Presa Canario Episode

Any time new episodes of It’s Me or the Dog are airing on Animal Planet in the US, Victoria will answer questions about that episode later that week. Post your questions to Victoria about the most recent episode here anytime.

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Joined:Fri Apr 22, 2011 11:31 pm
Re: Presa Canario Episode

Post by abndogos » Mon May 02, 2011 8:21 pm

Dognut, it IS due to the innate trait of wanting to be "dominant" that this breed is bred for, coupled with training.

We utilize different "drives" in order to train dogs,both your average "pet" and "working" dog.

Understanding your dog's drives

A guide to understanding your dog using the Volhard Drive Profile.

Dogs are not all the same. They vary in their temperament and behavioural characteristics as well as in their physical features. There are many ways of classifying temperament and behaviour. This article will look at ways of assessing dogs in terms of their drives and behavioural profile. Individual and breed characteristics will be considered.

The “drive profile”

A “drive” is a collection of inherited, instinctive behaviours. The combination and intensity of these drives in each individual dog has a great influence over its temperament and overall type. In the Volhard Canine Personality Profile, there are forty questions (48 in the version given in the book). You are asked to answer them according to how your dog would naturally tend to behave, not according to how it behaves as a result of training. For example, your dog might be inclined to jump up or steal food, but because of training does not actually do those things.

Wendy Volhard says the dog has four drives : Prey drive, Pack drive and Defence drive, which is divided into Defence (fight) and Defence (flight). She describes the drives as follows :

Prey drive

Prey drive governs the behaviour associated with hunting, killing and feeding. The basic trait of this drive is hunger. Prey drive is stimulated by movement, especially the senses of seeing, and hearing. The behaviour associated with prey drive includes scenting tracking, stalking, chasing, barking, pouncing, jumping up, shaking, tearing, digging, burying and eating. Prey drive is seen when your dog chases cat, “kills” soft toys by shaking them from side to side, carries bone to the bottom of the garden or chases a passing leaf.

Pack drive

The basic trait of this drive is reproductive behaviour and desire to be part of the pack. The origin of pack drive is the need for the dog to co-operate and fit in with the social life of the pack in order to survive, hunt and reproduce. It is stimulated by the dog’s rank order in the pack. Physical contact, playing, social interaction, licking, reading body language and breeding are all pack behaviour.

Defence drive

The basic trait of this drive is self-preservation. Defence drive is stimulated by threat to self, territory or prey. Defence Fight is stimulated when the dog stands its ground, moves towards unfamiliar things, or guards territory. It is more likely to be found in mature dogs. Defence Flight is stimulated when the dog is unsure in the face of a threat and retreats.
Dogs vary in the relative strength of their various drives. Many of the purposes for which pure breeds have been developed reflect specialisation. One drive has been exaggerated. For example, guarding breeds represent an exaggeration of Defence (Fight) drive. Clearly a breed with low fight and high flight would be unsuited to this purpose. Many working dogs, such as the herding breeds, specialise in the chasing stage of the hunt, but not the kill at the end. Prey drive has been broken down by breeders into many specialised tasks, such as herding, tracking, pointing, setting, springing and field retrieving.
To make use of the drives theory in training you have to know what drive is appropriate for a given exercise and how to switch the dog from one drive to another.

Drives and obedience exercises

The various obedience exercises we teach our dogs also vary according to what drive they are based on. For example, obedience retrieving is based on prey drive, although it is further from the dog’s natural origins than field retrieving. Jumping also requires Prey drive, but it has to be in combination with Pack drive. Exercises such as heeling require the dog to be in Pack drive. Stand for examination requires Pack drive, but is really a test of the absence of Defence behaviour. If the dog is in the wrong drive, it is likely to fail the exercise. Prey drive is inappropriate for a stay. The dog is likely to chase a passing butterfly.
Wendy Volhard describes how by leaning over a sensitive (low fight) dog as she gave the stay signal, saying “stay” with a harsh tone and flashing her hand signal in front of the dog’s face, she put the dog into Defence drive, leading to anticipation or hesitant recalls. Instead she touched him gently on the head, putting him into Pack drive, left him without a hand signal, and used a light voice. She kept her body posture upright, and smiled in a relaxed way, eliciting Pack drive. On the call part of the exercise, she lent back as far as she could and raised her arms and called him in a high pitched tone of voice. This put him into Prey drive, where he loved to be. Not only did the dog stay until called, but he came in eagerly. After he had sat in front, she brought her hands to her side, straightened her body and praised him, putting him back into Pack drive.

How to elicit or switch drives

Body posture is important. For example, leaning over your dog can put her into Defence drive; standing up straight with relaxed body posture and facial expression puts her into Pack drive and leaning back with rapid hand movement or running away puts her into Prey drive.
Prey drive is elicited by hand signals (i.e. movement), high-pitched voice, an object of attraction such as a toy or food, chasing and being chased and movement away from the dog.
Pack drive is elicited by touching, praising and smiling. Grooming, playing and relaxed upright body posture all bring out pack drive.
Defence drive is elicited by a threat to the dog’s physical safety, social status or territory. This can be produced by leaning over the dog, from the front or side, physical correction or verbal reprimands, a harsh tone of voice or signals and movement which the dog perceives as threatening.
Using drives means that you put your dog in the correct drive for the exercise you want to do, and you use appropriate body language (as well as a formal command) to communicate with your dog. You can adapt your training techniques to your dog’s “drive profile” - just as you would adapt to a dog’s temperament. The effect of drives on the dog’s trainablity is shown in the following table.

Effect of drives on trainability


• responds well to food and toys
• easily motivated but also easily distracted


• not easily motivated by food or toys
• not easily distracted


• responds well to praise and touch
• easily motivated by social rewards, “likes to please”


• not easily motivated, usually bred to work independently
• will have to rely on prey drive in training


• will not be sensitive to correction, but may react with defensive biting or physical resistance to handling


• will be sensitive to correction and may react adversely to threatening body language


• will be badly affected by compulsion and mild correction
• extremely sensitive to minor threats perceived in voice, facial expressions or body language


• will not be as easily upset by body language, leaning, physical handling and mild reprimands
• if accompanied by high Fight and Prey will be difficult to train

Individual drive profiles

If we look at the drive profile of individual dogs, their reactions to training and their individual problems become easier to understand. You can then solve the problem by “switching drives”. For example, don’t put a dog into Defence drive when you are doing a recall. Motivate with Prey Drive if the dog is low in Pack Drive. If you have a dog high in Prey Drive and low in Pack drive, you can use food and toys to motivate the dog to do heeling and other exercises requiring Pack drive. Praise or patting alone will not be enough, and if the dog is low in Fight or high in Flight, praise combined with correction will stress the dog excessively.

Col 01

Col 11

Col 21
















The chart shows the difference between Vally and River. Valley is high in Prey Drive, moderate in Pack Drive and low in both Fight and Flight Defence Drives. Her Prey Drive dominates her behaviour. She is excitable and strongly motivated by food. She readily learnt to “speak” for food. She is interested in toys such as retrieving articles if they are “alive”. She will even nudge or throw them in the air like a cat, but loses interest if they stop moving. It has been more difficult to bring her retrieving under “Pack” control. She will be reluctant to compete with a higher ranking animal for an article. Her Pack Drive is moderate, just strong enough to take control of the Prey Drive with effort. The fact that she lives happily with my cat indicates that it is possible to bring her Prey Drive under Pack control. Her low Fight Drive means that she is sensitive to correction and is easily upset if she is not in Prey Drive. It also means she is comfortable with her lower status within the pack, and does not have a drive to challenge - except perhaps if there was a conflict between her strong Prey Drive and her Pack position - such as a dispute about a bone. Her moderate Pack Drives is seen in the way she acknowledges her own pack but tends to be stand-offish with strangers. Low Fight could mean a lack of confidence. However, in Valley’s case, her Flight Drive is even lower. This is apparent as she is not fearful, and does not run away or display aggression when being handled. However, it could lead to a “freeze” response, which Wendy Volhard regards a “getting stuck” between Fight and Flight. While Valley does not totally freeze, she can become very anxious in a situation where she is unsure of herself.

River on the other hand is moderate in Prey Drive, higher in Pack drive, higher than Valley in Fight (although she is still only moderate) and very low in Flight. This means that she has sufficient Prey Drive to be motivated by food and interested in retrieving, but these activities are more likely to be successfully subordinated to her Pack behaviour. Her moderately high Pack Drive gives her a quality of responsiveness and willingness and makes her a “people” dog. She is motivated by working, and the lines between Pack and Prey are blurred. However, only in rare moments (such as when a rabbit popped up in front of her) will Prey overcome Pack Drive. The moderate Fight Drive makes her a confident dog, but one that finds compulsion stressful. She is not strongly inclined to fight back if attacked, but is a confident alarm barker in situations which do not present a threat. Her very low Flight Drive means she is not easily threatened and unlikely to be upset by minor gestures. She is more likely to be sensitive to Pack communication.

If her Fight and Prey Drives were as high as her Pack Drives, she would be more highly motivated by work, and less susceptible to stress, but probably more difficult dog to handle and live with.
If Pack and Prey Drives were moderately high, but Fight was low and Flight was higher, the dog would be difficult to train because it would be sensitive to body posture and would need a lot of motivation to overcome stress.

A dog that is high in Prey Drive and low in Pack, high in Fight but low in Flight will be a very difficult dog to handle and train. The dog will be very independent, because of its low Pack Drive, but inclined to be dominant or to resist control because of its Fight Drive. A combination of high Prey and Fight Drives could also mean a likelihood of predatory or animal aggression. Such a dog will have to be motivated through its Prey Drive and trained in a way that does not stimulate its defence reflexes. The dog will be highly distractable and find its owner uninteresting.

Joined:Fri Apr 22, 2011 11:31 pm

Re: Presa Canario Episode

Post by abndogos » Mon May 02, 2011 8:29 pm

emmabeth wrote:I don't quite know where you get the impression that a/ the dog in the video wants to as you put it 'bite the sh*t out of the guy in the bite suit, or that b/the petting/stroking is enjoyable for the dog and not provoking it further.

The dog quite clearly is very very excited and eager at the chance to bite, she enjoys this work as is evidenced by her nigh on dragging the handler to the target guy. Shes clearly trained to bite the suit and only the suit, and not let go regardless of what goes on, whether its stroking, hitting (he does hit her) grabbing her face (he does that several times) pulling on her skin (he does that on top of her head) or yelling ouch.

Several of the things he does are not remotely calming and saying 'goooood girl' repeatedly isnt calming either, though it may well be rewarding the bite work.

She has plenty of opportunity to bite the sh*t otu of him, on the face and hands, or to redirect onto the guy on teh end of the leash but she doesn't do that - I would guess because she has been trained to bite certain areas of the body and is targetting those.

So where exactly is the dominance in a dog doing enthusiastically, that which shes been trained to do?
If you notice the dog digs(or tries to dig in deeper) trying to get the man in the suit. This dog wants to get at the man in the suit. How do I know this? Because I know the owner of this dog and I have spoken to him about what the dog is doing or wanting to do. You say it is because of training...if this was ALL due to training, don;t you think that you could train almost any dog to do this? Or do you think that there is an innate desire to want to control this person? Again, it boils down to DRIVES, please read the article and the link I posted above. PS, the "calming" is part of the training, to keep the dog "calm" on the, no thrashing or growling, just staying locked on the bite no matter what. So there is "calming" going on here, even though you don;t perceive it that way, but that is because you don;t know this kind of training and have never seen it before.

Joined:Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:48 pm

Re: Presa Canario Episode

Post by jacksdad » Mon May 02, 2011 8:35 pm

DogNut wrote:The argument that nobody would intentionally breed dogs that are human aggressive is only true for responsible breeders
Point I was trying to make was original breed intent, not the result of poor/irresponsible breeding practices and was NOT referring to aggressiveness. abndogos and I are at least in agreement on that, this discussion isn't about aggressiveness in dogs. either through original intent of the breed creation, nor current poor breeding practices. IF there is such a trait as "dominance" (ie the desire to control humans through taking over as leader) I seriously doubt that trait would have survived the selective breeding process. It makes NO sense to domesticate, then selectively breed for traits that will make life easier for us, but leave this one that creates a battle of wills for who is in charge.

Jiml, you can dismiss this as "getting caught up in their experts definition of words", but having a majority agreement on the definition is highly important. where is the value if I define being dominant with your dog as "lovingly petting your dog while stuffing it with treats" but someone else defines it as "beat your dog once a day regardless if it needs it or not" and who knows what else in between. this cause confusion and miscommunication and people are doing things that are counter productive in best case and dangerous and abusive in worst case because this term we argue over is so loosely defined and broadly used to suite almost whoever whims.
abndogos wrote:The video clip is one of dominance, it is what these kind of dogs are bred for, their desire to dominate a human being.

And here I though Shepards were bred to work with flocks...learn something new everyday :wink: :lol:

Joined:Fri Apr 22, 2011 11:31 pm

Re: Presa Canario Episode

Post by abndogos » Mon May 02, 2011 8:50 pm

And here I though Shepards were bred to work with flocks...learn something new everyday
LOL, ya, that is why they are the most used dog in police work, to work with flocks (flocks of criminals :lol: :shock: )

Joined:Tue Oct 17, 2006 9:24 pm
Location:West Midlands

Re: Presa Canario Episode

Post by emmabeth » Tue May 03, 2011 3:18 am

Before I lock this, since it is way WAY off topic AND discussing things not pertinent in your own words to PET dog training AND because in my opinion you have come here to 'troll' and not to take part in the forum in a general sense....

1/ Prey drive high = food/ toy desire high therefore Prey drive low = food/toy desire low....

SNORT! You don't get much higher prey drive than working sighthounds which I own and also Nettle owns. (Hers are FAR more worky than mine, hers are the result of generations of breeding for working lurchers that do the job and do it well, don't quit when prey fights back etc etc)...

Yet their interest in toys and food rewards is unbelievably low! Barely existant AT ALL. So that blows your (or Volhards) theory outta the water there.

2/ The dog in the video did NOT want to get the guy outta the suit, if she DID she'd have gone for his face and his hands. She did not do this. Show me the video OF her doing just that and I will believe what you say. I watched other vids of her and other dogs by that youtube user, they all show dogs trained for Schutzhund work, all enjoying working as they have been trained to do.

Yes, obviously some dogs through breeding and selection for a job are naturally better at that job than other breeds would be. But would you state that a lurcher going after a rabbit was dominant because it did the job swiftly and efficiently and better than a King Charles Spaniel did? NO. Would you call a champion obedience collie who clears up at every show 'dominant' because hes winning all the prizes and super good at his job?....

You probably want to read Volhards website a little more in depth, they admit themselves that the methods they use are not suitable or practical for pet dogs nor pet dog owners. In their own words the dogs they own created by breeding and the way they train them are NOT easy going family pets that can be taken to the park and let off lead, or left loose around children even IF supervised. That ISNT down to the breeds they choose, but that they choose dogs bred for aggression and a propensity towards using aggression in the first instance, and they way they train them. Its hardly an advert for sensible training or sensible dog ownership!
West Midlands based 1-2-1 Training & Behaviour Canine Consultant