Passive or active behaviours in dogs – Cambridge Puppy Training

active or passive behaviours in dogs

We see lots of different behaviours in our dogs, and two such dynamics in the behaviour we see may include passive or active behaviours. These can be described loosely as a ‘doing’ behaviour, or a ‘still’ behaviour. I say this extremely broadly, however I will detail these a bit more.

When looking at passive behaviours, we can think of downs, stays, sits, or settles. In all of these behaviours we are looking for a ‘passive’ response, the dog is not moving across a great distance, not actively doing anything. He is performing a behaviour certainly, but not with much activity involved within it. In active behaviours, we can think of barking on command, come/here, heelwork, these are all ‘doing’ behaviours. All of these cues will elicit an ‘activity’ behaviour. I hope this makes sense!

As always, it’s easier to explain things with examples. If, say, you have a guest coming round. Your pup is a jumper, he likes to jump at visitors, a very common puppy behaviour I might add due to the reinforcement it receives. We can teach that puppy an incompatible behaviour, we can teach that puppy what we WANT him to do. Now, in this case, your pup is excited and he has some energy and adrenaline flying round his body, so does it make sense to try and teach a ‘settle’? Well we could try, but it may be extremely difficult for your pup. We could, however, teach our pup an ACTIVE behaviour, an incompatible active behaviour. For example teaching our pup to touch a target, and build up the distance to a target. Or, teaching your pup to retrieve a certain toy when a guest arrives. Or, you could be very fancy, and teach your pup to weave through legs! Your guest will be hugely impressed by that welcome! You could scatter some treats briefly as your guest is arriving, nose work is extremely tiring for pups and they will likely LOVE sniffing out treats. Your pup can’t sniff and jump at your visitor at the same time. Have a think, what active incompatible behaviour could you teach?

You can see ‘passive responses’ in detection dogs, we’ve all seen it I’m sure, a dog locates the money/drugs etc and sits completely still, indicates, and doesn’t move until released and gets his ball! This is a passive behaviour, he has been taught a passive response to finding the bad stuff! Had these dogs been taught an active response, he may bark to indicate, or ‘spin’ to indicate etc etc.

Active or passive behaviours during greetings with new people is very easy to spot in puppies. Puppies often show what some term ‘submission’ or what we could also term ‘appeasement behaviours’ upon meeting a new person. We can see ‘active’ gestures such as rushing in to say hello, head up high and lots of tail wagging, he then may show passive behaviours such as lowering of the head and a lower tail carriage whilst he has his greeting, staying quite still. Then may bound about again displaying further active behaviours.

Passive greetings may be slightly different, licking or pawing gently, lowering of the head and averting gaze, the pup may roll over and may urinate, they may appear ‘stiff’ whilst still showing some form of satisfaction from the interaction. The pup will often read the situation well and loosen up and interact when he sees the person he is greeting is ‘friend not foe’.

What does your pup do? Have a look when he meets someone new, it’s interesting to see!

If you would like more information about anything discussed just get in touch!


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