Instinctively, dogs are hunters and scavengers, granted some more than others. Even today, the genes of certain breeds incessantly yelp for the adrenalin rushing stimulation of the chase and thrill of the victory of their hunt. Nature furnished them with that extraordinary drive in order to continue to exist.
Low prey drive dogs are quite content to sit on your lap, or at your feet with the remote control nearby. Over thousands of years of human companionship has diluted that instinct and drive for excitement and survival. They normally get along well with the other animals in the house. To them, the sound of a can opener is music to their ears and a lot less exhausting than having to chase down a meal every day.
None-the-less, there are those dogs with phenomenally high prey drives that nothing but a good chase will take the edge off. They are the epitome of the canine hunter/provider. Humans have to take some responsibility in this behavior. In a number of cases, to transform the animal to our needs, we have encouraged and rewarded that drive and behavior.
The term drive means something your dog inherently finds rewarding and they don’t need you to provide it. It is a natural drive, for a Beagle to stick their nose to the ground and follow it. It does not need to be persuaded into tracking or chasing. They are difficult to train to recall, because the chase and the hunt are their ultimate reward.
Australian Shepherds and Border Collies have an innate drive to herd and control, yet are usually biddable to training and rewards. This makes them easy to train. They humor us by conforming, yet they retain a degree of intelligent disobedience, just in case they need it.
Biddable vs. non-biddable is how dogs respond to their inherent instincts and drive, as well as their willingness to interact with their owners or handlers.
A dog or breed deemed biddable is one that as a rule has a high need for human companionship and leadership. They are obedient and submissive to their human leader. This willingness and desire to please, makes them easy to train and control. Praise, a ball or a treat is their ultimate reward. They are also quite liberal in the forgiving department.
A dog or breed that requires less need for human companionship and leadership is considered a breed that is non-biddable. They are less forgiving and more emotionally detached, independent and self-directed. Pleasing their owner/handler is not their priority. Self-reward is their objective. This makes them more difficult to train and control.
Low Prey Drive/Low Biddable
Here we have a dog that isn’t much into chasing, yet isn’t all that thrilled about being told what to do. You’ll find many of the companion, guardian and herding breeds, such as Great Pyrenees, Bernese and Greater Swiss Mountain dogs in this group. They prefer to think for themselves, but will politely acquiesce when prompted. To them, it’s “OK, 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 low prey drive and high in the biddable department. Collies and Old English Sheepdogs fit into this group. Their need to please their person makes them easy to train and far outweighs their desire to chase anything. They, as a rule play well with others, be it animal or human. This is the perfect dog for someone with minimal experience with dog ownership, or someone who has little time or inclination to work with and train his or her pet. Almost by nature, they make incredible service and therapy dogs. Here is the dog that simply throws his or her paws up and says, “Whatever makes you happy, makes me happy too!”
High Prey/High Biddable
In this group consists of mostly herding, working and some sporting breeds. Here you will typically find German and Australian Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Golden and Labrador Retrievers. These are breeds that have an unbelievable natural work ethic. They are the dogs that thrive on a blend of human companionship, high biddability yet they maintain just enough intelligent disobedience to keep you on your toes. They require intense physical and mental stimulation, in addition to fair, firm and consistent leadership. To their credit, they are forgiving when their owner or handler screws up! They love to learn and interact with their humans and other animals. Dogs in this group excel on teamwork and trust. In some cases, that bonding and teamwork can make the difference between life and death. They are fierce competitors and hard workers in herding, pulling, agility, flyball, search and rescue, security, cadaver, drug and bomb sniffing. They make wonderful pets for individuals who have the time and energy to invest in making their pet’s natural passion, plus willingness to please, develop to their full potential. “Did you see me? Wanna see me do it again?” is how these dogs think.
High Prey Drive/Low Biddable
Here are the challengers! You may as well be talking to yourself. Terriers, Corgis, sight, sound and scent hounds commonly pack this group. They enjoy human companionship, to a limit. They pick and choose who or what they want to listen to, or play with…and it’s generally not the family cat or even another dog in the house. They are unyielding believers in the “You aren’t the boss of me!” philosophy. They are by and large intelligent, yet can be frustratingly difficult to train. They believe the older they get, the dumber we get. High self-esteem is no problem for this dog! When they are on the job, 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 thrilled to relate countless stories about the hours they have spent driving around, with a leash in one hand, calling their adored dog that has selective hearing. A high prey drive/low biddable dog is not one for an inexperienced or meek owner. This dog needs fair, firm and consistent leadership at all times. They need to be reminded regularly, just who is the boss! One look in their eyes tells you they are thinking, “Whatever!”
Bottom line: To figure out which is the right dog for you, give serious consideration to the level of their instincts, prey drive and biddable vs. non-biddable qualities. It will make a huge difference in how compatible you are with your pet.
When getting a puppy, make sure you meet their parents. That will give you a good indicator for the future. From their parents you will have a fair assessment of a puppy’s drive, instincts and how biddable they will be.
Mixed breeds with a combination of what you are looking for can be an excellent choice. Mutts often make the best pets!