top of page

Hard-Wired Behavior
What was your dog bred to do?

What's your special talent?  Your passion?  Your life's work?

Imagine being an artist who is forbidden pencils or paint?  A musician who isn't allowed to sing or even tap their foot?  A dancer who is told to hold still when irresistible music draws you to your feet?  Your dog needs an outlet for his innate talents.  A sniffy dog's gotta sniff!

There is a time and a place.

You shouldn't belt out opera at 2AM or dance on the freeway.  Dogs need to learn to not hunt for your sandwich on the counter or take you off your feet while on a walk because they caught a scent.  The neighbor's won't enjoy your dogs "songs" at 2AM either.


All dogs, regardless of breed, are DOGS first, with individual personalities, temperaments, and talents.

They aren't surrogate humans, even though I may call myself my dog's "mom."  Within every litter of purebred dogs, each puppy is an individual with varying degrees of breed "type" and levels of drive that will be affected by socialization, experience, and training.

Domesticated canines were selected to work and play with humans.  All dogs are helpers, hunters, herders, and watch dogs.  Every breed was selected for a certain look, a temperament, and a purpose.  All are companions, although some are selective about who is part of their inner circle.  Some dogs are more doting than others. 

What was YOUR dog's breed, or mix of breeds, selected to do?


Arbee is half Mini-Cattledog, half Jack Russell, with a little Border Collie and Border Terrier.  She leans toward the Mini-Cattledog in looks and size, although some of her litter have wiry terrier coat with moustaches and beards.


Arbee has a strong terrier tenacity to hunt.  She loves to play tug.  True to her heeler heritage, she has a strong talent for chasing things that move - balls, frisbees, but also snow shovels, rakes, brooms, wheels ... and legs.  This means we must channel her talents to things that are appropriate to chase.  It will take time and patience to help her learn to be calm around things I need her to be calm around.  We also mind her arousal threshold.  If allowed to get too excited, over-arousal could turn into obsessive chasing and noisy barking.


Herding is herding - balls, lawn mowers, kids, or cattle.

Counter-conditioning - teaching an alternative behavior to replace an undesired one.


I can't have her herding the lawn mower or my legs while I mow.  We gave her an outlet for her chase drive and one that will keep her satisfied and playing away from the lawnmower.  She loves to herd the blue ball.  She will choose it over just about anything else.  The ball comes out when the lawn mower comes out.  If her attention wanders toward the lawn mower, the lawn mower stops.  The engine is off and the mower and I are still.  There is nothing to chase.  I kick the ball, she switches to the mower and I go back to mowing.  The ball is rewarding, the mower is 100% not rewarding.

This handout may be reprinted in its entirety for distribution free of charge and with full credit given:
© CAROL A. BYRNES "DIAMONDS IN THE RUFF" Training for Dogs & Their People -
ditr_training @ -




bottom of page