Does Your Dog Have Drive?

“One of my dogs does not have any drive other than chasing birds and digging. Can you suggest any way to make the training fun for him?”

Adam replies:

Some dogs just don’t have a lot of drive. For these dogs, you’ll just focus on the basic obedience/companion dog exercises. Even so, it’s up to you to learn what your dog likes. Maybe it’s physical touch? Maybe it’s motion? (IE, Taking a few steps forward).

Does he like to eat?

As a last resort, you can try not feeding him for a day, and then only feed during training sessions, one kibble at a time, when he does an exercise correctly (as a reward, not a bribe!) or to get him to “target” where you want him to position himself.  It may take a few days before he starts to really get motivated for the food.

Usually, the more a dog does an exercise the more he’ll start to “loosen up” and have fun with it. So, it might be that, too.

does your dog have drive

Lynn Stockwell adds:  

I have a low-drive dog. It’s a CHALLENGE.

She’ll work for food, OHHHHH she’ll work for food.

I spent months just teaching her how to play with a regular ball–one that can’t be chewed up, doesn’t squeak or have fuzz all over it. She’ll play with it, but try to use it as a reward in a working capacity and she’ll decide that she Just Doesn’t Wanna Play.

Tug? Good luck with that. She won’t touch a jute tug or a traditional rope tug. It HAS to be her Kong Wubba toy, or else it just isn’t worth tugging.

I went with food drive with my dog. Sure, it’s fun for all, and the absolute WORST part is when you teach them that they HAVE to listen without it. I say a lot of things in training, and the phrase “It hurts me more than it hurts you” is definitely one that I’ve been saying a lot. It hurts me to to see her not enjoy the reward for doing something, but when it comes to real-world obedience…I can’t have her blowing me off because I don’t have what she finds invigorating and rewarding. She needs to listen because I say so.

With that said, the more she learns to listen, the less I need to use food and the more I was using praise and petting as a reward. Which actually worked out a lot, since then I could use food treats as a really special reward for something really good.

In short, this dog is the reason why I’ll probably start with a puppy next time… it’s a crapshoot when you adopt an adult dog!


Adam replies: 

I disagree. I think a puppy is way more of a crap shoot. With an adult dog, you can spend 15 minutes and figure out if the dog has drive, what it’s tail carriage is like, if it’s got good nerves (or find that out, at least in the first day or two).

Whereas with a puppy, you never know how it’s going to turn out. I’ve been burned on puppies enough times now that it will be a very strong exception the next time I get one instead of an adult dog.