoming a new dog into your family is an exciting and fulfilling experience. However, finding the right dog can be a daunting task. With numerous breeds and individual personalities, it's crucial to select a dog that not only matches your lifestyle but also fits well within your family dynamics.


Whether adopting from a shelter or purchasing a dog from a reputable breeder, bringing a dog into your home is a significant decision that requires careful consideration. Beyond factors such as breed, size, and temperament, a lesser-known aspect that plays a crucial role in your compatibility with a dog is their drive. A dog's drive can significantly impact their behavior, needs, and overall energy level. Understanding and considering a dog's drive when contemplating adoption is essential for ensuring a harmonious and fulfilling relationship between you and your four-legged companion.


A dog's “drive” refers to their innate motivation or inclination towards certain activities, such as hunting, herding, retrieving, or guarding. It is a natural instinct rooted in their genetic makeup and plays a vital role in determining their behavior, energy levels, and exercise requirements. Identifying a dog's drive helps potential adopters gain insight into their future pet's requirements, ensuring a well-suited match.


While each dog is unique, drives can generally be categorized into types. 


One type of drive you might hear one of our trainers refer to is Prey drive.   Prey drive refers to the dog's instinctive desire to pursue and capture prey. It is most commonly observed in hunting and herding breeds. Dogs with high prey drive tend to demonstrate behaviors such as chasing, pouncing, and intense focus when stimulated by fast-moving objects or small animals. It is important to harness and redirect this drive appropriately through structured play and training that involves impulse control.


Another drive you may hear us discuss is Rank drive.  This refers to a dog's innate inclination to establish and maintain a position within a hierarchical structure. This drive stems from their ancestral heritage as pack animals. Dogs have an instinctual understanding of social order and tend to exhibit behaviors that assert their position within their social group.


In a pack, dogs naturally establish a hierarchical structure based on their perceived social rank. This structure typically consists of an alpha, beta, and subordinate ranks. The alpha dog, or leader, assumes the dominant role and guides the pack, while the beta dogs follow closely behind, and the subordinates assume lower positions within the social order. Living in a home with two dogs that are high in Rank drive is likely to create problems you are not otherwise prepared to deal with.


Defense drive, also known as protection drive or defensive instinct, refers to a natural predisposition in dogs to defend themselves, their territory, and their loved ones from perceived threats or danger. It is an innate instinct that is deeply ingrained in their genetic makeup and varies in intensity across different breeds and individual dogs.


Characteristics of Defense Drive include alertness and awareness.  Dogs with a well-developed defense drive exhibit heightened alertness and acute awareness of their environment. They are inherently attuned to changes in their surroundings, including unusual sounds, scents, or movements. Dogs with a heightened defense drive display a heightened level of vigilance, always on the lookout for potential threats. They maintain a posture indicative of readiness, such as an upright stance, raised ears, and focused eyes



You can be prepared for the dog you choose to adopt by embracing their Natural Drives.  Dogs are often referred to as "man's best friend" for a reason. Their loyalty, companionship, and unconditional love make them a cherished addition to many households. However, as responsible dog owners, it is crucial to understand and accommodate their natural drives.  By acknowledging and embracing these drives, we can create a harmonious living environment for both the dog and the family.


First and foremost, it is essential to recognize that dogs have evolved from their ancestors who possessed specific instincts and drives. These include hunting, chasing, scavenging, digging, and exploring. While domesticated dogs have adapted to our human-driven world, these drives are often deeply ingrained in their DNA, and it is unrealistic to expect to eliminate them entirely.


When dogs do not have the opportunity to utilize and satisfy their drives, whether due to a sedentary lifestyle, lack of mental stimulation, or poor training, behavioral problems are likely to emerge.


Not all dog breeds are the same when it comes to their suitability as family pets. The Malinois breed for example, is known for their unique set of challenges it can present to its owners.

The Malinois is a confident and intelligent breed. They are highly active and possess an abundance of energy. While these traits can make them excellent working dogs, they can also be a challenge for inexperienced owners or individuals with a sedentary lifestyle. Without adequate mental and physical stimulation, Malinois dogs may become bored, frustrated, and even exhibit destructive behavior. Their naturally protective nature can also manifest as aggression or territoriality if not properly socialized from a young age.


Malinois dogs might have the highest exercise requirement of any breed and need plenty of opportunities to burn off their energy. A simple walk around the block is unlikely to be sufficient to meet their needs. Engaging them in activities such as jogging, hiking, or agility will help.  But dogs of this breed as well as several other breeds will require a job that they can perform on a routine basis or you will be challenged with moderate to severe behavioral problems than can make your adoption an unpleasant experience.


The American Kennel Club (AKC) provides a comprehensive article that highlights essential factors to consider when selecting a dog breed. From size, exercise requirements, and temperament to grooming needs and potential health issues, this article covers all aspects that should be carefully evaluated before making your choice.


25 views0 comments


bottom of page