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Discussion Starter #1
There was a long discussion about food drive on another forum I am on and I thought it might be interesting to share here.

Context:
The discussion was geared to working dogs and how they are trained. These are not pets (though some live in the house too) and if they do not perform a lot of people "wash the dog out" and find it a pet home and move on to another dog.

The upshot of the discussion was how food drive may be hampered by how baby puppies are raised and whether or not it makes a difference later on when you are training and using food rewards and markers to attain trained behavior.

Baby puppies fight each other to get to Mom's milk bar. Some are clearly more aggressive than others to get a nipple even before eyes open and the more aggressive ones gain a bit faster than their less pushy counterparts. It appears that gender is not a factor at this age. The behavior of fighting to get to the food (nipple) was equated to survival instinct (genetics).

At around 4 weeks old the kennel owner or breeder will set out a bowl with food in it with plenty of food for the puppies and they no longer need to fight to eat. This continues until the puppies go to their new homes. The discussion was by doing this unnatural thing (providing plenty of food on a regular schedule) does the food drive in (some puppies) become suppressed? If they had to continue to fight for food, would they reatin their food drive at a higher level?

The next part of the discussion was training and using food as a reward. We all know there are puppies that are more like land sharks and then there are puppies that do not seem to be food driven. Is that the result of nature (genetics) or nurture (free regular food without work)?

An additional discussion sort of developed as to stress related to food rewards and training.. and even though the dog acts happy and motivated to work for food using markers, luring etc. is that really the case or is it simply the ancient ritual of survival kicking in complete with stress?

It was an interesting discussion mostly because dogs without food drive are most often "washed out" in working simply because they do not train well. Would they have food drive if they had to fight for food all the way through? No one suggested that they should and no one suggested not using food as the primary motivator to teach a dog. Most use food and markers to teach a behavior in puppies (so there was no R+ vs P+ discussion).

Sooo... is food drive Nature (genetic) or Nurture (how we feed them as babies)?
(I think it is nature.. but I have never had a dog uninterested in food).
 

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Good dam don't let her puppies tear her up fighting for nippble, she knocks them off. consequences for unacceptable behaviors.

I don't think it matters how they raised having too much food,, if they not driven to work for the work... are they the right dog to be working ...
 

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Discussion Starter #3
It is much more difficult to train a dog with low food drive than one that wants food.

Low food drive dogs often wash out of working/sport homes.
 

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I would say it's genetic. I imagine many, many, many litters are left large quantities of food and don't have to fight over it, and many of them are still very motivated by food. Take labs, for example. They are well known for being chow hounds and would do anything for food, which makes them one of the most easily trainable dogs out there. Genetics.

I think that constantly having to fight for food would make them a bit more prone to be resource guarders, though, especially if their genetics are already tipped in that direction...
 

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As in most things, probably some of both. In most cases probably more genetic than not.

Most healthy dogs, who are not having food used in ways that leads the dog toward unpleasant associations with said food want to eat - maybe not a lot, but want to eat. There is usually something there to work with. However, what is inherently there may not be sufficient to overcome environmentally rewarding factors, or to overcome situations the dog finds unpleasant.

Bear with me on this scale and the length, please - it's kind of a scale.

Dog 1 (Jack) came into my life as an adult. He had zero food drive until the day he died. He found food punishing. He found food punishing because he was HEAVILY pressured into eating and force fed in order to make him gain weight for the show ring. It took him years to not flee from me holding food and only liked it much the last 6 months of his life. He sure as hell was not going to work for it.

Dog 2 is Thud, the GSDXPyr I own now: Thud likes food okay. He works for food, but food was not an automatic 'get out of environmental distractions being distracting' card when he was younger. He sure as hell wasn't going to put himself into situations he dislikes/finds unpleasant for it. Some emotional support and, more importantly, dynamic and interesting use of food rather than just handing it to him has built his food drive quite a bit. He'll do some shit for a cookie. It is still not his primary motivator, though. (his primary motivator is praise and personal play).

Dog 3: Kylie. Kylie does everything she does for food. She has no prey or play drive whatsoever. Everything that dog has, I built with food - from retrieves to tug to swimming to tricks to obedience to agility and love of it. She will now do pretty much anything I ask, even if she finds it super unpleasant naturally for food - and like it. However, as a puppy her response to being given food by strangers was just to avoid the food. Same thing with a few other places I applied too much pressure too soon, with. Using food wasn't enough to negate that. Had I persisted rather than rolling it back, it would have been a bigger issue. But I did, and built confidence and broke things down and these days she'd pretty much crawl through fire for a piece of cheese (or liver or steak or chicken or - but not kibble).

Dog 4 is Bug: She is much the same as Kylie only she naturally likes tug, is more independent, and way less environmentally sensitive.

Dog 5 and 6 are Molly and Kiran: They will do ANYFREAKINGTHINGYOUWANT for food - or toys play. In truth toys are probably higher value reward to them than food. But food is HUGELY important to them and they will eagerly, enthusiastically, turn themselves into a pretzel or jump off a cliff for a piece of kibble or a milkbone.

All dogs except 1 were raised exactly the same way re: access to food - which is most days being fed twice a day, and some days, especially young, earning every single bit of their food through some kind of work or food toy. The wide range is just down to breed differences and individual personalty differences. In truth, though, the food drive question is a relatively small part of the equation, but pretty hardwired INTo the greater whole. Ie: It's not so much 'likes/will work for food' it's a matter of sensitive, resilience, confidence, stability, biddability, handler focus and what competing drives are in play.
 

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I would say it's genetic. I imagine many, many, many litters are left large quantities of food and don't have to fight over it, and many of them are still very motivated by food. Take labs, for example. They are well known for being chow hounds and would do anything for food, which makes them one of the most easily trainable dogs out there. Genetics.

I think that constantly having to fight for food would make them a bit more prone to be resource guarders, though, especially if their genetics are already tipped in that direction...
Possession is a desirable thing in IPO type sports, so there's that.

Otherwise, yes.

Pyrs are famous resource guarders and that includes fighting badly as unweaned puppies over food. They're not particularly food motivated though!
 

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It is much more difficult to train a dog with low food drive than one that wants food.

Low food drive dogs often wash out of working/sport homes.
Also interesting corollary: I know dogs who much prefer working for toys, but I only know *one* dog who isn't particularly interested in food, but is interested enough in toys to really want to work for them.
 

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military does both food/toy, the dog chooses... both can be unreliable in an instant...... I do understand the topic and I say NO it doesn't if they feed too much
Don't feel dogs wash out because of food or toys.. they wash out cause they not the right dog or bad training practices "sour a dog on working, your done, game over...
 

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military does both food/toy, the dog chooses... both can be unreliable in an instant...... I do understand the topic and I say NO it doesn't if they feed too much
Don't feel dogs wash out because of food or toys.. they wash out cause they not the right dog or bad training practices "sour a dog on working, your done, game over...
I agree with you overall but I also think that it's easier to sour a dog who isn't already driven by the reward. Like I mentioned in my essay up there, I think dogs who have lots of drive for the reward will put up with worse handling/mechanics/situations to get to the reward and still feel okay about it, than dogs who are kind of 'eh' about the reward to start with. Like it's just not rewarding enough to overcome some short-comings in the handler/trainer.

It shouldn't have to be, but often is what people rely on. Like, yeah, they ****ed up, were harsh, overfaced the dog, but the dog still got the reward so remains confident and happy. Versus a dog who doesn't super want the reward to start with and there's no... compensation for them to make up for the crappy training/handling.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Possession is a desirable thing in IPO type sports, so there's that.

Otherwise, yes.

Pyrs are famous resource guarders and that includes fighting badly as unweaned puppies over food. They're not particularly food motivated though!
Possession is very different from resource guarding in IGP dogs (IPO is all gone.. :( )
If a dog is possessive of the toy it does not mean he will resource guard the toy. My dog is possessive of his ball/rope but will give it up to make the game continue.

Possessive dogs are a plus. Resource guarders not so much (most of us allow the dogs to eat alone in a kennel or room).

Also interesting corollary: I know dogs who much prefer working for toys, but I only know *one* dog who isn't particularly interested in food, but is interested enough in toys to really want to work for them.
FWIW we teach a new thing with food (and a marker) (usually shaped) and then we add speed and power by transferring to the toy for reward. Most dogs with no food drive but great "ball drive" (a term used a lot but one I personally dislike because it is really prey drive) can sometime still be trained but not as easily. This is especially true if you have a dog that is so focused on the ball they "lose their mind" and stop thinking just to get to the ball.

Sooo.. working for food is a different drive and uses a different part of the dog's brain so they are more open to learn (even in very high food drive dogs). Add the ball and you get speed and power but you may lose accuracy and thoughtfulness. It is a balance..
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I agree with you overall but I also think that it's easier to sour a dog who isn't already driven by the reward. Like I mentioned in my essay up there, I think dogs who have lots of drive for the reward will put up with worse handling/mechanics/situations to get to the reward and still feel okay about it, than dogs who are kind of 'eh' about the reward to start with. Like it's just not rewarding enough to overcome some short-comings in the handler/trainer.

It shouldn't have to be, but often is what people rely on. Like, yeah, they ****ed up, were harsh, overfaced the dog, but the dog still got the reward so remains confident and happy. Versus a dog who doesn't super want the reward to start with and there's no... compensation for them to make up for the crappy training/handling.
What we see most often when there is lack of skill handling in a dog with overall low drives or lack of confidence is a dog that simply loses interest.

I have seen very nice drivey dogs absolutely quit with crappy handling that is simply terribly unclear (and is not corrective with P+..) the rewards are badly timed.. too slow.. not really rewarding. Oh they learned with food but they never successfully transferred to the toy because the handler never successfully learned how to pay the dog for being driven with the toy. If you want speed, power and focus in a dog with good drives you have to reward the drive. I see this a LOT in the AKC obedience ring. A LOT. Dogs heeling with heads down, barely staying with the handler etc.

I have also seen dogs with crappy handling still look good because the job at hand is self rewarding (like obstacles in agility) but because the handling is crappy they work on their own agenda and not at the direction of the handler so often fail...

Low drive dogs over all are usually washed from working and sport (but many people still train these dogs and some do so successfully because they are good handlers and trainers). I know someone who never washed out a dog.. they just got better at training (so there is that as well).
 

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My ideal working dogs are dogs that are driven to work, rewarded by doing their job.. endless hours, hot, cold, blizzard, pouring rain, any time they needed they ready to go... they live to go.

Have seen dogs shut down for the same reasons, not going to perform learned sequence circus tricks for anything.

some dogs you could breed them to anything and they reproduce top notch, some have the ability to produce top notch but never do , especially when they not matched to the right dog.

Working dogs same majority are not true working dogs, circus performing gets old to them and they fade. For dogs who have the breeding, feel it falls on the handler and training does the food and toys cripple them as the end game
 

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Yes.

I know how the uses of toy and food training are different.

My sport is different but it is still a sport and does use both in very similar ways and for similar reasons. The interest for me is how often I see food drive without toy drive, but how rarely I see toy drive without food drive in dogs across a wide variety of sports and lifestyles. Likely because food drive is a thing animals need to live, more so than the base of toy drive which is effectively prey/chase drive.

And I will object to anything that you earn titles and points in, and pay to participate in, being called 'working' until the day I die. It is not WORK, it is a sport that emulates real work, but it is not work. Yes, that includes protection sports. It is a hobby and a game. You can call it work when your life, someone else's life, or your finances depend on it. Until then: It's a sport. It's a training game. It's HARD! Nothing taken away from that, but it's not work -

and does not require the same from the dogs.

(And I apologize about IPO/IGP. Not my game, because I don't *DO* AKC. Mondioring I know relative more about.)
 

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I think it's a little bit of both. I think some dogs are naturally food driven and some are not. I'm pretty sure we trained Kane to be food driven. When we first got him he would rather not do what we wanted, regardless of if food was offered or not (nature). Over time he learned that food is a reward and is a really good thing (nurture). He also may have learned some of it from Pepper, who is food OBSESSED! Even now though, you could actually forget to feed Kane and he wouldn't let you know. He also won't take treats if he's too stressed. Pepper, on the other hand, is whining and running to her food dish about 3 hours before it's meal time. She would NEVER let us forget to feed her.

food is HUGELY important to them and they will eagerly, enthusiastically, turn themselves into a pretzel or jump off a cliff for a piece of kibble or a milkbone.
This is totally Pepper. Always has been, always will be.
 

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I think all dogs are motivated by food simply because it is necessary for survival. I think HOW food motivated, and WHAT kind of food a dog finds motivating, is a combination of genetics and environment. General example - I think some dogs are genetically very food motivated (behaviors: eat fast, eat a wide variety, hard to satiate) regardless of whether they were starved or spoiled as puppies. I think motivation can be manipulated by training. Like if a dog is not food motivated but is toy motivated, you can use toys to increase their motivation for food. I don't think (and someone please link to research if it's been done), the examples listed in the original post (ex. competition for milk, placing a good pan out for puppies so they don't compete), drastically affect a puppy's food drive more than what genetics have already predetermined.

I think, like pretty much all animals, even the most food motivated dog's palate is still affected by what it's fed in the beginning of life. Even rats have preferences and will refuse certain foods that are totally edible... Because in theory it has learned what is 'safe' and 'not safe' to eat. I've met horses who won't take carrots or apples because they weren't fed those things growing up. And I've seen this in my own dogs. Soro, who was so food motivated he would swallow entire milkbones, inhale his food as a puppy only to throw it up again, intensely guarded, never said no to a treat, and could even overcome his dog selectivity with the right food motivation... Would refuse certain items he wasn't exposed to when young, such as raw seafood, raw pheasant, etc. That is, until he was gradually exposed to different raw food later in life. Like if the horses in my previous example were starved, I'm pretty sure they'd start eating carrots and apples.

However, I do think the questions are more complex than just 'food drive'. For example, a puppy could be a healthy eater, motivated for food, no signs of any appetite issues in the breeder's home... but be poor at handling stress. That puppy can go into a new home and worry its new owners with its inconsistent appetite, whereas what's really happening is the puppy is adjusting to lifestyle change. Stress, fear, anxiety... all of those have genetic components too and they can affect appetite. A puppy can have a great appetite but have issues with over arousal, leading to frustration when an owner is trying to reward with hotdogs and the puppy is lunging and barking at birds instead. There's just so much more.

So the short of it is, if I was selecting a puppy and looking for great food motivation I would be thinking about a lot of other factors, and I wouldn't necessarily care about how a puppy nursed or ate meals in the past, so much as how the puppy accepts food in front of me/in a variety of different situations.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Yes.

I know how the uses of toy and food training are different.

My sport is different but it is still a sport and does use both in very similar ways and for similar reasons. The interest for me is how often I see food drive without toy drive, but how rarely I see toy drive without food drive in dogs across a wide variety of sports and lifestyles. Likely because food drive is a thing animals need to live, more so than the base of toy drive which is effectively prey/chase drive.

And I will object to anything that you earn titles and points in, and pay to participate in, being called 'working' until the day I die. It is not WORK, it is a sport that emulates real work, but it is not work. Yes, that includes protection sports. It is a hobby and a game. You can call it work when your life, someone else's life, or your finances depend on it. Until then: It's a sport. It's a training game. It's HARD! Nothing taken away from that, but it's not work -

and does not require the same from the dogs.

(And I apologize about IPO/IGP. Not my game, because I don't *DO* AKC. Mondioring I know relative more about.)
I fully expected you to understand the different drives in toys vs food drives. It IS interesting to see how to train that occasional dog that prefers a toy to food.

Well yes, IGP is a sport to us but in the end the protection phase is real to the dog. When training the dog may do something laughable but we must remember that they are believing the threat is real. Unreliability comes when they do not believe this (or when the dog hasn't enough drive or has too much nerve.. a little nerve can make them flashier). Tracking is an obedience exercise coupled with hunt drives but it is contrived in the sport because it is footstep to footstep and no air scenting is allowed. Obedience tests the dog's willingness to be a partner (pack drive) as does Protection.

Originally a breeding suitability test it has morphed to a sport. The new group just formed called "American Schutzhund" is supposed to return to the rigors of a breed suitability test. I know some who are trialing this fall in that venue. I hope for its success and recognition as a breeding suitability test as Schutzhund used to be.

FWIW the thing I have noticed is that the dogs (GSD.. I only really know this breed and am still always learning) that could be great IGP dogs are also dogs that often go on to be great in agility. The drives needed are similar. The work ethic needs are similar.

What IS different is real police patrol work. Often the excellent Police Patrol dog does NOT make a good "sport" dog and, conversely, a good sport dog is not always a good patrol dog.

The decoys who train Police dogs and those who train IGP dogs are not always mutually exclusive but the work the dogs do is very different.

Then.. there is tending sheep. MOST of the drives needed for any of this (including the calm grip that secures and teaches the sheep with out hurting them) are also present in both sport and police work. Again, successful police and IGP dogs are not always successful in herding.

I find it all fascinating until I run into someone who says, "Oh your dog does protection? He is as dangerous as a loaded weapon." Oh dear.. NOT AT ALL.. UNSTABLE dogs are dangerous, not trained dogs... if trained properly (and a good decoy will recognize a dog too unstable for protection and refuse to train it).

What I am finding interesting in this thread are the responses describing the variations in dogs' food drives and how the handlers or owners have overcome the issues.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Yes.

I know how the uses of toy and food training are different.

My sport is different but it is still a sport and does use both in very similar ways and for similar reasons. The interest for me is how often I see food drive without toy drive, but how rarely I see toy drive without food drive in dogs across a wide variety of sports and lifestyles. Likely because food drive is a thing animals need to live, more so than the base of toy drive which is effectively prey/chase drive.

And I will object to anything that you earn titles and points in, and pay to participate in, being called 'working' until the day I die. It is not WORK, it is a sport that emulates real work, but it is not work. Yes, that includes protection sports. It is a hobby and a game. You can call it work when your life, someone else's life, or your finances depend on it. Until then: It's a sport. It's a training game. It's HARD! Nothing taken away from that, but it's not work -

and does not require the same from the dogs.

(And I apologize about IPO/IGP. Not my game, because I don't *DO* AKC. Mondioring I know relative more about.)
I fully expected you to understand the different drives in toys vs food drives. It IS interesting to see how to train that occasional dog that prefers a toy to food.

Well yes, IGP is a sport to us but in the end the protection phase is real to the dog. When training the dog may do something laughable but we must remember that they are believing the threat is real. Unreliability comes when they do not believe this (or when the dog hasn't enough drive or has too much nerve.. a little nerve can make them flashier). Tracking is an obedience exercise coupled with hunt drives but it is contrived in the sport because it is footstep to footstep and no air scenting is allowed. Obedience tests the dog's willingness to be a partner (pack drive) as does Protection.

Originally a breeding suitability test it has morphed to a sport. The new group just formed called "American Schutzhund" is supposed to return to the rigors of a breed suitability test. I know some who are trialing this fall in that venue. I hope for its success and recognition as a breeding suitability test as Schutzhund used to be.

FWIW the thing I have noticed is that the dogs (GSD.. I only really know this breed and am still always learning) that could be great IGP dogs are also dogs that often go on to be great in agility. The drives needed are similar. The work ethic needs are similar.

What IS different is real police patrol work. Often the excellent Police Patrol dog does NOT make a good "sport" dog and, conversely, a good sport dog is not always a good patrol dog.

The decoys who train Police dogs and those who train IGP dogs are not always mutually exclusive but the work the dogs do is very different.

Then.. there is tending sheep. MOST of the drives needed for any of this (including the calm grip that secures and teaches the sheep with out hurting them) are also present in both sport and police work. Again, successful police and IGP dogs are not always successful in herding.

I find it all fascinating until I run into someone who says, "Oh your dog does protection? He is as dangerous as a loaded weapon." Oh dear.. NOT AT ALL.. UNSTABLE dogs are dangerous, not trained dogs... if trained properly (and a good decoy will recognize a dog too unstable for protection and refuse to train it).

What I am finding interesting in this thread are the responses describing the variations in dogs' food drives and how the handlers or owners have overcome the issues.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I think all dogs are motivated by food simply because it is necessary for survival. I think HOW food motivated, and WHAT kind of food a dog finds motivating, is a combination of genetics and environment. General example - I think some dogs are genetically very food motivated (behaviors: eat fast, eat a wide variety, hard to satiate) regardless of whether they were starved or spoiled as puppies. I think motivation can be manipulated by training. Like if a dog is not food motivated but is toy motivated, you can use toys to increase their motivation for food. I don't think (and someone please link to research if it's been done), the examples listed in the original post (ex. competition for milk, placing a good pan out for puppies so they don't compete), drastically affect a puppy's food drive more than what genetics have already predetermined.

I think, like pretty much all animals, even the most food motivated dog's palate is still affected by what it's fed in the beginning of life. Even rats have preferences and will refuse certain foods that are totally edible... Because in theory it has learned what is 'safe' and 'not safe' to eat. I've met horses who won't take carrots or apples because they weren't fed those things growing up. And I've seen this in my own dogs. Soro, who was so food motivated he would swallow entire milkbones, inhale his food as a puppy only to throw it up again, intensely guarded, never said no to a treat, and could even overcome his dog selectivity with the right food motivation... Would refuse certain items he wasn't exposed to when young, such as raw seafood, raw pheasant, etc. That is, until he was gradually exposed to different raw food later in life. Like if the horses in my previous example were starved, I'm pretty sure they'd start eating carrots and apples.

However, I do think the questions are more complex than just 'food drive'. For example, a puppy could be a healthy eater, motivated for food, no signs of any appetite issues in the breeder's home... but be poor at handling stress. That puppy can go into a new home and worry its new owners with its inconsistent appetite, whereas what's really happening is the puppy is adjusting to lifestyle change. Stress, fear, anxiety... all of those have genetic components too and they can affect appetite. A puppy can have a great appetite but have issues with over arousal, leading to frustration when an owner is trying to reward with hotdogs and the puppy is lunging and barking at birds instead. There's just so much more.

So the short of it is, if I was selecting a puppy and looking for great food motivation I would be thinking about a lot of other factors, and I wouldn't necessarily care about how a puppy nursed or ate meals in the past, so much as how the puppy accepts food in front of me/in a variety of different situations.
Totally agree. This original discussion (which I dragged here from another place) was about working line dogs that do not have the anxiety issues or nerve over riding their drives and were bred for confidence and drives.. with the discussion isolated to the food drive portion of the dog's drive foundation. These are dogs that if they were too anxious to eat well simply due to new environment would be washed out to pet homes (returned to the breeder for a different puppy).

THAT part of the equation also came up with examples of good dogs that had really anxious behaviors as puppies that ended up being top dogs. In fact, I know of one such dog that submissive pee'd as a puppy and who, in the end, developed with so much fight drive he would have died in a fight rather than give up (not so good for sport but would have been a top drawer patrol dog either on the streets or in a prison). When he submissive pee'd his owner nearly returned him.. but did not.. and later found out the GENES were there but (at the time of the pee'ing) the maturity was not.

Absolutely other factors come in to over ride the food drive in a LOT of dogs (doesn't make them "bad" dogs.. just part of the spectrum of dogs that are not cut out for certain things). In the original discussion the fearful or anxious dog that had insufficient drive to over come fear and anxiety was not in the equation.
 
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