I am a huge advocate for high-drive dogs. These dogs are highly intelligent, dogs that not so long ago had serious jobs (beyond just being our beloved buddies), and ultimately, these are dogs that will always jump into action at the drop of a feather.
High-drive dogs aren’t the easiest to work with. I’ve always joked that teaming up with a racoon might be easier. But, I think that high-drive dogs have a lot to offer, and if you are the right person for the challenge, they are worth all of the effort. That’s right folks (especially those of you that are considering such a dog as a buddy) – extra effort. If you want to go places with a high-drive dog, you are going to have to work your bum off to work on doing some of the things that might seem fairly uneventful with a low-drive dog.
As a teammate to a high-chase drive, true-to-breed “full strength terrier,” I strive to share with you not only our ups and downs, but also, the valuable exercises I have learned and/or come up that have lead to some great successes for us as a team. And it might surprise you to know that some of the most effective routines are the simplest ones. Success with a high-drive dog often comes from putting in the effort to do something simple, rather than strictly from doing complex training routines.
The Sporty Smart Dog
It is easy to like the look and personality of a dog, and to bring that type of dog into your life, without really knowing the depth of and history behind the breed type that you are signing up for. It is also easy, once you are farmiliar with a breed type, to bring one into your life with the sole purpose of utilizing their drive and skills for competitions and/or sporty activities, while skipping over some pretty basic training.
The funny thing about seeking out a dog that has the potential to bust out a 20-obstacle agility course in under 30 seconds is that this kind of physical ability and fast thinking is also going to be “on” during other moments of life — which will account for the majority of your actual time together. If you want to not only to do a specific thing with a high-drive dog, such as hiking or agility, but also, to bring them into the other parts of your life, you are going to have to work hard to handle the very drive that makes such dogs so good at sporty activities. You have got to be aware and responsible when you bring your high-drive dog into a high-drive environment. That is right — their drive is your responsibility. Not the dog’s. Miles’ breed, for example, was bred to work independently, not to sit still in a busy indoor arena or in a crowded city park. He has a natural drive, and as a person who sought out such a dog, I am the one in charge of managing that drive, and making his life, my life, and everyone else’s lives around us as safe and pleasant as possible.
I love to practice and compete in agility with Miles. But I am also equally invested in working on improving and strengthening daily life skills. Socialization, our bond, focus, safety in public… The list is endless, and often, far more challenging than any agility course. Agility courses are fast, and they are fun. Daily life can be tedious, stressful, aggravating. I believe that my hard work with Miles in both areas has lead to substantial and extremely valuable improvements in not only our competitive pursuits, but more importantly, in our daily life together outside of the show ring.
Sitting Still in Exciting Environments: A Simple & Positive Exercise for High-Drive Dogs
The below video is about working with high-drive dogs during times when they are going to need to sit still in exciting environments. I am using agility as an example, but this training exercise is useful for a wide variety of situations that anyone might encounter.
Sitting still is a HUGE issue for a lot of high-drive dogs, especially, in exciting environments. Our biggest challenge from the get-go of doing weekly agility classes was, surprisingly, NOT my inability to memorize a course, or Miles’ desire to run around wildly the course. No. Our biggest challenge existed outside of the ring, while waiting our turn. On-leash and forced to sit still, it was immediately apparent to me that Miles had a great deal of trouble controlling his excitement over the other dogs running around. This same challenge applies to sitting still anywhere public and busy. His natural chase drive is so strong, that his close and restrained proximity to movement can easily drive Miles insane. At agility class, he barked loudly and frantically, pulling wildly at the leash. Not only was this highly irritating for the other people in class, it was also dangerous for Miles. Acting this way appears confrontational to other types of dogs, and puts Miles in danger. Without help, he was hysterical. Although we had done a lot of training together, and although he already had great leash skills while out walking, it was clear to me something had to be done to handle this situation of sitting still in exciting environments. So, I came up with a simple exercise that has not only allowed us to be able to be in such situations, but in addition, has greatly contributed to strengthening our bond.
Update – The powerful result of this training:
Emma! This is genius! Chester, who walks quietly and calmly on a loose leash, has always had a hard time walking quietly when a jogger and dog are coming toward him. On a sidewalk this is quite confining… Dogs and people running at you in close quarters… So Chester will back like a mad dog! So right away I tried your technique. Worked like a dream. I saw the jogger/dog coming, had Chester sit, give me high five, shake hands with me, and "watch me".. He was so busy doing his "work" he didn't bark at all. AND, he says… I got treats like I won the lottery… Tiny treats but many! All good! Genius, just genius! Love you guys, Darcy and Chester
I meant Chester will bark like a mad dog… Not back… Blame auto correct…
That is fantastic Darcy, wow! Thank you for the detailed feedback!
Don't worry — my last phone always changed the term "landline" to "camel god." What the heck…
Thanks for the helpful article. I can’t wait to try it out tomorrow morning.
Excellent Lenore! Let me know how it goes!
Emma this is so very helpful. I had no idea that Ceri was looking to me for support and redirection. Incorporating this into our daily lives will help us develop into a team. I want to be there for my girl!
I read this post again today after chatting with you about Archie (9 month old Welsh Terrier)…..this was so helpful in “redirecting” me! I read this months ago when we were doing your Advanced Foundations course, & re-read it shortly thereafter, but not since. It took on totally new meaning as we’re having THIS challenge RIGHT now. Even at this young age, Archie is doing pretty darn good with leash walking, not minding crowded sidewalks. But I have to watch his reaction to runners/joggers, and most especially other dogs. Thanks for the reminder Emma!!