Drive Shaping

I had obedience class last night. I love that class. 🙂 People ask me why I like obedience so much, and I have to say, it’s because I LOVE my instructor. The class is so much fun, up beat, the dogs have a good time, and I learn so much it’s amazing. Someday maybe I’ll have all this dog knowledge in my brain but until then I just keep absorbing. For as long as I’ve been around dogs, I still have a lot to learn when it comes to training for competition events.

Anyway… so we talked some about drive shaping with Chase. He needs serious drive shaping. Chase gets so high and he doesn’t know how to come down. He’s like a manic human who just spins and spins and doesn’t know what to do about it. Really… if I were a human like that I’d hate it. It’s not about crushing his spirit, or making him not do what he loves to do… instead it’s about teaching him when to be up, and when to be down. And they are both fun and they are both okay. I wish I knew how to be both myself… I wish I had a human trainer.

Anyway, so I got some good ideas on how to help this boy. Like I said before… if I want any hope of competing him in obedience or rally, we have to get his brain to kick in so he’s listening. His drive is dropped. And he can do different things in different places.

When training Chase his drive is always up. Especially in agility and in flyball. And that leeks over to obedience. So now I’ll play with him a bit, get him all riled up, then stop and put my hands on his muzzle. And it works! His tail stops wagging and you can see him calming down. So this is what we are going to practice around agility obstacles. He needs to be able to drop his drive for agility, too.. for the contacts, for the start line, and for just paying attention to me.

I think we are on a good road. I wish I would have started this when I first got him… but I didn’t know of my instructor yet… I didn’t know how great she was. Now I know, and now it will get better. Now we have a game plan.

This is why I’m pulling him from agility. We’ll see how flyball goes, and if we can continue that. I hope so… but shaping his drive is our number one priority right now.

It’s amazing to see and hear about the other dogs who were screaming maniac puppies, and who, with drive shaping, have become full well-rounded dogs. Now that is the plan with Chase, too! He is older (3.5 years about), and he’s a rescue with baggage, but he’s smart, and he has a TON of potential. We’ll get there! We can do this!

And so a question comes to mind. You know humans get more satisfaction when they have structure to what they do. You can go dance and flail your arms about and such every which way, but it’s more satisfying to learn a routine and follow a pattern. You can blow on an instrument or tap on a piano keyboard… but until you learn a song it’s just a bunch of noise, and the song is more satisfying. Are dogs like this? Do they get more satisfaction out of structure? Or do they prefer to just run amok like maniacs and that is good enough for them? I hope they prefer structure.. but I find the question interesting.

3 thoughts on “Drive Shaping”

  1. It’s a question I’ve pondered, too, and I think they do want structure. I was a handler for working dogs for about a decade and know that they seemed much more contented when working than they did on a boring weekend. I haven’t followed the dog scene since I left that job. You’ve spurred my interest in drive shaping. My “rescue with baggage” is now pretty laid back (he’s about twelve years old) but the beagle – ai, ai ai! The boy needs calming for sure. I’m going to try the exercise you mentioned and see if it works as well with him.

  2. I’ve never heard of this! This is interesting. I have two dogs, and one has a harder time “coming down” than the other.

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