Drive vs Biddability

Here in part, is a recent question from the forum:
https://higginsgundogs.com.com/forum/higgins-gundogs-group1/members-only-questions-answers-forum6/drive-vs-biddability-thread137/
“I have been reading and educating myself on your method and read your comments on an older post about biddability and I thought I would ask you to comment here on a separate chain.
I wanted though to ask you to elaborate more on how your method can manage energy levels (drive) in favor of biddability. Also, whether through your method you can “permanently” or rather “consistently” shift the equation in favor of biddability while managing (but not diminishing) the drive.”

My answer:

******,
As you know, my method is unique. Unlike other methods that replace biddability with obedience (basically taking away free will), my method takes advantage of natural pack dynamics. It all boils down to trust. This bond that holds packs together, creates synergy. Synergy is defined as: “the combined power of a group of things when they are working together that is greater than the total power achieved by each working separately”.

All predator groups rely on trust to function effectively. This is why we are always building and maintaining trust in our relationship with our dogs. Biddability comes from trust. Therefore, the more we focus on the trust factor, the more biddable or trusting the dogs become.

I often talk about balance. The balance between biddability and drive. This starts with breeding. We want a dog with lots of drive, but controlled drive. A dog that chooses to stay connected to the handler. As an example, most field trial dogs are bred for drive. As a result, some can be out of balance, bred for high drive at the expense of biddability. There is also the other end of the spectrum, dogs bred for the show ring. Some have been bred for cooperation at the expense of bird drive. A truly biddable dog with good bird drive resides somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.

Regardless of a dogs natural balance, we can have a significant effect on his overall level of cooperation. We do this by helping him learn that a successful strategy for success (getting the bird in his mouth), requires that he manage and control his energy. If you think about it, he already shows us he possesses this ability. What is a point other than a control of energy?

The bottom line is, we can achieve a good balance when we handle well and help control the level of excitement. I want all the style and intensity he naturally possesses without encouraging unnecessary excitement that might cause him to flush or chase the bird. Think of it like this. A scale of one to ten. One is his level of excitement when asleep. Ten is his level of excitement when he blows out and chases a bird. At this level (10), the excitement has become unmanageable and he chases to burn the energy. How about before he reaches this level, we handle him in the field in such a way that his level does not rise above say, an eight. We help him learn to manage his level when on point so that when the bird flushes, his level goes up but stays within a manageable level. All his natural style and intensity but without the chase.

Enforced obedience or pressure in the field (hand signals, whistles, “whoa” commands, quartering commands, etc.), can often increase a dog’s energy level, making him less manageable. When I want a dog to become more manageable (biddable) in the field, I do it by removing pressure, not increasing it. For instance, if a dog on point gets pushy on his birds as I approach, I don’t add pressure with a “whoa” command or e-collar, I remove pressure by stopping, turning around and walking away. He learns that if he gets pushy, the hunt stops. When he manages himself and steadies up, I’ll return and the hunt will continue.

When we ask our dogs to include us in their hunt, we must remember that this is their dance. As group predators, they were born with all the necessary information to learn to be successful. We need to have respect and remember, our goal is not to make them a tool in our hunt. Our goal is being invited to join them in theirs.

The video below shows a young dog asking for help (deferring). Using her own free will, she is learning that she needs my help to be successful. Please read the text that accompanies the video.

Higgins


About the author
Brad Higgins, professional dog trainer and creator of the unique Higgins Method of dog/handler training.

2 Comments on "Drive vs Biddability"

  1. I am not sure what to say. I watched the the video a couple of times and the trust was very evident, the point perfect and the dog got the reward it was awsome.

    • Thank you Dennis. If you would like to discuss the dogs, hunting and training, please come on over to the forum and join the discussions.

      All the best,

      Brad Higgins

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