What is a drive? Is it something you do on a Sunday afternoon with your dog in the passenger seat of your convertible Buick? Well, yes. Aahhh, but in terms of dog training, you ask?
A drive can be generally thought of as an extension of a dog’s instincts. Dogs have several drives; Ball drive, food drive, sex drive, fight drive, defense drive, hunt drive, herding drive, etc…
Ball drive and food drive are the two primary drives used by professional dog trainers to get fast, impressive results, make the teaching phase of a new exercise easier to understand, and to preserve attitude. Additionally, using either the food or ball drive can make your dog a “happy worker,” rather than the type of dog who merely drudges through his obedience routines. Avoid the amateur’s pitfalls.
The amateur dog trainer will make the mistake of using a ball or food treat as a bride, rather than as a motivator. You may be asking yourself, “What’s the difference?” Quite frankly, the difference is that, using a ball or food as a bribe means that your dog is working for the bribe, but not for you. This creates the type of dog who will quickly learn that, if he doesn’t get food, he doesn’t have to work. And if you can’t coax him with a ball or tasty treat… it’s, “Hasta la Vista, Baby!”
The true professional will use the ball and food drive as a motivator. This means that the dog knows that you are the pack leader and that you will make him perform the desired behavior. But by using the ball and food drive, you are able to motivate your dog to perform such exercises with joy and attitude.
Two techniques for building strong ball drive
Ball drive technique #1: Ball-on-the-wall game. Back tie your dog to a garage door, or a tall wall that has a hook or an eye-bolt. Attach the dog to a short leash (two to three feet, depending on the size of your dog), and make sure he is wearing a soft leather flat collar– something which will not hurt his neck when he strains against it. The idea here is to playfully throw the ball against the wall near where the dog is tied. Your dog will begin to jump and prance for the ball.
As he begins to get excited, encourage him. Occasionally (once or twice a session) let him win by getting the ball. Drive is built through frustration. When your dog appears most excited about the ball, end the session. If you work past his most excited state you will actually decrease your dog’s drive. Frustration without the chance of ultimately winning lowers drive. If you put your dog away right before his interest in the ball reaches its highest peak, the result will be that the next time you bring him out to play the ball-on-the-wall game, his interest will peak even higher! And this creates stronger ball drive.
Ball drive technique #2: The Ball-on-a-String gadget. Start by taking an ordinary tennis ball. Use a knife to puncture two half-inch slits– one on each side. At a local hardware store, purchase a piece of string, approximately the same width as a shoe-lace, three feet in length. Next, use a piece of wire, such as a bent coat hanger, to guide the string through the ball, and tie a knot in the end so the string will not accidentally slide back through.
After you’ve done this, you will now have a “ball on a string,” an item which commonly sells for $9 in Southern California pet stores. Bring your dog out of the crate after an hour or two, and make the ball jump and roll. Every time the pup thinks the ball is “dead,” you should make it jump again, just enough to keep his interest. Pretty soon, you should be able to work your dog into a frenzy over “killing” the ball.
Just like the ball-on-the-wall game, quit when your dog is most excited, and the next time you bring out the ball-on-a-string, your dog will be even more excited. Soon your dog will be ball crazy, and you will be in a position to use the ball to motivate your dog to do anything!
A little known fact about increasing food drive: In general, food drive is the result of your dog’s genetics. However, dogs with a strong food drive can have their desire to eat squashed by owners who engage in habit of “free feeding.”
To encourage food drive, give your dog access to his food for only 10 minute. At the end of this 10 minute period, if the food isn’t gone… too bad! The dog must wait until his next feeding time. Secondly, you can feed your dog once, instead of twice-a-day, and this should also boost food drive.
A third technique, employed by the trainer who has limited time to get results, is to feed the dog only during training. This results in a dog which learns to be super-motivated for food, because training has become synonymous with feeding time. But instead of simply being able to gobble his food down, the dog learns he must work for his chow! This technique can be construed as being a bit extreme, but will build food drive even after you have returned to a normal feeding schedule.