Docile versus non-tame dogs or why some dogs obey better than others

Instinctively, dogs are hunters and scavengers, some more than others. Even today, the genes of certain breeds howl incessantly from the adrenaline rush of the chase and the thrill of victory for their hunt. Nature endowed them with that extraordinary impulse to continue existing.

Dogs with low prey drive are content to sit on your lap or at your feet with the remote nearby. Over thousands of years, human company has diluted that instinct and drive for excitement and survival. He usually gets along well with the other animals in the house. For them, the sound of a can opener is music to their ears and much less tiring than having to chase down a meal every day.

However, there are those dogs with phenomenally high prey drives that only a good chase will relieve them of. They are the epitome of the canine hunter/provider. Humans have to take some responsibility for this behavior. In several cases, to transform the animal to our needs, we have encouraged and rewarded that drive and behavior.

The term drive means something that your dog finds inherently rewarding and doesn’t need you to provide. It is a natural impulse for a Beagle to put its nose to the ground and follow. You don’t need to persuade him to follow or chase. They are difficult to train to remember, because pursuit and hunting are their ultimate reward.

Australian Shepherds and Border Collies have an innate drive to herd and control, but are generally amenable to training and rewards. This makes them easy to train. They please us by conforming, but retain a degree of intelligent disobedience, in case they need it.

Offerable vs. Non-tame is how dogs respond to their inherent instincts and drives, as well as their willingness to interact with their owners or handlers.

A dog or breed considered tame is one that, as a general rule, has a great need for human companionship and leadership. They are obedient and submissive to their human leader. This will and desire to please makes them easy to train and control. Praise, a ball or a treat is their ultimate reward. They’re also pretty liberal in the leniency department.

A dog or breed that requires less need for human companionship and leadership is considered a breed that is not tame. They are less forgiving and more emotionally detached, independent and autonomous. Pleasing his owner/handler is not his priority. Self-reward is your goal. This makes them more difficult to train and control.

Low Prey Unit/Low Offer

Here we have a dog who doesn’t really like to chase, but isn’t that excited about being told what to do. He will find many of the companion, guard and herding breeds such as Great Pyrenees, Bernese and Great Swiss Mountain Dogs in this group. They prefer to think for themselves, but politely agree when asked. For them, it’s fine, if you insist. They are moderately easy to train, but they hate to admit it.

Low Dam Drive/High Supply

The ideal pet for the inexperienced or average dog owner is one with low prey drive and high in the tame department. Collies and Old English Sheepdogs fit into this group. Their need to please their person makes them easy to train and far outweighs their desire to chase after anything. They, as a rule, play well with others, be it animal or human. This is the perfect dog for someone with minimal dog ownership experience, or someone who has little time or inclination to work and train their pet. Almost by nature, they are amazing service and therapy dogs. Here’s the dog that just puts its paws up and says, “Whatever makes you happy, makes me happy too!”

High Prey/High Bid

This group consists mainly of herding, working and some sporting breeds. Here you will usually find German and Australian Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Golden and Labrador Retrievers. These are breeds that have an amazing natural work ethic. They are the dogs that thrive on a mix of human companionship, high docility, and yet maintain enough intelligent disobedience to keep you on your toes. They require intense physical and mental stimulation, as well as fair, firm and consistent leadership. To their credit, they forgive when their owner or handler messes up! They love to learn and interact with their humans and other animals. Dogs in this group excel at teamwork and trust. In some cases, that union and teamwork can make the difference between life and death. They are fierce competitors and hard workers in herding, shooting, agility, flyball, search and rescue, security, dead body, drug and bomb detection. They are wonderful pets for people who have the time and energy to invest in developing their pet’s natural passion, as well as willingness to please, to its fullest potential. “Did you see me? Do you want to see me do it again?” It’s how these dogs think.

High Dam Drive/Low Supply

Here are the challengers! You may also be talking to yourself. Terriers, corgis, sight, hearing and smell hounds are usually part of this group. They enjoy human company, to a limit. They pick and choose who or what they want to listen to, or play with…and it’s usually not the family cat or even another dog in the house. They are unwavering believers in the “You are not my boss!” philosophy. They are generally intelligent, but can be frustratingly difficult to train. They believe that the older they get, the dumber we become. High self-esteem is not a problem for this dog! When they’re at work, they have exceptionally selective hearing. Ask any Beagle, Corgi, West Highland Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier, Jack Russell or Rat Terrier owner… they’ll be more than happy to tell you countless stories about the hours they’ve spent driving around, leash in one hand, calling their adored dog that has selective hearing. A dog with high prey drive and low supply is not for an inexperienced or tame owner. This dog needs fair, firm, and consistent leadership at all times. They need to be regularly reminded who’s boss! One look in his eyes tells you they’re thinking, “Whatever!”

Bottom line: To determine which dog is right for you, seriously consider the level of your instincts, prey drive, and supply vs. qualities not tendered. It will make a big difference in how compatible you are with your pet.

When you have a puppy, make sure you meet its parents. That will give you a good indicator for the future. From their parents, you will have a fair assessment of a puppy’s drive, instincts, and how docile they will be.

Mixed breeds with a combination of what you are looking for can be a great option. Stray dogs often make the best pets!

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