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November Blog- Exciting Environments and Natural Instincts!

This month I thought I’d write a little bit about doggy desires, and what’s going on to motivate them.

Why does my spaniel zig-zag with her nose down when I’m walking? Why does my Labrador insist on bringing me something- anything!- when they greet me? Why does my border collie chase after cars and my Weimeraner stop dead and stare at birds on a walk?

Well, it’s all down to the combination of selective breeding and something called the Predatory Motor Pattern (or Sequence). The Predatory Motor Pattern is as follows:


Essentially this is how a predator “locks on”, captures and eats its prey. However, through many decades- if not centuries- of selective breeding, we humans have highlighted certain aspects of that pattern within different breeds, to help them work with and for us.

The collie that herds sheep was selected through generations of those most adept at the “eye-orient-stalk” part of the pattern- those that carried on and caught the sheep were not bred. At the other end of the scale, the terrier that was required to dispatch vermin on a farm was bred for the most tenacious of attitudes- it’s a brave little terrier that takes on a fight with a big rat, so those that completed the whole pattern, or at least up to the kill bite were favourites.. Not many species would collect its dinner and bring it back for someone else to eat- but that’s exactly what we have bred our gundogs to do in the field, because we have selected and bred those dogs that loved to chase and grab-bite, but not kill-bite.

This is all a bit gruesome, why should I care? My dog is a sofa-loving softie!

Well, over 50% of dogs registered each year with the Kennel Club (UK) are working gundog breeds. Add to that the other working breeds, and cross-breeds, and that’s a lot of intelligent, work-minded dogs with genetic traits that we have bred into them, in our homes. So, understanding what floats our dog’s personal and genetic boat is absolutely key to working out how we work with them. Want to stop your dog running off in the forest? Want perfect recall... even when they see a deer running past? Then you need to tap into what is going to be most powerful for your dog in that environment (hint- it’s probably not doggy treats at that point!)

A high chase drive DOESN’T mean a high prey drive?

Yup, some dogs find the thrill solely in the chase. They don’t care about catching whatever it is they are chasing- in fact, if they do catch it, often they lose interest- think about those dogs that are crazy about running after a ball, but once they get it they sniff then walk away. How about those dogs that are happy enough to chase, but what they REALLY love is the possession of the “thing”? You’ve seen them sitting at a distance from you, chomping away, and inching away as soon as you step closer. Or those dogs that couldn’t care less about a chase, all they want is to sniff sniff SNIFF!

How does positive training help, if these desires are genetic?

Through training, and understanding our dog, we can use these desires to simultaneously give them what they want, whilst we remain in control of their actions- win/win for everyone, happy dog, happy human! So, my challenge to you this month is, watch your dog when you are playing- both at home and out and about. What “thrills” him? How can you tell? Does it change depending on the environment? Let me know on Facebook if you work it out!

If you’re interested in training with your dog and finding out more about this way of thinking and working, do check out the training options– we have classes and 1-2-1s available!

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