June2016 2nd Edition/Newsletter (Working Dogs vs Sport Dogs)



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A trainer who says the best drive for a police/working dog is prey is setting K9 teams up for potential failure in the field.

Simple drive definitions:

  • Prey = Movement
  • Defense = Caution
  • Fight = Aggression
  • Hunt = Search (non-visual)

In the sport dog realm, the most sought-after drive and the one that many trainers promote as being the most desirable is prey.  Prey drive is an instinctive trait found at various levels in any dog.  For a working dog, if a high prey drive is not properly harnessed, it produces a chaotic dog that showcases high levels of independence during stressful  situations.

In the beginning, high prey drive dogs show well due to their high energy and notable focus. When you want to get the product out quickly, prey drive makes the right first impression.

Many canine companies purchase dogs overseas that are bred for sport/prey drive, are already somewhat trained and continue to build on the sport/prey drive.  This leaves you with a highly stressed and inefficient working dog that causes handlers stress as well.

At Canine Tactical of Iowa the best working dog drives are hunt, fight and defense.

Hunt drive is the core of a working dog.  Exhibiting low or virtually no hunt drive will have a negative impact in track/trailing, article search, odor detection (narcotic/explosive) and a building search.

“The point of deploying a working dog in a building search is to locate the suspect first. If you have a dog that just randomly runs around looking for movement/prey you might as well search the building yourself. A properly trained working dog knows that the ‘hunt’ is paramount.” 

Fight and defense drives are similar, yet different in terms of development. A well-developed fight drive will keep a working dog engaged and poised.  A good defense drive is a delicate balance between caution and fear.  A high fight drive will balance a borderline high defense drive with proper training.  Achieving balance between fight and defense drive needs to be accomplished in stages or it will undermine any multi-purpose work.

You will find that most trainers and handlers say they agree on the importance of fight/defense drive balance, but ultimately they don’t have the time, experience, patience or working knowledge to achieve it in working dogs. So the push for sport/prey drive prevails. Unfortunately, the reality is that the sport dog concept is prevalent in the K9 working dog community. Until a shift in mindset and methodology takes place, working dogs will not reach their full potential and underperform causing handlers to be unprepared and ill-equipped to manage complex situations.

Next month newsletter:  Green dogs are not so green.


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