And yes that is what I meant by forward defence drive - "agression" but the way my trainer described it was more like... the dog being so 'scared' that it feels it has no choice but to attack the decoy even if that decoy is down at the other end of the field. That the dog feels it has no other choice but to deal with this threat immediately.
I've never participated in French Ring training. It's interesting to read info from participants.
Some of our conclusions about what a drives a dog is pure speculation. IMO, the best trainers simply read a dogs reactions then take advantage of the dogs strengths while building weak areas. The exceptional trainers don't get stuck on single training method or philosophy (although they may have a primary one).
We have need to identify and label the drives or behaviors we observe in dogs, at least in a way we can understand for ourselves. A problem sometimes arises when we attempt to share those labels or explain what we perceive is going on in a dogs head.
Personally, I do not like fear based Defensive reactions. One of the few times I will tolerate them is when you have a strong nerved dog who just doesn't take things seriously, or a dog locked into prey and just won't snap out of it. In a nutshell, when you have a dog that just stuck playing the game and nothing else is working to make him serious. Dogs like that are not fearful dogs, it's quite the opposite, their problem is being somewhat fearless
. I simply don't like placing even this type dog in fear unless everything else has been exhausted. This may be where the idea of personality change comes from- I think it's possible a dog can hold a grudge from being placed into actual fear. After all, you took a dog who thought life was all fun, games and prey and rocked his world with an "OH #%&$" experience. What you are hoping for in these extreme cases is to show a dog that he CAN be trapped/hurt, BUT he CAN come out a winner through forward aggression.
IMO, there are other ways to bring out seriousness besides fear based training.
What I like to see is a form of Social Aggression. The dog reacts to a "threat", but not out of fear. Even using the term "threat" is misleading. I don't want a dog who is placed into fear by a stare down or body posturing, I want a dog who is challenged or offended by it.
I'm not sure a dog can be so fearful of a threat at the other end of a field that he believes he must deal with it through forward aggression. Fear would more likely motivate him to deal with it in some other way.
The temperament characteristic I want present is one where the dog sees more than just some dummy holding the prey object (sleeve). I want the dog to feel he's competing with the helper. The dog and helper are (fake) combatants on the "battlefield". The dog know it's not a real fight, but there should be a certain level of challenge and desire to defeat the opponent.
A comparison would be going back to Martial Arts training. A student punching or kicking a pad that his partner is holding would be sort of like operating in prey. When the partner starts to move the pad or block punches then it become a more aggressive form of prey. Sparing between students starts to involve social aggression; even though there is no serious threat, you can still experience minor pain and of course humiliation. One student is challenged by the actions of the other student. Going to a tournament where the student will compete against strangers and try to win a match involves prey and forward aggression as he seeks openings for his moves then executes them; all the while knowing that if he executes poorly or lowers his defenses he'll get hurt and/or loose points. That state of mind is sort of like a dogs Social Aggression or "Fight Drive".
Dogs, like people have different personalities (or temperaments).
Some people enjoy learning Martial Art techniques/forms/Kata's or the spiritual aspect, but dread sparing and have zero interest in competing at a tournament. Those folks may get a thrill from breaking boards or throwing someone twice their size, however they have little or no social aggression/fight drive. Of course, it's all relative, that person may have several times the level of social aggression compared to someone with no Martial Art interest at all, but still have comparatively low social aggression when the standard/benchmark is a competitive fighter. Reality is that the person who is highly skilled at all the moves of his Art but lacks social aggression is incomplete as an "Artist".
Same with dogs. A dog with insufficient social aggression is incomplete. If everyone was responsible, dogs with low social aggression would never be used for breeding. Of course, just like vWD or Hypothyroidism, you MUST test for Social Aggression to find out what's there.
In a perfect world, I want to see the dog channel his "Aggression" towards the helper onto the sleeve ONLY because he's been taught that on the training field he's only allowed to bite the sleeve. It's a fact of life though that good dogs are not stupid and they recognize when something is a game.
You've got to have the genetics, which is a breeding issue. A talented helper is probably the single most valuable "Tool" for evaluating those genetics.
Unfortunately, the number of clubs and available pool of helpers is relatively small. We often end up working with whomever is available even though they may not be as good as we'd like. Personally, I appreciate any helper who'll work with me- you just have to recognize the work for what it is while still being appreciative. Another unfortunate fallout of the small helper pool is many people who don't know better end up thinking their helper is knowledgeable or good, when actually they are barely adequate.