Drive and Motivation in Border Collies

May 24, 2021
drive and motivation in border collies

Drive in dog training is how much a dog wants something and how much intensity and energy they put into doing a specific task.

Different breeds and different individuals will have different drives depending on what is their genetic predisposition and some dogs will be driven by more then one thing.

Knowing what your dog’s breed is driven for it’s one of the most most important characteristic you should look at when picking a breed as that will tell you how easy or difficult training, management and living with a dog will be.

To give you two examples:

-a Beagle, a hound with a high prey drive and use of their nose to detect scents in order to follow a track, will be driven to find that scent and follow it until their find their prey

– a Border Collie will be driven by chasing things that move and try to stop them and eventually bring them back to their owner like they would do with

a flock of sheep.

Each breed’s drive is essential not only to know which dog you will end up living with but also to be able to use what they are driven for and build motivation to do things for you and train with you.

Motivation is the reason why the dog will do something and sometimes it takes time to build it especially if it’s a behaviour that it doesn’t come natural to the dog. Toys, food, breed specific resources, social interaction… they are all rewards you can use to build motivation to do a certain task. In time your dog will love doing it just for the fun of doing it and because the relationship with you it’s so strong that no matter the reward, doing something together is very rewarding!

When picking a toy for example, stop and ask yourself what is my dog going to love most? How fluffy, how long and what material is my dog going to like? I often see students coming to class with a rope toy and a tiny puppy and they claim the dog doesn’t like playing! You need to find the appropriate toy for your dog’s age and breed.

The same happens with treats. I consider the average dog training treats you find in pet shops not so “rewarding”. They are usually hard, dry and with a lot of fillers so not much good stuff that makes them tasty and rewarding enough. Use high quality dog treats, fresh meat or make your own!

What else can be rewarding for you dog? Another activity! Swimming, running, digging, chasing are all behaviours that are so much fun for some dogs that can become a reward for doing something.

The environment can be very rewarding for your dog and you need to be careful that they don’t get reinforced by running away and go to play with a dog far away from you: that action of running and then playing with another dog, for a dog that is driven by social interaction for example, it’s teaching your dog that running away to play is cool and must be trying to do it again.

Another example of a common use of reinforcer that most owners are unaware of is an extendible lead: your dog wants to go somewhere to sniff or wee and has an extendible lead on that the owner unfasten to give the dog more room to roam is reinforcing the behaviour of pulling on the lead!! The dog pulls, you let the lead extend and the dog gets reinforced as he obtained what he wanted.

I hope this blogs will help someone to understand that dogs don’t do things because they are naughty but because their drive and motivation lies in something different from what you would expect! This is when training comes in and helps you channelling that drive and turn the motivation to your advantage!

Martina Miradoli Border Coolie Expert Dog trainer

Hello, my name is Martina Miradoli and I specialise in training Border Collies.

I’ve owned Border Collies for many years and have trained them, along with other herding breeds in every sport and activity available.

This has allowed me to gain invaluable experience and an understanding of these unique dogs and the behavioural challenges that we may have to face as owners. 

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