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Chasing wild animals

To whom it may concern:

I have an athletic mixed breed with a strong chasing instinct.. I hope your experts who deal with dogs with a strong hunting instinct could help me. Here are the problems: "Honey" knows obedience commands and performs them very well .. if there are no exciting distractions. Put a squirrel, rabbit, car or deer in the picture, or even their scent (she tracks well), and I no longer exist. I lost her for 36 hours last winter, when she took off after deer, which is when I decided I had to do something drastic.

I went to an electronic collar to stop her from chasing cars off leash (and it took a #6 shock, where #7 is the maximum you can give, to do it). This worked, and although she occasionally still seems to think about chasing a car if it is different (motor home.. anything she hasn't seen before), I can stop her with the collar. I plan on using it in the fall to condition her against chasing deer (I will have her on a long line at first, so I can control the situation, because I'm pretty sure she'll take a lot of dissuading).

After the deer chasing incident, I decided I also had to teach her a "stop in motion" command, so that if she took off after something else, I could stop her before she ran into traffic or trouble (I think it is probably impossible to condition her against all running things, and also probably counterproductive). After several weeks of working on leash with her (so she understands the meaning of the word "Whoa"), have started using the e-collar at a lower setting to correct her if she doesn't stop at a distance: so far (3 tries), so good.....

Most of my training (obedience, agility) has been positive (treats, toys), although I have had to administer some harsher corrections for dog aggression (she is fear-aggressive) when I hadn't succeeded in predicting and defusing the situation with a "watch me" (this is more my fault than hers). The recall was taught predominantly positively, although I would correct her with a tug on the long line if she didn't come when called: if on leash, or in a building, or in a similar controlled situation, she comes beautifully!... However, outside, with scents and distractions, she will completely ignore me, and only come when she has exhausted all other interesting possibilities.

Any suggestions? Is teaching a "stop in motion" a good idea? How about enforcing a recall at a distance: should I give up on the idea, or plan on simply stopping her (negative), keeping the recall predominantly positive (ie: she would be stopped first, then recalled separately)? Would you use an e-collar for this (I am reluctant to use it too much: it has a great deal of potential for abuse, and I am not a professional trainer)? If this is the wrong forum for this type of question, I apologize, and hope that you can direct me in the right direction..

Thank you, Ioana

Dear worried owner,

I am going to talk frankly to you and you may or may not like what I am going to say. I want to assure you that I care for this dog as much as you do. Maybe more. Then we are going to have to quit making up reasons for his misbehavior. There is only one reason for it!

You tell me that your dog understands and performs obed very well if there are no distractions. Obedience by definition, means doing what you are told, not what you want to do. Therefore I would tell you that your dog IS NOT obed. When I have a dog that is not obed it is given limited freedom until the situation is rectified. If too much freedom is given and the dog goes out of control, FOR ANY REASON, then lets call it what it is.

Dog training is YOUR responsibility. Not the dog's. I could get into a bunch of different exercises but I think you are already aware of what they would be. I also think you are already aware of what the solution is. I am just not sure you are willing to do what is necessary.

This is not a complicated problem. It is very simple. Make up your mind to do what is required to assure your dog's safety. Long line, e-collar, extensive obed work, or whatever.

You seem to worry above negative reinforcement. Here's a thought. You are reluctant to "correct the dog" because it might be too severe for him. Your dog disobeys, because he gets away with disobedience, runs out into the road and gets hit and killed. There's a really negative reinforcement and it doesn't have any take backs.

A dog trainer says what he means and ,by god, he means what he says. He does not tolerate any infraction of the rules, and when they occur they will be dealt with in such a fashion that the dog is "CONVINCED" he never wants to disobey again. You know your dog better then I do. What you should do for correction is up to you. I will point out to you , however, if you give him a command and he disobeys, he didn't think you were serious. Don't blame his drive, his instincts, the weather, night, day, wind blowing animals, or any other excuses. Put the blame where it lays. ON THE TRAINER!

I have faith that you and he will do just fine once you get the right mind set. You have written that you want to have a COMPLETELY OBED DOG. Ok, train him to be completely obed.

Your dog will thank you for it!

Terry Germany

good luck!
(Viewer's question in reply-to)
I do appreciate your answer.. and you are right that I have to insist on better obedience than I have in the past. I'm 100% in agreement with you: a dead dog is far more negative than anything I can dish out. Honey's safety depends on me, and I had better live up to that responsibility.

Technical question for you though: does it work better to teach a dog to stop.. then use a different command to come, or do you think that a come command is sufficient? I've heard conflicting opinions-

For the rest, unless you have any other suggestions, I'll plan on teaching a strict "Whoa" (stop while in motion) reinforced with the e-collar, and use aversive levels of the e-collar for deer and cars.

Thanks again!! Ioana

Well, let me tell you how we do our hunting dogs. They will often get onto a hot trail and become "deaf" if you know what I mean. We use whoa to stop the dog at any position and time required but attack your situation differently. First, I suugest whistle training as it carries farther and has more authority than a voice. My dogs often range 2-300 yards from me. A voice would be useless at that range. I will deliver 2 quick blasts on the whistle that means "trun direction" to the dogs. I will only give it 2 x and on the 3rd a substantial jolt will be delivered with the whistle blasts. At first the dog usually does not know where this came from and will run back to you for comfort. You can use this time for reinforcing recall and also to ignore him when he gets there and tell him to hunt again. Even the most timid respondant only satys next to you for a short time before his wanderlust gets the better of him.

You will be amazed at the way the dog will throw the brakes on and turn back to you after a couple of corrections. After a while(varies by dog) the whistle is more than sufficient to have the dog return in a speedy fashion.

It's like I said before, dog trining is simple. Humans want to make it complicated. A dog will usually do what he is told if he is close enough to hear you and if he knows it is not wise to try anything different. He must learn , as all of us have to, by experimentation. Let him try his thing and let him find out what happens. You will be surprised at how fast he adopts your ways.

Good luck!

Terry Germany
JC&T Shooting Sports

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