Q and A About Drive in Shibas

First, I ordered this sick Agitation Collar with felt lining and handle for Grym. He is at the right height for me so I can collar walk him without having to bend over, but his current Lupine martingale gets buried in his coat and is near impossible to grab in case of emergency. COs also tend to carry their heads really low, so collar grabs are difficult, and I usually end up holding on to his tail instead. This new collar has a grab handle, so will be perfect for when he needs to leave the house, or if guests come over. It is wide enough and padded so it won’t hurt him by pulling either.

Agitation collars are used mainly for sport work such as in Schutzhund. The dogs will throw a lot of weight in to the gear during the tests, so they need to be supremely durable. I don’t do any of that with Grym, but I liked the functional design of the collar and I think it will prove useful. He is after all, well over 100lbs. He gets to wear it next time he goes herding.

Grym goes herding part 1
Grym goes herding part 2

Question time: Shibamistress asks, “Can you tell us the difference in behavior between a “sharp” or “drivey” Shiba and a more laid back one? How would that play out in every day life? How could you tell if a puppy was likely to be sharp?”

Well, I’m no expert on drive, or with dogs, but I will give it a shot. There are different drives in dogs, basically some internal factor (instinct) that motivates an individual dog to do something that is rewarding to the dog. These things are inherited, but not always obvious. If a dog has a strong response to a certain instinct, then it can be said that the dog has a strong drive for that instinct. Most often discussed are prey, play, food and defense drive, but there are others such as sex drive, and social drive.

The instincts are all there, in varying amounts, and training can do a lot to nurture them. I’m definitely not saying a Shiba will ever become a world class pointer, or personal protection dog, or take to dock diving with a little training, but training will help to bring to full potential whatever the dog already has.

I think “drive” and “sharpness” can still be pretty subjective terms, and sharpness of temperament does not necessarily correlate with drive or describe it well. I consider a sharp dog, as one who tends to be a bit quarrelsome, alert, keen, edgy and can be more “aggressive”. Here is an explanation of sharpness, although there is some dominance nonsense at the end. The definition in that PDF for sharpness is fairly accurate for Beebe.

I don’t think a dog with a slightly sharper temperament is a bad thing however. The dog that appears more lively and alert with a slightly higher degree of reactivity may be beneficial in a dog that is expected to hunt dangerous animals or alert to danger, so I actually do tend to favor a slightly sharper Shiba, as is described in our breed standard, “alert and agile with keen senses, he is also an excellent watchdog and companion.” However, this type of Shiba may require more management and may not do as well in larger groups of dogs. A very sharp dog sounds quite difficult to manage, IMO.

So, what I look for in puppies that I know I will be wanting to do performance or competition with, is play and prey drive, with a little sharpness. I want to see a puppy that is bold, engaging and biddable (social), but not effusive, who is alert and keen and motivated internally to want to interact with people. These types of puppies like to play games such as chase the human, and tug, and they are not shy. I am thrilled when they do retrieves and come to find me to show off and try and get me to play some more. It also makes me grin when I watch one of these kinds of puppies see or hear something spooky and march right up to it like a little show dog and give a pip squeak bark, then toddle off to play. I mean, how cute is that?

The laid back puppies are more chill and pretty darn sweet. They would likely be the best and easiest temperaments to live with as long as they are not too shy or fearful, and those puppies would be suitable for most people. They should be pretty agreeable, sweet, attentive and gentle. There may be some really good play or prey drive there also. In general, this type of puppy would be fairly non reactive and steady, and would probably be easier to run with other dogs in a group.

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