Drives & Definitions

This page explains some of the concepts and terms used in schutzhund training.

Drives and Motivations

In order to train Schutzhund, we need to know more than just training theory and behaviors. Some behaviors look very similar but can be caused by quite different motivations in the dog. I have read several different ideas about drives, modes and motivations. I find the simplest way to describe most of the behaviors we see in dogs is to classify them as resulting from three drives. These could also be considered as the three primary motivations for survival.

Prey Drive: The desire to chase, eat.
Defense Drive: The desire to protect oneself.
Social Drive: The desire to be with other social creatures, sex, relationships and social hierarchy.

The primary drive we use in training dogs, is the Social Drive. This can easily be seen in obedience, the dog works in order to gain approval from his handler, this includes praise and playing with a tug or ball. In protection, dominant or aggressive Social Drive can be seen in dogs who enjoy fighting and trying to over-power the helper. Social Drive is not just about dominance or submissiveness, but includes the whole range of behavior a social animal can display towards others of its own and other species.

In protection training, we strive to maintain a balance between the drives. Promoting strong prey drive develops fast and calm gripping behavior. Defense drive is tapped to bring an appropriate level of aggression. The dog is encouraged to use this aggression and channel it into social aggression by the helper showing weakness. There is a real art to training protection and keeping all the drives correctly balanced for the individual dog. A perceptive helper who can react quickly is worth his/her weight in gold!

Here is a good link to explore this topic further: