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German Shepherd Puppy Behavior Drive
German Shepherd Puppy Behavior Drive

Puppy Prey: Puppy prey drive is shown when dogs stalk and then pounce on imaginary prey such as twigs and rocks. They will pick things up and shake them, then carry them around so proudly. Other examples are “I’ll chase you then you chase me” and tug o’ war, often used to motivate obedience.

Puppy Fight: To the untrained eye rough play can sometimes be viewed as aggression when it is really just Puppy fight drive. Dogs prepare themselves for potential future battles by wrestling around as pups. They learn to dodge and spin and jump and roll. And all the while they are learning to inhibit their bites and control their aggression.

Puppy Guard: In Puppy guard drive a dog will get a prey object and tease another dog with it in order to get a game going and then make a great big deal out of ferociously guarding said object. All of these mock-drives prepare a dog for adulthood by allowing the pup to try these behaviors out.

Character Traits

Trainability: Trainability is a psychological character trait. It is generally seen in one or both of two ways. The first is the spontaneous attempt to perform the will of the pack leader or handler. The second is the number of behaviors that can be learned. Trainability can be described as a willingness to comply and an eagerness to learn new tasks.

Hardness: This trait is both psychological and physiological. It is a physical and/or mental resiliency to unpleasant experiences. Hardness is easily understood when compared with a pain threshold. A dog with a high degree of hardness can receive a tremendous amount of pain and stress with little lasting negative effect. It also means the dog will need stronger corrections when disobedient. Physiologically, hardness is in direct relation to the thickness of the sheathing around the nerve fibers in the dog’s body; the thicker the nerve sheathing, the harder the dog. High arousal levels in a hard dog will increase its hardness to the point that corrections become almost totally ineffective.

Softness: Softness is the opposite of hardness and is the natural state of the wild dog. Nature has dictated softness as a survival trait. The soft dog perceives pain and stress more intensely than the average dog. A dog with a high level of softness often associates the location of a painful or stressful experience with the experience itself. It may never go back to an area where it received a traumatic experience. For example, if a soft dog stepped on a bee and got stung it may walk around that spot on the lawn for hours if not days before the effect wears off.

Courage: Simply put, courage is the absence of fear toward real or imagined danger. This trait is psychological and wholly based in genetics. A dog is either born with courage or without. Courage has been bred into some dogs or more to the point, fear has been bred out. Since the natural state of the dog is soft and fearful, the hard courageous dog that we breed for goes against the natural order of things and would not survive long in the wild.

Confidence: Confidence is a psychological trait that is environmentally influenced. It is in essence, brainwashing. Confidence is convincing the dog through training that he is more courageous than he was born to be. We build confidence like we build muscle. Take the dog to a moderate level of stress in training and then let him win. This lets him learn that fighting through the stress will be rewarded by the stress being removed. Over time the dog will believe in himself more and more. The important point to remember is that there is a crisis point where it all falls apart. If the dog reaches a level of stress that is beyond what he has been trained to accept, it will revert to its true character.

Fear: Fear is psychological and genetically based. It is the perception of real or imagined danger. Fear is the natural protective measure to prevent the extermination of the dog or the species. A high level of fear is the natural state of the dog.

Moodiness: Moodiness is also psychological but genetically based. It is the propensity for inconsistent behavior. The dog will perform excellent work one day and the next do terribly, for no apparent reason. It is not easy to recognize unless it is an extreme case.

Sharpness: Sharpness is a trait that is psychological but genetically based. It is the tendency to react to stressful situations with aggressive behavior. An example would be a dog that when startled bites without warning. This same dog would then realize its mistake and return to its normal self. Sharpness is based in fear.

Viciousness: Viciousness is a trait that is psychological but genetically based. It is the propensity for unwarranted vicious aggression. The aggression is observed most frequently as wide-eyed, wild and frightening behavior. An example would be a dog that notices and then without warning attacks another dog, person or object. It is seldom seen but when it is exhibited it is unmistakable.

Temperament: Temperament is a trait that is psychological but genetically based. It can be influenced significantly by the environment. Temperament is described by adjectives such as full, moderate or poor. A full temperament means the dog has a zesty attitude and is full of life. A poor temperament describes a dog that is sluggish and lethargic.

Feral Tendency: Feral tendency is a trait that is totally genetic. It is the tendency to revert to a wild animal. A dog with a high degree of feral tendency may seem to act quite intelligently. It may learn quickly and seem to be high in trainability. Trainability prompts the dog to remain obedient when pain or stress reaches a critical point whereas feral tendency prompts the dog to disobey at this point. When stress is high, the highly feral dog begins to outmaneuver the handler or to escape the pain or stress. An example is a dog that throws itself against its collar attempting to pull out of it to avoid a stressful situation. It may seem to anticipate corrections and the handler will have difficulty enforcing proper obedience in that phase of training. The dog acts as if it knows it will be corrected and displays behavior that looks like avoidance of the handler.

Sensory: Threshold Sensory threshold is a trait that is totally genetic. This describes the amount of stimulus that is necessary to elicit a response from a dog. A dog with a low sensory threshold will take very little to stimulate it. It will be more likely to whine and even scream during agitation. It will have a tendency to over stimulate and this can bring out any feral tendency that may be present. A dog with a high sensory threshold will seem somewhat dull and take longer to “warm up.”

Dogfight Tendency: This trait is primarily genetic but can be environmentally exacerbated. It can be confused with rank drive or fight drive. Both of these drives can prompt the dog to engage in combat regardless of the opponent, man or animal. Dogfight tendency focuses on dogs only. It is completely possible to have a dog that is totally safe with its handler or strangers, even infants, but will attack another dog as if obsessed. Normally a male will not attack a female or a puppy; however, Dogfight tendency is exhibited regardless of the sex or age of the other dog. Dogfight tendency differs from rank and fight drive in another way. In rank and fight drive encounters the victorious dog will eventually allow the loser to escape. In an encounter that has a victor motivated by dogfight tendency it will end in the death of the loser.

Distractibility: Distractibility is genetically based but environmentally influenced. It describes the tendency to be easily diverted from a task. This becomes a real issue when the dog enters the proofing phase of training where high distraction is introduced. A dog with a high level of distractibility requires an abnormal amount of training to maintain competency.

Agility: Agility is a trait that describes the natural speed, surefootedness and coordination of the dog. An example of agility is the dog that pursues at breakneck speed and can turn on a dime if the suspect tries to sidestep its pursuit.

Physical Endurance: This physical trait describes the tone and general muscle condition of the dog. A dog with good physical endurance expends less energy as it works, thereby enabling a greater quantity of work in a given time. Physical conditioning or exercise will increase physical endurance.

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