In the wake of Westminster, and reading peoples' reactions to the appearance of the German Shepherds, I've been thinking a lot about working versus show in the context of breeding. My understanding is that German Shepherds did not always have the rear assembly that they do now, and that working lines of German Shepherds still look "normal", as it were. The slopes of their backs are not so extreme, they're not walking down on their hocks, etc.
And then I thought about Dobermans. Working Dobermans vs. Show ones, thankfully, do not have gross physical departures from one another. The AKC Doberman breed standard is to ensure a physically sound dog; one that can be as agile and athletic as the job entails. Mentally sound as well, so far as the standard covers it, as "a judge shall dismiss from the ring any shy or vicious Doberman." A stable working dog is neither shy nor vicious, but rather alert and confident.
In Internet circles, I do see complaints that American show Dobermans are softer than their European counterparts, and softer and less drive-y than working lines in general. So, what does "drive" mean, anyway?
There are different types of drive (courtesy of Schutzhund Village): prey drive, defense drive, aggression drive, and fighting drive. Different sources will name different drives (play drive isn't listed here, you'll notice!), but that's a good source (that lists yet another source) and I think that covers it. When I talked about Schutzhung back in May, I covered that it had three components (Tracking, obedience, protection), but re-reading that post, I didn't really detail very much, now did I? Heck, I've even got a book that I've only partially read, Schutzhund Obedience: Training in Drive, and though I feel I have an understanding of what "drive" means in this context, and can use it correctly in a sentence, how to explain?
In layman's terms (and if I'm wrong here, I hope a Schutzhund person will correct me before I embarrass myself for too long!) drive is motivation; it's the "go get 'em!" force and instinct. In a non-protection example, a Greyhound that excels at something like lure coursing might have a very strong prey drive; she sees that lure as prey, and MUST HAVE IT.
The difference in Schutzhund is that one wants to tap and temper that drive, all at the same time. An out of control dog is of no use to anybody. Whichever of the drives are being "activated", they're also tempered and harnessed through training and routine, so that the Schutzhund dog has confidence and judgement.
I've thought about wanting a dog with more drive in the future. The intent of that statement is not to run down Elka; Elka is the perfect Doberman for me at this time. I could not have handled a high drive puppy as my first Doberman, I would have simply and succinctly gone mad. The energy and management and occupation that Elka required (and sometimes still requires) is far more than I ever anticipated, and because she does in fact also know just how to be a bum, we're still living happily together.
Since my dog education, much as I tried before, really only took off after I got Elka, I know more (of like to think I do) about different lines, different aptitudes, that sort of thing. I've got her five generation pedigree from the AKC, and there are a lot of dogs from Europe in there with both working and conformation titles, Graaf Quirinus van Neerlands Stam, for an example, an international Champion who also earned the Schutzhund III title (that's the last one, if you wondered). Also, the nearest Schutzhund (or French Ring) clubs to me are an hour in either direction, which puts a damper on seeking that kind of dog. Admittedly, if I was really dedicated, an hour wouldn't seem too bad. Clearly, I'm not. It's interesting how I accidentally dropped myself into such a dog training bereft area.
Any time I think about puppies, I get giddy, I admit it. I love Elka, and she's still a lot like a puppy (Even though she'll be 3 in May! 3!) and I wouldn't trade her in, that's for sure. I temper my puppy needs with looking at people's Puppy Corner posts over on Doberman Talk, and also with reminders of what having a puppy is really like. Management, vigilance, and redirection. And I watch the following video, and think, really, about how easy we had it after all: So You Think You Want a High Drive Puppy.
(note: I would love to link the video here so you could see it, but YouTube in conjunction with Blogger just won't find it when I search for some frustrating reason. So, enjoy.)