Dogs are instinctively hunters and scavengers, some are given more than others. Even today, the genes of certain breeds scream incessantly from the adrenaline rush of the stimulation of the chase and the thrill of the victory of their hunt. Nature provided them with that extraordinary impulse to continue to exist.
Low-prey dogs are quite content to sit on your lap or at your feet with the remote close by. Through thousands of years of human companionship, that instinct and drive for excitement and survival has been diluted. They usually get along well with the other animals in the house. For them, the sound of a can opener is music to their ears and far less tiring than chasing after a meal every day.
However, there are those dogs with phenomenally high prey drives that nothing more than a good chase will alleviate. They are the epitome of the canine hunter / provider. Humans have to take some responsibility for this behavior. In several cases, to transform the animal to our needs, we have encouraged and rewarded that drive and that behavior.
The term drive means something that your dog finds inherently rewarding and does not need you to provide it. It is a natural impulse for a Beagle to stick its nose to the ground and follow it. You don’t need to be persuaded to track or chase. It is difficult to train them to remember them, because the chase and the hunt are their final reward.
Australian Shepherds and Border Collies have an innate drive for herding and control, but are generally fit for training and rewards. This makes them easy to train. They indulge us by conforming, but retain a degree of intelligent disobedience, just in case they need it.
Biddable vs. Not tame is the way dogs respond to their inherent instincts and urges, as well as their willingness to interact with their owners or handlers.
A dog or breed that is considered docile is one that, as a rule, has a great need for human companionship and leadership. They are obedient and submissive to their human leader. This disposition and desire to please make them easy to train and control. A compliment, a ball, or a treat is your highest reward. They are also quite liberal in the forgiveness department.
A dog or breed that requires less human companionship and leadership is considered a breed that cannot be tendered. They are less forgiving and more emotionally distant, independent, and self-directed. Pleasing your owner / manager is not your priority. Personal reward is your goal. This makes them more difficult to train and control.
Low Prey Drive / Low Biddable
Here we have a dog who does not like to chase very much, but is not that excited to be told what to do. In this group you will find many of the companion, guardian and shepherd breeds, such as the Great Pyrenees, Bernese and the Great Swiss Mountain dogs. They prefer to think for themselves, but will nod politely when asked. For them, it is “fine, if you insist”. They are moderately easy to train, but hate to admit it.
Low Prey Drive / High Biddable
The ideal pet for the inexperienced or average dog owner is one with a low prey drive and one high in the supply department. Collies and Old English Sheepdogs fit into this group. Their need to please their persona makes them easy to train and far outweighs their desire to pursue anything. They, as a rule, play well with others, be they animals or humans. This is the perfect dog for someone with minimal experience with dog ownership, or someone who has little time or desire to work and train their pet. Almost by nature, they are incredible service and therapy dogs. Here’s the dog that just raises its paws and says, “Anything that makes you happy makes me happy too!”
High dam / high supply
In this group it is composed mainly of pastoral breeds, workers and some sports. Here you will usually find German and Australian Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Golden and Labrador Retrievers. These are breeds that have an incredible natural work ethic. They are the dogs that thrive on a combination of humane companionship, high bidding ability, but maintain clever enough disobedience to keep you on your toes. They require intense physical and mental stimulation, as well as fair, firm, and consistent leadership. To their credit, they are forgiving when their owner or handler makes a mistake! They love to learn and interact with their humans and other animals. The dogs in this group are noted for teamwork and confidence. In some cases, that bond and teamwork can make the difference between life and death. They are fierce competitors and workers in herding, traction, agility, flyball, search and rescue, security, body, drug and bomb detection. They are wonderful pets for people who have the time and energy to invest in making their pet’s natural passion, as well as a willingness to please, develop to its fullest potential. “Did you see me? Do you want to see me do it again?” it’s how these dogs think.
High Dam Unit / Low Supply
Here are the challengers! You can also be talking to yourself. Terriers, Corgis, sight, sound and smell hounds often include this group. They enjoy human company, to the limit. They pick and choose who or what they want to listen to, or play … and it’s usually not the family cat or even another dog in the house. They are unwavering believers in the “You are not my boss!” philosophy. They are generally smart, but they can be frustratingly difficult to train. They believe that the older they get, the dumber we become. High self esteem is not a problem for this dog! When they are at work, they have exceptionally selective hearing. Ask any Beagle, Corgi, West Highland Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier, Jack Russell or Rat Terrier owner … they will be more than excited to tell countless stories about the hours they have spent driving, on a leash in one hand, calling their Adored dog that has selective hearing. A dog with high prey drive / low bargain price is not one for an inexperienced or meek owner. This dog needs fair, firm and consistent leadership at all times. They need to be regularly reminded of who the boss is. One look in their eyes tells you that they are thinking, “Whatever!”
Bottom line: To find out which dog is right for you, seriously consider the level of your instincts, your prey drive, and your ability to push vs. Non-biddable qualities. It will make a big difference in compatibility with your pet.
When you have a puppy, make sure you meet its parents. That will give you a good pointer for the future. From their parents, you will have a fair assessment of a puppy’s drive, instincts, and how docile they will be.
Mixed breeds with a combination of what you are looking for can be a great option. Pooches are often the best pets!