Depends heavily on the dog. In order to avoid any "I.E." accusations, I'll describe only my dogs, as I have two very different dogs. In the general sense, as I said before, I believe teaching should be done in prey, then when the dog has a solid understanding, begin introducing more stress and working more in defense or fight drive... as everyone has slightly different use of those words, I'll define them for the context of my post. This is what I mean when I use the words:
Prey drive - chasing the ball, chasing the leather roll, bite pillow, early sleeve work, etc. The drive has no emotion in it. Its purely instinct, and doesn't cloud the dog's mind like other drives. The other drives all make learning more difficult. Learning is most easily done in prey.
Defensive drive - self preservation by meeting an imminent threat of violence with violence. This drive is one coupled with and triggered by stress. A dog with low defense and high prey should never be a working k9, but can certainly achieve a schh title (not saying they should, but thats reality)
Fight drive - "the best defense is a good offense".. meeting a perceived threat with violence before that threat's violence is imminent. I believe this is less stress than defensive drive, and marks a dog that really enjoys the fight. I believe this is the only one that is not present in most dogs (across all breeds). The other two are always present in some degree.
My female is extreme high prey drive, by anyone's measure that has seen or worked with her. Defense is there, but the astronomical prey means the defense drive must be intentionally stimulated in order to work in that drive in order to get it high enough to not be overshadowed by the prey drive. With her, stress is put on her, otherwise bite work becomes too much about the sleeve and not about an interaction with the helper. Push the stress just a little too high and she says "I'm done with the stupid game" and goes for the helper. She is extremely fast and has gotten the drop on a number of people, so this is not ideal simply from a safety standpoint, forget about training goals. Lots of whip or stick can easily push her defense very high.. when that happened, we can still train, but less of the session's lessons stick with her. She is presently getting more and more stress introduced to bring intensity into her b&h and stop any focus or persistent attention to the sleeve. After an overly stressful session you can see the stress manifesting itself in wanting to put the sleeve down and thrashing, getting chewy, lack of calmness on the bite, etc.
My male has high prey drive, but very high fight and defense drive. He has to be worked in a particular way. For him, he wants to fight the helper, and the sleeve is just what he knows he is allowed to bite. Eye contact, squaring off, walking in with a bunch of presence, pretty much ensures you will get him highly loaded in fight drive. This is great down the road, but when teaching it is really a hinderance. Teaching him has to be done in prey, or its just a big sparring match where not much was really accomplished other than him getting his dominate urges satisfied. It looks cool and intense to a bystander, but its counterproductive. When we are teaching behaviors, the helper always presents him a side profile, no eye contact, lots and lots of sleeve movement to keep him in prey. His sessions are very short and frequent. Its not that the stress would ever cause him to go into avoidance, or that he can't "take it", its simply that teaching in full on fight drive is not nearly as effective as teaching in prey. When I like what I see in his b&h built on a prey foundation, we'll allow him to fight a bit more... otherwise we are rewarding less than ideal behavior.
At the end of the process, both dogs will have correct, very intense, fight/defense driven bark and holds. Most importantly, they will be operating out of well exercised behaviors that are now second nature to them, and they don't need to think much about what they are doing. At that point, I can let the helper lay on the stress on either dog.
Just so we are clear, a dog only ever trained in prey is not honoring the point of schh IMO. It seems that if you tell someone the dog is too stressed, they take it as a shot at their ego, and respond with "oh no, my dog isn't stressed, he can take that" blah blah blah... ego's are the biggest hurdle in training I've seen.. asking for too much too fast, being blind to whats happening in front of your eyes that is easy to fix if you only realize whats happening, etc.
Who learns for a math test better, a child who is positively encouraged to do his best, given the material and teaching guidance he needs, and put through the stress of a final exam once he's built a solid understanding of mathematics, or the child that is told "the test is friday.. if you fail it, you'll lose your nintendo, be grounded for a month, etc"... learning under stress is simply less effective. In the same line of thinking, do martial artists learn by the instructor saying "here's how you block a punch... alright I'm going to punch for real, so make sure you block it" and inevitably gets punched in the face a few times before he gets it (but invariably never has perfect form), or the instructor who demonstrates the maneuver and has the student repeat and repeat with an imaginary attacker until the brain does it without any thought and the form is perfect, and then proofs and hones the block with real punches?
Hunter, CWDC UScA Helper
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