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A dog's Defense Drive protects him from perceived threats to health and survival as it “keeps him on his toes.” Unlike the Prey Drive, the Defense Drive does not decrease as the dog gets tired. No matter a dog’s exhaustion, he is still going to react to some one or thing he perceives as a threat until he is so exhausted that he basically keels over.
Based on his temperament and stability, the Defense Drive triggers behaviors ranging from (not desired) fight and flight to (more desired) avoidance or (best) submission.
When a dog’s brain triggers his Defense Drive, he is not comfortable. He feels threatened and becomes stressed. A defensive dog is initially insecure. Any bark will become deep and serious, the hair on his back (“hackles”) will raise which is a natural reaction to look bigger and more serious. And he may growl, snarl or show teeth in hopes of scaring whatever is threatening him away. Compared to being in the Prey Drive, the tail is carried much lower. It is not wagging but has hard, lateral punches back and forth.
Defense Drive in Dominant Dogs
The Defense “Fight” Drive is seen in dominant dogs who confidently stand their ground. They walk too tall and upright, and both “guard” and feel they “own” their home and family territory. Sharing food, toys, beds, and often water is usually out of the question. And a good tug-of-war game is engaging but only to warm up for a fight.
Receiving affectionate rubs and hugs is pleasant for a few seconds only, but no longer. Groomer or vet handling is seldom tolerated without restraints.
Defense Drive in Submissive Fearful Dogs
The Defense “Flight” Drive indicates a lack of confidence from a typically fearful or submissive dog. He is unsure in new situations, often hiding behind his owner and becoming stressed when separated from his person. When he can’t run and hide, he may turn over on his back or urinate. When he feels cornered, this silent dog may strike out and bite with seemingly no warning to a layperson who does not know dogs.