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Greta's new job: "Squirrel Patrol"- ok or not?


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Hi everyone,

My 16 month old bc/acd mix has given herself a new job that we like to call "squirrel patrol". She chases the squirrels along the fence and will also stare at them from inside- we have a window seat that overlooks the backyard that has become her favorite spot. She will also hang out in the corner of the yard looking up at the top of the fence, waiting for her squirrel "friends" that seem to enjoy teasing her. My question is whether this is a problem- is it too much of a fixation? How to tell when the line is being crossed into OCD behavior? We can call her off from this, although sometimes it requires a food bribe to get her to come inside. Greta is a very, very busy dog who doesn't have much of an off switch. We are working on that using techniques from "control unleashed", and she settles well in her crate, but otherwise she is on the move when in the house, playing with her many toys even when we are not engaging with her. Watching for the squirrels out of the window actually seems to be calming, if anything- she sits there keeping a lookout and only gets excited when one is actively running across the fence. Also, she gets plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, with at least an hour of off-leash time every day plus walks, doggie day care in a great unleashed facility once a week, and flyball on the weekends. We also feed her in puzzle-balls or frozen food in kongs, or play games with her using her meal as rewards. So I don't think it's lack of stimulation or exercise that's causing this behavior. What does everyone think? Should I limit the squirrel time? Attached is a picture with her typical expression when she's doing this "job".

post-9814-1270507950_thumb.jpg

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Shiloh is a big fan of squirrels too.

 

One day we took him off leash outside of our complex and he was dashing to his pee spot, while also hoping to surprise a squirrel. He turned the corner and a squirrel jumped right into his chest! He was stunned and shocked.... the squirrel ran away, but shiloh just looked at us like what *** just happened? haha!! :rolleyes: I wish I had a picture.

 

Anyways- sorry I don't have any advice. We only let Shiloh chase squirrels on the odd occasion at the park, but he must recall even mid chase, or ignore them on leash to earn that right and we wouldn't allow him to spend a large chunk of the day doing it- we don't have a backyard anyways. I would want him to think that doing the chase or patrol is his job- but maybe Im doing the wrong thing too by allowing it almost as a treat? Im not sure- but you will get some good advice here!

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Here's my take on it: If it's something your dog is *choosing* to obsess over then it's not good. If it's directed play with you, then it's okay (but you have to make sure that she's not thinking about squirrels at those "off" times). One of my dogs (now 8 years old) would sometimes chase squirrels, look up into trees, etc., when I'd take her for walks/jogs on a particular path around a golf course near where I used to work. I would tell her things like "Do you see a squirrel?" and so on. So for her squirrels was something we did *together* and she never developed an obsession over them.

 

Unfortunately, things like this can seem harmless and cute, but if it becomes a full-blown obsession, she could make herself and you miserable with it. So start discouraging it now. And if that means covering the window so she can't watch squirrels from inside, then that's what I'd do. The fact that she already sometimes needs a food lure to get her away from the window would imply to me that it's already turned into an obsession.

 

J.

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Agree with Julie...Ladybug is our assigned squirrel and nuisance bird chaser away from the bird feeder but she does it on command and breaks off to return to us when asked. Two commands should be ingrained in the dog -- a recall and "that will do, - with praise. I've seen her glancing out the window now and again while we're eating, but she doesn't lurk there waiting for prey -- it's just her job and she waits for us to tell her to do it.

 

I'm still battling the crow thing with the pups -- they start but break off and come back when asked. I'm working to the point where they totally ignore them because I'm positive the crows are deliberately harassing them -- they keep circling lower and lower.

 

The thing is, when they chase something that's more nimble, like the crow, or even a squirrel, to the point when they don't listen to you, the dog could easily end up in the next county before you could catch up with them, not to mention the risk of getting hurt because they're not paying attention to their surroundings..

 

Liz

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We aren't really obessed with anything in particular but Mick and Dew enjoy a good squirrel chase sometimes. BUT...the other night I was in a strange motel room, took the dogs out to do their last potty for the night and there right in our path was a cute little bunny. They started to give chase right in the parking lot. I hollered NO pretty loud but for a minute they weren't listening, like they were on delayed reaction, I hollered again and they came right back. I see that I"m going to have to take way more control of what we choose to play at home. Even though it isn't an obession it could of gotten them killed that night. So for us right now, no chasing anything till I can get their ears to listen even while in hot pursuit...immediately!

 

Mick also did a strange thing the other night too. We were staying in the city with my daughter. I felt like we were the country mice and they were the city mice. I took them outside and Mick picked up a trail of something...I think it was a cat (he's a cat hater) I actually had to grab his tail to get him off the scent. Again...could of gotten him killed, we really aren't used to the big city. I've never seen him pick up a trial like that. Kinda scared me! So for now no chasing nothing...NOTHING!

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Hi everyone,

My 16 month old bc/acd mix has given herself a new job that we like to call "squirrel patrol". She chases the squirrels along the fence and will also stare at them from inside- we have a window seat that overlooks the backyard that has become her favorite spot. She will also hang out in the corner of the yard looking up at the top of the fence, waiting for her squirrel "friends" that seem to enjoy teasing her. My question is whether this is a problem- is it too much of a fixation? How to tell when the line is being crossed into OCD behavior? We can call her off from this, although sometimes it requires a food bribe to get her to come inside. Greta is a very, very busy dog who doesn't have much of an off switch. We are working on that using techniques from "control unleashed", and she settles well in her crate, but otherwise she is on the move when in the house, playing with her many toys even when we are not engaging with her. Watching for the squirrels out of the window actually seems to be calming, if anything- she sits there keeping a lookout and only gets excited when one is actively running across the fence. Also, she gets plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, with at least an hour of off-leash time every day plus walks, doggie day care in a great unleashed facility once a week, and flyball on the weekends. We also feed her in puzzle-balls or frozen food in kongs, or play games with her using her meal as rewards. So I don't think it's lack of stimulation or exercise that's causing this behavior. What does everyone think? Should I limit the squirrel time? Attached is a picture with her typical expression when she's doing this "job".

 

The test for me would really be in her ability to disengage. If she can disengage and move on when asked, or when access to whatever she is watching is removed, then I personally would not consider it something to worry about. If the dog could not disengage, then I would probably start limiting access.

 

Since you are using CU, you can use this as part of your training. You could play LAT squirrel at the window. That could be a very powerful training exercise. You can also use permission to watch squirrels, or to chase them away, as part of the Give me a Break game. That might be an excellent way to solidify the call-off, actually, provided that this is simply something the dog loves, and is not an OCD type obsession.

 

I wish you the best.

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Ruby is also a squirrel-a-holic. However, I put her through Leslie McDevitt's "LOOK AT THAt" training from Control Unleashed, and it worked like a charm. If she starts on the squirrels, I can call her off at any time now. No frenzy, no obsession, and the ability to just go on with our walk! It's a wonderful thing! When a dog is truly obsessed, the dog has no control over itself, let alone the owner having any control over the dog! Good luck and get Control Unleashed. It is a wonderful program.

 

Kathy Robbins

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thanks to all for the great suggestions. I really like the idea of incorporating squirrel-watching into the look-at-that game. So far, I don't think her behavior is too obsessive, but we are definitely going to keep an eye on it and monitor appropriately, restricting the activity as her behavior dictates.

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