Herding Instinct versus prey drive-*long* - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 25 (permalink) Old 03-18-2012, 07:11 PM Thread Starter
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Herding Instinct versus prey drive-*long*

Thought I would post here as there are more herding people here...

I brought my 10 month old DDR Bred pup to a Course A trainer to test for instinct a month ago. My pup showed extreme focus on sheep but still downed on command. The trainer was able to hold short leash and have her circle sheep around her in both directions. We have had 3 lessons since then and she seemed like she was progressing. She was starting to figure out "get around" on leash; walk up; and out. But, she would also try to get to the sheep when she thought nobody was looking (like if I had my attention on trainer telling me something and forgot to give a stay).

Now, I have a real HIGH DRIVE dog. Not the kind people think is high drive!! She has an extreme play drive and an extreme prey drive (chases anything that moves, cat toy with red light, butterflies, moths, chipmunks, my son (never bites just chases him down and than abruptly stops in front of him with tail wagging). So, I keep her busy with tons of exercise and many activities.

Today, we gave her a long leash after doing the prelim stuff and it wasn't pretty. She is great if sheep walk but trot or canter and it's off to races! Trainer let her be to see what she would do and she would regularly separate sheep out and chase but definitely did NOT bite down. She also still had her down and stay and would release during chase and down on command.

But, I am starting to think that she is just high in prey drive and not instinct? Or, am I overreacting.

Trainer says she can be trained and she does move off pressure of plastic fork hit on ground or once lightly on head when she got to focused (in the bad sense). Thinks she'll pass her HIC no problem. But, today she says she will not be an "easy" dog to train with her prey drive. It was new information for me.

There is just this little voice inside me that wonders if her high prey drive will be a serious problem. She doesn't really want to circle them and round them up but chase them. Is this normal or no? But, it's weird because she does have very good control (meaning she will freeze in tracks and down in middle of chasing) which is an odd mix.

She is a very confident girl but no where near alpha material. Would score mostly 3 and 4's with no 1s or 2s on test. A very sweet dog. Never had food aggression or any aggression. Very,very, very biddable and eager to please dog.

Any thoughts? Thank you in advance...
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post #2 of 25 (permalink) Old 03-18-2012, 07:22 PM
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She is a baby...she is still in the learning phase. You are expecting too much from her at this age.
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post #3 of 25 (permalink) Old 03-18-2012, 07:32 PM Thread Starter
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Well, I thought that too until a 5 month old border collie puppy blew her out of the water and actually tried to circle the sheep and herd them (not chase them like my girl) complete with a down on command.

Could it be possible that my dog just *might* have too much prey drive and not enough herding instinct? Or, am I jumping the gun and she just needs more time?

How does one know if:

1)Your dog has genetic herding instinct versus being obedient enough to be trained to herd? Not the same thing in my eyes.

2)If your dog belongs in course A or C or would that not even matter?

Thanks..... :-(
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post #4 of 25 (permalink) Old 03-18-2012, 07:34 PM
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It's hard to be sure. If you have a high drive dog, a small flock may be too flighty to be able to work easily. The sheep spook which gets the dog excited and then it spirals out of control.
If I tried to work Kessy on a small flock I think it would be a nightmare. She is just too powerful and drivey. Even with a flock of 100 she can get over-excited when moving the flock, and I have to watch her. I couldn't even imagine how she'd be with a flock of 5-10!! But with 200...she's AMAZING...the more sheep the better for her.

Sorry, it's probably not too helpful, but your dog may still have herding instinct, it may just be the flock is too small and flighty for it to show. Any chance you could find a larger flock to work?

And yes - she is still young, I wouldn't put too much pressure on her. And she may develop even more drive as she ages and might want to start gripping the sheep instead of just chasing.

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post #5 of 25 (permalink) Old 03-18-2012, 07:36 PM
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Border collies work much differently than GSD's...they work off the sheep's "bubble" and seem to grasp it at a very young age. GSD's are not meant to work like that so try not to compare your dog to the BC.
I don't know if you've seen this, but this link has some good info about herding styles...
Herding Style is Not a Fashion Statement

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post #6 of 25 (permalink) Old 03-18-2012, 07:41 PM Thread Starter
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Hi, there! Thanks! So, you think I should maybe try Course C style with more sheep?

Would keeping a boundary versus gathering and moving be less exciting for her to calm her prey drive?

She did try to mouth the back of a couple sheep's heads near the shoulders-neck area like she was trying to get on top of their neck area but she didn't bite down and I was able to call her off. I don't want her to hurt the sheep and my instructor said that her trying to do that was inappropriate.

Right now for training, she is in a round pen with 3 sheep (though they are dog trained).
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post #7 of 25 (permalink) Old 03-18-2012, 07:52 PM
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Yes - C course or HGH would be much better (IMO). The sheep will graze calmly which will keep the dog calm too. Eventually you do need to move the sheep, but that shouldn't come until the dog is steady and under control on the border. If she can't learn to maintain a border then you can be pretty sure it's just prey drive and not herding instinct.
Just be careful, your dog is still so young, we don't usually start dogs until they are at least a year old, and then the training is very slow and careful.

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post #8 of 25 (permalink) Old 03-18-2012, 08:16 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you very much for your replies and input!!

I really appreciate it!!! This gives me something to think about...... :-)
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post #9 of 25 (permalink) Old 03-18-2012, 08:22 PM
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I don't think your dog has bigtime prey drive, but she sounds like she has good play drive. (Really no such thing as play drive) What I mean is that real prey drive usually ends in biting until the dog has been corrected not to bite. I have seen very very few DDR dogs with big time prey drive, though if your dog is DDR/Czech or DDR/West then its possible. I agree with Andaka, just let the puppy grow up and continue herding. You did not describe an extremely powerful puppy in terms of drives. Sounds like a nice solid dog that will progress with the trainer as time goes on.....some instincts kick in later.
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post #10 of 25 (permalink) Old 03-18-2012, 09:05 PM Thread Starter
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Ok, thanks, Cliffson! I guess we think she has "bigtime" drive as she drives us crazy as opposed to the other dogs we have owned!!

I have never seen a dog chase that cat toy that lights up with a red light if you point it on the floor with such intensity! She chases anything that moves but doesn't know what to do with herself when she gets there!!

But, she does chill in the house. however, as soon as I get up to go to kitchen or anything she flies up and sprints to me and just stares at me or brings me a toy. Sometimes, I wish she had an off switch.

She mostly follows me around each room unless she is exhausted from exercise. I even see her nose peeking into the shower. But, when my 5 year old goes to bed she follows him up and lays with him and won't leave his bed until I come get her. Weird because it's the ONLY time she leaves me alone and doesn't follow me around with a toy or a stare to play! LOL

I can leave her alone in the house out of her crate and she is fine until we get home. She might steal my slipper and hide it in her crate (but never chews it).

On a positive note, she is always ready to go and up for anything and very biddable!

Yes, she does not bite aggressively when she chases as well.

She is almost entirely DDR bred from what I have been told.....

Thanks again for your input!
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