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Sarah

Huskies Off Lead

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Kaylo seems to think that chasing his daddy is far better than running off, it just happens that he is fast enough so that kaylo can actually get a decent enough run. he seems to think its a game he loves it when we split up and recall from different areas of the field.

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Oh no... Not reassuring. I thought that once Sherlock was older (he's only 5 months now) and trained I could safely let him off leash. :(

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I think what we all need to see is to train a Siberian to be off lead is a much bigger ordeal compared to a Border Collie or German Shepherd. Whilst for them practicing recall in the traditional sense often is "enough," with a Siberian there is a whole other equation to work with. If you plan to train your Siberian to be off-lead, it's going to be a serious process which you must be committed to working with daily and always reconditioning and proofing. The fact is- for most owners this is not practical. I am totally fine with just letting them off at parks and other enclosed areas. We practice recall daily and I train it using their prey drive, but I do not practice it and reinforce it to the point of which I am comfortable letting them off the lead when there isn't a fence. That's not because i'm lazy or because I think they're incapable... I just don't have the need to put that much effort into having an off-leash Siberian. It doesn't matter that much. I have called them off of a flock of birds, ducks, and squirrels so it's there if I need it. For those of you who have not put as much effort into your off-leash Siberian as Bec has described- you are doing an injustice to your dog. And what you're doing is dangerous.

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My last boy was a GSD mix and i think that played a big part in his recall and i could trust him to come back, my little guy now is a husky mix , but i,m still very cautious and he is on a long line or biking most of the time, we have a few doggy friends who i do trust him to be off lead around as he will stay with them but if there were no other dogs around i wouldn,t let him off lead...but he is very good and comes back for treats !! but i,m always on my guard and judge the situation first ;)

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Zeus is pretty good but he's always looking for us/wanting to be around us. Alot of that comes from the isolation and neglect he experienced at his previous home (he's a rescue) so we've been doing well with offlead because of that upbringing, i.e always looking for us/wanting to be around us. Obviously its a terrible upbringing and we took him in to give him a better home, but he's quite needy and wants to be around us when we're with him, he doesn't really run off too much when off the lead and never strays too too far/stops when he gets too far ahead.

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I think what we all need to see is to train a Siberian to be off lead is a much bigger ordeal compared to a Border Collie or German Shepherd. Whilst for them practicing recall in the traditional sense often is "enough," with a Siberian there is a whole other equation to work with. If you plan to train your Siberian to be off-lead, it's going to be a serious process which you must be committed to working with daily and always reconditioning and proofing. The fact is- for most owners this is not practical. I am totally fine with just letting them off at parks and other enclosed areas. We practice recall daily and I train it using their prey drive, but I do not practice it and reinforce it to the point of which I am comfortable letting them off the lead when there isn't a fence. That's not because i'm lazy or because I think they're incapable... I just don't have the need to put that much effort into having an off-leash Siberian. It doesn't matter that much. I have called them off of a flock of birds, ducks, and squirrels so it's there if I need it. For those of you who have not put as much effort into your off-leash Siberian as Bec has described- you are doing an injustice to your dog. And what you're doing is dangerous.

How do you use prey drive for recall?

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To answer both the above questions at the same time - through a method called training in drive :)

Prey or food drive depending on the dog.

We use prey drive a lot on training to teach the dog that it will get prey drive satisfaction through complying with our commands.

I may also use a remote training collar to get reliability off leash depending on the dog.

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To answer both the above questions at the same time - through a method called training in drive :)

Prey or food drive depending on the dog.

We use prey drive a lot on training to teach the dog that it will get prey drive satisfaction through complying with our commands.

I may also use a remote training collar to get reliability off leash depending on the dog.

I get that part, but what I don't get is how use prey drive to get a husky to recall. Food drive is pretty simple, but how does one use prey drive, especially when the dog has no interest in diverting that drive toward toys/objects?

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I get that part, but what I don't get is how use prey drive to get a husky to recall. Food drive is pretty simple, but how does one use prey drive, especially when the dog has no interest in diverting that drive toward toys/objects?

We'd have to look at it from a dog to dog basis as there are a number of reasons why a dog will chase live prey, but won't do something like display prey drive around the owner by doing something like playing tug. It could be because the dog's prey drive has never been developed properly and it could have learnt that drive satisfaction is only achieved through chasing live prey; the dog may be reluctant to go into prey drive around the owner because a lot of people punish their dogs for showing drive or reward it for calmness instead of rewarding them for displaying drive, so when the owner tries to get the dog to show prey drive with a tug toy etc the dog won't do it, etc etc. You also can't just put a highly prey driven dog next to a live prey item and then hold out a tug toy and expect the dog not to be distracted by the live prey - it takes time to work up to that level of distraction and it takes time to develop the dog's drive.

Getting a dog to work in food drive is often not as simple as people think either. There's a big difference between food exchange and food drive where the dog is actually experiencing an adrenaline rush and it's brain goes through a drive motor pattern, much the same way it would when a prey drive dog is chasing live prey.

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saw a episode of its me or the dog yesterday and it was good. She showed you have to run away in the opposite direction and make high pitched noises and call the dog while waving your arms around. It worked the dog kept coming back. She also said if you only call the dog back to go on the lead it wont want to come back so you have to trick it. wasnt a husky though!

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A few weeks ago I was discussing this issue for the umpteenth time on a forum, and I decided to save time and argument by writing a brief article on why I believe that Siberians are never safe off lead no matter how well trained they are. This is it.......

Why Can’t Siberian Huskies Safely Go Off-Lead?

This is one of the constant questions raised about Siberian Huskies. You would think that it would be enough that:

rombul1a.gif
e
very
responsible Siberian Husky owner will tell you that it is not safe to let a Siberian Husky off lead in an unenclosed area

rombul1a.gif
every
ethical Siberian Husky Breeder will tell you that it is not safe to let a Siberian Husky off lead in an unenclosed area

rombul1a.gif
every
single Siberian Husky rescue organisation
IN THE WORLD
will tell you that it is not safe to let a Siberian Husky off lead in an unenclosed area; and that

rombul1a.gif
every
single Siberian Husky Club
IN THE WORLD
will tell you exactly the same thing.

Now these people and organisations don’t take this line for fun, or to "big up" the wild nature of their dogs, or to try to keep the breed exclusive. They take it because it accurately reflects the bitter experience of thousands of owners worldwide over a long period of time.

However, this obviously is not enough because there are still a steady stream of people who just don’t believe this unanimous and ubiquitous message. When you give examples of Siberians which have been killed, caused accidents or been shot by farmers for killing/savaging livestock, the doubters come back with, “But you could say the same about any breed!†– and to be honest, in many respects they would be right. Too many irresponsible owners of all kinds of dogs let their dog off lead with little thought for their dog’s safety, the safety of other animals, or the safety of the public. That is not for discussion here though. I want to explain why, in my opinion, it is never safe to let Siberian Huskies offlead in unenclosed areas.

So, Why is the off-lead thing such a big deal with huskies? What makes them different from other breeds?

There are two major factors, both embedded deep within the history of the breed. The dogs we now know as Siberian Huskies were originally developed by what are known as the “maritime†Chukchi people of North East Siberia who relied on dogs for transportation during the frozen winter. Other Chukchi groups relied on Reindeer for both food and winter transportation. The maritime Chukchi lived in fixed summer villages along the Bering Sea coast, but during the arctic/sub-arctic winter, became nomadic – following and hunting whatever game was available. The Chukchi would load their whole families on their sled and using teams of up to 20 dogs, would hunt all winter, sometimes covering 100 miles a day in their search for food. It was originally estimated that the Chukchi’s dogs had been in existence for some 3000 years, but recent archeological research has found the remains of sled-type dogs going back well over 10,000 years. Indeed, the Siberian Husky has been recognised as one of the oldest dog breeds known to mankind, so they have had a long time for their instincts and behavioural traits to become hard-wired into them.

The two major factors I mentioned above are:



  1. An extremely strong Prey Drive ; and

  2. A fiercely independent intelligence.

Prey Drive - The source of their prey drive is simple. During the summer, when they were not required as transportation, the Chukchi dogs ran free around the summer villages, rarely being fed by their owners, but existing (if not prospering) on what they could steal or catch. As winter came and food became scarce the dogs once more became sled dogs (of course not all the dogs returned - accidents and natural predators accounted for some, but at least there were no roads for them to be killed on). This pattern of behaviour was built up over a period of time which has been estimated as long as 10,000 years.

As a result of millennia of such behaviour, these dogs now have a fearsome prey drive and the hunting skills to match. It is very common to hear that someone’s huskies have killed cats, rabbits, squirrels, birds (ours have taken birds out of the sky as they fly over our garden at low level) and even sheep. It is rare that they regard even small dogs as “prey†as they seem to be able to recognise a fellow canine.

Independent Intelligence – You will occasionally hear dog trainers complain that huskies are not “trainable,†and you will consistently see them left out of lists of “The Ten Most Intelligent Dog Breeds†etc. The problem with such trainers and such lists is that they confuse obedience and “biddability†with intelligence, and, in reality they are not at all the same thing. Train a Border Collie to fetch a ball and it will tend to retrieve the ball time after time after time. Train a Siberian Husky to fetch a ball and it will do one of two things – either eat the ball, or bring it back once. The next time you throw it the sibe will look at you as if to say – “You threw it! YOU get it back! Do you think I’m that stupid?â€Â

When you give a trained Border Collie a command, you usually get instant obedience. When you give a command to a Husky, the Husky actually thinks about it before deciding to comply with or ignore the command. This may sound like bloody-mindedness, but it is in fact a deeply ingrained survival trait for arctic sled dogs. Think about it. You are the lead dog on a sled team pulling your Chukchi owner and his family across the frozen sea ice. Your owner shouts for you to turn right down a trail between a line of ice seracs as he knows this is the way to get to a safe camping area for the night. As lead dog, you can see that a right turn leads you to the edge of a deep crevasse and you refuse to make the turn. It is this intelligence and independence of thought which has been bred into Siberian Huskies over thousands of generations.

An example of this came from Leonhard Seppala’s famous lead dog (and hero of the 1925 Dipheria Run – Togo . One day, Seppala was running his team, led by Togo , over the sea ice of the notorious Norton Sound ,

“
Togo had been leading his sled across the sound during a northeastern gale on another occasion when, a few miles from shore, Seppala heard an ominous crack that let him know the sea ice was breaking up. Togo headed toward shore even before Seppala could give the command, but drew up short so fast he nearly flipped backwards. A yawning chasm of water had opened almost at Togo ’s feet, but the dog had reacted quickly enough to avert immediate disaster. Seppala looked around and realized with dismay that he and his team were trapped on an ice floe and headed out to sea.

They spent more than twelve hours on that raft of ice, waiting as it drifted in the icy waters. Finally it neared land, but ran up against another floe that was jammed against the ice still connected to shore. they stopped moving, but there was still a five foot gap of water that Seppala couldn’t hope to cross. He tied a lead onto Togo and heaved the dog across the water. Togo landed on the ice and sensing what Seppala intended, the dog began pulling with all his might, narrowing the gap between the two ice floes. Then the lead rope snapped. Seppala thought he was a dead man. Then Togo , showing himself to be possessed of more intelligence and resourcefulness than most men could expect from even their lead dogs, leaped into the water and grabbed the broken end of the lead rope in his jaws. He clambered back onto the ice and continued pulling until he had narrowed the gap enough for Seppala and the sled to cross safely.â€Â

As it was with Seppala’s Siberian dogs, so it is today with our Siberian Huskies. No matter how well trained your Sibe is, there is always a part of his/her mind that, when he/she hears an instruction thinks, "Is it a good idea to follow that order?" and also, "What's in it for me?" - When you combine that independence of thought and keen intelligence with the high prey drive, you can see that obedience when offlead is a very dodgy prospect indeed.

Huskies don’t help themselves in this regard. It is often found that husky puppies will act in extremely obedient ways for the first few months of their lives. I have lost count of the number of owners who have told me their Sibe is the exception that proves the rule and is ultra-obedient. Upon further discussion, it almost always transpires that the dog is a puppy – 4, 5 or 6 months old! Sibe puppies can lull you into a false sense of security - then puberty hits, they realise that they don’t need you, and all bets are off!!!

We have been interested in Siberians for 20 years and have owned them for 17+. During that time we have personally come across at least one owner each year whose “highly trained†Sibe has "gone deaf" for the first and last time and ended up dead under a car, shot by a farmer for savaging livestock or having caused a major traffic accident. The common theme is that all these owners quite genuinely believed thatthey could train this trait out of their dogs; that theirrelationship with their dogs was so good that their dogs would always respond to the recall command; and that the recommendation of every husky related organisation IN THE WORLD was nonsense and that they and their dog were somehow special.

Unfortunately, these owners learned the hard way with tragic consequences for themselves and their dogs. The plaintive and tragic cry, “He/She’s always come back before†is a common refrain in these tragic cases.

This is exactly the naive "I know better than every Siberian Husky organisation in the world" attitude which unfortunately leads to the deaths of too many Siberians each year. My wife is an expert dog trainer. I have seen her achieve things with Sibes (and other dogs) that I would have thought pretty near impossible. All our adult dogs have excellent recall and obedience and are often a source of amazement to people who regard sibes as untrainable. Yet neither she nor I would ever let our dogs off lead in an unsafe/unenclosed area because we know that their recall can never be 100% and they are much too precious for us to risk.

Having said all that, we believe strongly that all Siberian Husky owners should train their dogs in recall. We always recommend that people train their Siberians to recall IN SAFE ENCLOSED AREAS to as high a level as possible. Even in the best regulated worlds accidents sometimes happen – dogs slip their collars, snap their leads, escape from cages etc etc – and if you have trained your dog to recall, at least you have a chance of getting it back. Such training cannot be guaranteed, but at least it’s a form of insurance.

Talking about insurance – a message to all those who, despite all the evidence and arguments, still insist on letting their dogs go offlead in unenclosed areas – get some public liability insurance. If your dog goes offlead and causes an accident or kills livestock – YOU are liable. On second thoughts, maybe it’s not worth it! The fact that every single Siberian Husky organisation in the world advises against letting them off lead, the owner whose dog caused the crash or killed the livestock could be liable for huge damages, as in legal terms, it could be argued that by acting against such universal informed advice, they had been incredibly negligent in letting their dog off lead in an unenclosed area and that this obvious negligence would invalidate their insurance.

Just a thought!

Mick Brent

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Great post, Maybe get that seperated into its own thread and stickied??

Loved reading the explanation of Hukies intelligence, it makes so much sense.

The extract of Seppala's Journey, where is that from? Is it a full book? I'd love to read more! :)

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Great post, Maybe get that seperated into its own thread and stickied??

Loved reading the explanation of Hukies intelligence, it makes so much sense.

The extract of Seppala's Journey, where is that from? Is it a full book? I'd love to read more! :)

The extract was from Seppala: Alaskan Dog Driver (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company. 1930) by Elizabeth Ricker

Here is another amazing example of the Siberian's intelligence - this time from one of Seppala's racing competitors, Scotty Allan in the 1915 All-Alaskan Sweepstakes whose lead dog Baldy Of Nome, showed his inteligence. Unfortunately Scotty didn't trust Baldy's judgement and ended up losing the race to Seppala:

"It got dark. On the other side of Council the trail, being hard to find, had been marked with stakes. I kept flashing my electric torch until I picked them up. Then I tried to make Baldy follow the staked trail. He refused. As fast as I'd swing him into it, he'd try to go right off to the right again. For two hours he kept fighting to leave the trail for the right but I stubbornly held him to the stakes. And then - to my astonishment - the trail petered out, and I found myself in some timber, when I knew there shouldn't have been any within 30 miles! I had to turn and go back to Council again to get my bearings; and then I found that the stakes had been changed that day. They had fooled me all right, but they couldn't fool Baldy. By not giving him his way, I lost first place in that race!"

Alaskan Trail - Siberian Dogs by John Douglas Tanner 1998

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Our husky is 8mo old and she does great off leash. Her parents never went on the leash either said the owners and we saw them take mom and dad out to pee without a leash. Molly went camping with us a few months ago and loved running on the trail. I don't let her off where she can run into the street or anything. I don't trust her THAT much! I'm new by the way. Just came across this forum.

Just be really careful, my 9 month olds were great offlead, that was until about 3 weeks ago we were out walking and decided to do a runner. We found them 4 fields away chasing cows. At such a young age they want to stay close but they get more confident and then whoooosh thats it, they're off.

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I get that part, but what I don't get is how use prey drive to get a husky to recall. Food drive is pretty simple, but how does one use prey drive, especially when the dog has no interest in diverting that drive toward toys/objects?

I've used a lot of methods from this website, and have made whatever adjustments along the way to fit my individual dogs. There's a lot of information and techniques on the website. They also really like "hide and seek."

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We'd have to look at it from a dog to dog basis as there are a number of reasons why a dog will chase live prey, but won't do something like display prey drive around the owner by doing something like playing tug. It could be because the dog's prey drive has never been developed properly and it could have learnt that drive satisfaction is only achieved through chasing live prey; the dog may be reluctant to go into prey drive around the owner because a lot of people punish their dogs for showing drive or reward it for calmness instead of rewarding them for displaying drive, so when the owner tries to get the dog to show prey drive with a tug toy etc the dog won't do it, etc etc. You also can't just put a highly prey driven dog next to a live prey item and then hold out a tug toy and expect the dog not to be distracted by the live prey - it takes time to work up to that level of distraction and it takes time to develop the dog's drive.

Getting a dog to work in food drive is often not as simple as people think either. There's a big difference between food exchange and food drive where the dog is actually experiencing an adrenaline rush and it's brain goes through a drive motor pattern, much the same way it would when a prey drive dog is chasing live prey.

...You aren't by any chance a politician, are you? :P

So what I'm hearing is - yes, a toy/object needs to be involved in order to use prey drive recall?

What I can say about Wyatt is that he is definitely looking for the kill on pursuit. I got him when he was almost 7, and he's never shown interest in any toys or games at all. Since I've had him, I did have to work hard to teach him to ignore his prey drive when it came to our cat - which he now does very successfully. However, he as also only learned that we do not eat this kitty - any others still look like fair game.

@raindog - I think another reason that huskies have such poor recall is that they are bred to run. Once they're in that running mode it's like a trance, and anything that may interrupt the flow is ignored. My experience with purebreds is limited to one, but when Wyatt is in running mode nothing will deter him; not scents, not birds, not rabbits, not other dogs, nothing. Sled dogs need that focus - could you imagine if an entire team went off track every time they saw or smelled a rabbit?

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Yeah, the Victoria method Louise mentioned worked really well for me the one and hopefully only time I needed to use it.

When Kissu was about 7 months old I was taking him to the dog park. He was lunging and pulling, wanting to get there faster. I loosened my grip on his leash to switch hands, at the wrong time. I dropped his leash, and he immediately took off to the semi busy road. He was a little more than half way to the road, when I called his name, but in a fun and exciting way, and then turned around and ran the other way. Looked back at him and he was running to me in full speed. I ran a little further and let him catch up to me. He stopped just short of me to pee, and I grabbed his leash.

Don't think I had ever been so scared in my life, until a few weeks later when he disappeared from the back yard.

When I was younger, I chased our family dogs that got out. Thank goodness I had seen that episode of it's me or the dog and had the mind to test it this time.

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...You aren't by any chance a politician, are you? :P

So what I'm hearing is - yes, a toy/object needs to be involved in order to use prey drive recall?

What I can say about Wyatt is that he is definitely looking for the kill on pursuit. I got him when he was almost 7, and he's never shown interest in any toys or games at all. Since I've had him, I did have to work hard to teach him to ignore his prey drive when it came to our cat - which he now does very successfully. However, he as also only learned that we do not eat this kitty - any others still look like fair game.

Sorry, I wasn't trying evade your question :lolman: I thought that we use tug toys to train in prey drive was obvious, I was addressing the part of your post where you asked why a dog would show interest in live prey but not in toys.

So yes, we definitely use toys. Prey drive is the urge to chase and grab a moving item, this can certainly be replicated with a toy and you can see that in the intensity dogs working in prey drive show when they launch onto the toy when released to it.

People will often tell you that having a high prey drive makes their dog harder to train, but the opposite is actually true. All the top competitors and service organisations selecting police dogs etc always select puppies with super high prey drive because using this to your advantage gives you a highly reliable dog.

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I was addressing the part of your post where you asked why a dog would show interest in live prey but not in toys.

LMAO! And here I thought the reason for that was pretty obvious! No, kinda figured toys would be the logic redirection, but I was just wondering if it were possible to use prey drive training when a dog doesn't show interest in toys of any kind. Tug of war is definitely out! When we first got Wyatt my husband was trying to get him to tug of war with a deer leg or antlers, but the moment he put any pressure on the bone he had Wyatt would go "you want that? I'm so sorry, it's all yours." For all that his desire to chase and kill is highly developed, he is the least possessive dog I've ever known!

Okay, getting off track. The rest of what you say makes sense. I see how that could be very beneficial in the right hands!

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I let Een off leash when we walk in the woods, but he is always with his step-sis, who has excellent recall and she is a Lab-mix. He comes running back as fast as he can though when I call, but I guess only because he knows there is a little snack as a reward each time.

I use to train my dogs extremely well, almost as in the video below, but that was a long time ago. Don't have the time now and also became soft. My experience with Een though is that he is very trainable, should I invest in the time and effort to do it.

sfLu5TGPvOc

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Duly impressed by the video!

@Bec, now would that be what your were mentioning about holy-shit food drive?

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LMAO! And here I thought the reason for that was pretty obvious! No, kinda figured toys would be the logic redirection, but I was just wondering if it were possible to use prey drive training when a dog doesn't show interest in toys of any kind. Tug of war is definitely out! When we first got Wyatt my husband was trying to get him to tug of war with a deer leg or antlers, but the moment he put any pressure on the bone he had Wyatt would go "you want that? I'm so sorry, it's all yours." For all that his desire to chase and kill is highly developed, he is the least possessive dog I've ever known!

My Sibe is like that too despite having a very high prey drive because he was taught to be calm and well mannered around people. He'll chase a ball I throw and bring it back (because he is getting the drive reward away from me) but won't tug with me.

There are a few ways to get around it, I'm lucky because Mish has an equally high food drive and I can use that to my advantage too so I haven't been too bothered getting him reliable on a tug (I also don't want to due to his arthritis).

There are loads of things we can do to put our dogs off playing tug too, something hard like a deer antler isn't an ideal surface as a dog won't be able to grip it properly. Playing tug and utilising prey drive isn't about possessiveness, but sharing in the reward experience with your dog :)

@Bec, now would that be what your were mentioning about holy-shit food drive?

Kind of! It's a cool video for sibe owners to see that their dogs can be trainable :)

When you learn more about drive you can see clearly whether a dog is working 'in drive' or not, for example this is a recent vid of my youngest dog, she isn't what I would call a high drive dog but her food drive has been developed to a point I am happy with for her. A dog working in drive should be showing an element of desperation, you can see at the end the way I get her to chase the food in my hand rather than just give it to her, as this gives her an adrenaline rush and she gets a chemical reward as well as a food reward. It also makes her work harder. It's a bad video handling wise but you can see the kind of focus and desperation I would want to see in a dog doing drive work (it's very hard to do heel work in gum boots, LOL).

EnQXfHmjfO8

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