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Self rewarding chase, how to stop it??


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Bit of background. I have a (newly) Neutered 14 month old BorderAussie.  Since day one when we welcomed him in to our home at 8 weeks I have followed Leslie McDevitts methods of training religiously along with reading other animal behaviouralists and trainers books all using Positive re-enforcement methods.  We've also been to a pile of puppy classes and obedience classes.  Oden is a wonderful, mostly well balanced dog who adores his family.... We've worked through arousal issues (not there yet but greatly improved using LAT and other methods.  The problem that I'm struggling with at the moment is managing his motivation to chase.  As mentioned in a previous post I've been struggling with his intense prey drive which has improved somewhat around our cats and chickens but that is only on leash and with strict supervision.  If given the opportunity I wouldn't put it past him to attempt to kill a chicken that strayed too close. I've since come to terms that we do not have a dog that I can casually have loose around the property while the smaller critters are out and have set up a 100ft trolley long line for when he can't be supervised outside.  We live on property with tonnes of wildlife...moose, deer, bear and camp often in remote areas.  He's not had the opportunity yet to chase game but in the off chance he's loose and spots something how do I work on that recall under intense distraction.  When he's at home on the property and I'm outside with him I have him on a long line (15-50ft) and have trained him on whistle recall which works wonderfully when he's at a distance. When he comes dashing back I'll switch it up by playing tug (which he loves), throwing ball or high value treats BUT if say a person walks down the road with their dog he'll wildly fly up and down the property line. Not so much from aggression but just for the freedom of chase.  He loves it! More than anything I can offer, and will blow off my whistle call 95% of the time. Even with the long line I can't catch him fast enough to stop him in his tracks.  When I do catch him I will say oh oh! and place him in his crate for a time out.  I know as it is self re-enforcing I shouldn't allow him to practise this but he can't be on a long line his whole life.  Or tied to a line when we're camping?  Or am I fooling myself and this is our reality.  I've read many books on "humane" e-collar training and most say that under these circumstances (life or death if he's chasing game) it could be a powerful tool.  I've even purchased a top of the line e-collar but I can't bring myself to start the conditioning process with him.  We have such a beautiful bond I'm terrified of losing the trust we have built.  Any wise words would be greatly appreciated.    Tegan and Oden

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Ah, it is a tricky situation..I am glad you have the E Collar, yes, this could potentially be a l/d situation. At 14 mo they should and do know better but the juvenile mind just holds them back on occasion. Some of this is just training, all the time, and keeping in mind he is young. You have to be consistent, whether or not you have time. Start at home, setting him up, not to fail, but to learn. Make the proofing even more difficult than what you are now. I find that walking them down with the chase behavior, throwing penny cans in their direction, to make them snap out of the mindless behavior has worked for me. Once you have the mind back you can generally move to a more positive approach for correcting the "chase".  I assume you have a fence line he runs while someone is walking down the road? If so, either a penny can or a down command, stop the behavior. Since he won't call off 95% of the time you have to go a different route. Physically walk out there get him, be it by cans raining from the sky or a down command (do not allow him to blow it off). Break it up so that the self reinforcement is not longer fun. 

 

I would start the counter conditioning for the E collar, you know you have a problem, and this tool can be useful when you are getting no where with others. You won't break the trust bond, the collar corrects, not you. Take your time conditioning and be honest with yourself and him as to putting in the time and effort. Good luck!

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Thank you for this Journey. Yes our property is fenced and I like the idea of the coin cans to help snap him out of it. I can get a down out of him if I show him the frisbee or the chuck it but he struggles to hold it. I need to be faster on snapping up the long line before he takes of again. I do throw the frisbee to bring his attention back to me...I hope that is ok or am I just jacking him up even more? I figure I have to throw it if he gives me his attention otherwise he'll figure it's not worth it if I give him nothing in return. I will start the conditioning of the e-collar. And yes, I am in no rush with this...there's no room for mistakes so we will take our time. He's such a punk, but that's one of the traits I love most about him, even if it does drive me nuts!!

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Personally, I am opposed to the e-collars, and I think every other kind of training needs to be fully explored, and fully exhausted, before resorting  the use of one. And only in a life-death case, which I do recognize this is. There are situations in which using the e collar to train a solid recall ends up allowing the dog to have much more freedom than they would otherwise, if all other training methods fail.

But my suggestion would be to use the long line (hold onto it all the time if it's too hard to grab)  and rewards for at least a few months if you have not already before using the e collar as a last resort.  You may not need to use it at all.

I wouldn't throw the frisbee, because that's a reward rather  than an attention breaker.  The sharp sound (pennies in a can or whatever) is better, if you need something to break his attention away from the distractions.

I wonder also if there's a place to work on the recall that is not so distracting. It is probable, seems to me,  that he is just not solid enough on it to be working with that level of distraction. Unless you have gone back to the basics of training the recall in a non-distracting environment several times over several months and still he has always failed to come when there are distractions, I would keep working on that for some time before deciding that the e collar was necessary.  

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AS D'Elle said, work on the recall in very boring situations. Recall in the house, then in boring spots outside the house. Veeery slowly add in distractions. You might have your partner walk by, then you cue recall. Make sure you use the same cue every time.

When you take him outside, try to make it a quieter time of day. Make sure your partner works on this, as well.

Reward him Every Single Time he obeys this cue during this phase. Make it a Really Great Treat.

Put the frisbee out of his sight. It's a toy, and toys come out for play. The training you need for him is not play, it's very serious. Toys also go away when they're not being used.  

Once you've got that really solid recall with no distractions, (people, birds, etc) then add in one of the smallest distractions. A human or chicken or whathaveyou at a distance. As Oden gets the message that Come ALWAYS Means Come, slowly increase the distraction(s).

It takes time, be patient with yourself and your dog. Good luck!

Ruth & Gibbs

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

A quick update:  It's incredible the difference in temperament even a few weeks have made since I posted this.  I chose not to use the e-collar (at this point) and to just sit back, take a deep breath and continue on with my training. During this time I decided to loosen the leash so to speak and give him a chance to really prove himself.  Now I know this goes against what is recommended but I felt I had really hit a wall with his training and was sensing some frustration from him.  He... has... been... wonderful!  We've been camping with him off leash the entire time (with breaks in the crate).  I've been doing more off leash walking with him (albeit him on a 15 ft line following him) and have had him loose more on our property.  All while doing this I have been religiously working on his recall and responsiveness to my cues. He has been wonderful, (have I said that already?) I've been so proud of him and I can really tell how hard he's working to prove his new found freedom.  Maybe it's because he's maturing, maybe it's because he's settled in to his hormones post neuter I don't know but we're both really enjoying this part of the adventure.  The highlight was this morning when a big buck decided to wander through the property.  This was Odens first real encounter with a dear whilst being loose.  While containing my internal freakout I came out and yelled "Oden, leave it!"  He gave a few alarm barks and some very unsure charges in the dears direction BUT no chasing. He stood there waiting for my direction and calmly disengaged and came to me.  I was so proud of the guy and this only proved we are on the right track.  Of course if we have a relapse back in to some bad habits we'll reel things in and start from scratch but for the moment I'm on cloud 9.  Thanks to everyone who took the time to give me advice,  I am always grateful for your words of wisdom

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Wonderful news! You neutered him :) that wasn't mentioned before :D yes, this will change matters immensely in some cases! Either way, congrats to you for the perseverance and accomplishments!

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