Definitions of Drives
The term "drives" is commonly used in dog training. A drive can be loosely defined as an instinctive desire or impulse. Every dog has certain amounts of various drives and these drives cannot be increased beyond its genetic limits. A trainer and owner can only develop a drive to the maximum that the dog was given by nature.
Below are definitions of the drives most commonly used in dog training.
Prey Drive: Prey drive is the desire to chase and bite a moving object. This is a dog's natural hunting instinct and is stimulated by rapid movement moving sideways or away from the dog. Seeing a dog's prey drive kick in is most obvious when you see a dog chasing a small animal like a rabbit or cat. A dog feels ultimate confidence in this drive. When a dog is held back from pursuing its prey, it will produce a high pitched bark. However, when in pursuit, a dog will be completely silent. You will often hear trainers talk about ball drive or toy drive, but that is actually prey drive.
Defense Drive: The phrase "fight or flight" is most commonly used to describe defense drive. This is a dog's self-preservation instinct and kicks in when a dog is afraid. Defense drive can be stimulated by movement directly towards the dog. When in defense drive, the dog will either flee to avoid the object that causes it fear or bite in order to cause the object of fear to back away. Though defense drive will produce an intimidating deep growl and bark, the dog is in a mental state of least confidence. Due to the lack of confidence, a dog in defense drive will bite with the front part of its mouth and as far away from center mass of the object that is afraid of.
Fight Drive: This drive is the most difficult to define and spot by the untrained eye. Fight drive can bee seen as a dog's unrelenting willingness to engage and become victorious in a confrontation. Do not confuse fight drive with a dog that is unsocialized and aggressive towards people and other dogs. When in fight drive, the type of movement by the opponent is irrelevant. The dog is not engaging because something is afraid of the dog and running from it. Nor is the dog afraid and wanting to avoid further confrontation. Think of it like the mentality of a boxer in the heat of a boxing match. The boxer just wants to win and the only thing that will stop the boxer is being knocked out. Fight drive does not produce confidence, but rather a dog must be confident to have fight drive.
Food Drive: Food drive is the level of interest a dog has in eating food. Though the term "food drive" is commonly used in a dog training, one can argue whether or not it is truly considered a drive. If you look at all the other drives, it cannot be increased beyond its genetic limits. For example, if a dog naturally has low prey drive, it is impossible for anyone to bring out high prey drive in that dog. On the other hand, when it comes to food drive, it can be increased. Starve any dog long enough and you will see high food drive.