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Old 03-20-2014, 09:53 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Can prey drive toward other dogs be corrected?

I adopted my dog about a year ago. Some of you know her story and have commented on my threads already: got her as an adult, shelter blatantly lied to me about her history, didn't know what I was doing, she attacked another dog in an off-leash hiking area, commence behavior modification. Well, she has made some really awesome progress from being reactive to all dogs to being selectively reactive to really obnoxious dogs that are too close to her (which almost never happens). I've taken her through three classes and she is very well-trained on leash now. Off-leash she is also perfectly behaved unless another dog is around, then she just loses her mind. So we don't do that.

I guess I'm wondering what to do about her prey drive towards smaller dogs. There is an element of insecure aggression here too, but it manifests itself with small dogs as prey drive. With big dogs, she seems to play nicely if they know each other already. I don't want to take a chance on having her play with anyone smaller than 50 lbs at this point. I have been able to introduce her to small dogs without incident if we take them on a walk together first and give lots of treats, but when dogs just appear out of nowhere, it's another story. Despite heeling nicely and doing what I say, she will not stop staring at them and I know what's going through her head: it's the exact same body language displayed when she wants to go after a rabbit. I know if she were off-leash she would attack them in a heartbeat. She will air snap if other dogs get too close and is dead silent the whole time.

Can this sort of behavior be cured? Or is this just the sort of case where I have to keep her in situations where we will never run into small off-leash dogs? I have some precautions (martingale collar, prong) that I use, but I can't control what other people do. I am going to be taking her to proof obedience next to an agility class so she can get desensitized to the movement. It seems like the only safe way to do things.
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Old 03-21-2014, 09:31 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I don't think it can be cured, only managed, as you seem to be doing very well. You certainly have made great progress with her.
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Old 03-21-2014, 09:36 PM   #3 (permalink)
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If it actually is prey drive then of course it can be fixed. There are a bunch of working dogs like Sar or police that are high drive and they don't chase critters.
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Old 03-21-2014, 11:11 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Can this sort of behavior be cured? Or is this just the sort of case where I have to keep her in situations where we will never run into small off-leash dogs? I have some precautions (martingale collar, prong) that I use, but I can't control what other people do. I am going to be taking her to proof obedience next to an agility class so she can get desensitized to the movement. It seems like the only safe way to do things.
I think the behaviour/desire/want can be managed. Harry has a high prey drive and I too have to manage him around small dogs, Lola on the other hand adores little dogs and puppies and is excellent with them, she has helped many small dogs become less fearful of big dogs - she is a joy with them.

You are so correct when you say you can't control what other people do, so the best you can do is manage your dog by training her to ignore and focus on you. You may find you will always have to watch her around small dogs, but with focus training you will be able to distract her. There will always be situations when your dog will be faced with a little one running at her or up to her and then sprinting off (triggering her prey drive). I think possibly agility classes might help as there are always little poodles in those classes, so you will be able to work with her there in not reacting to them and the fact they will all be 'working' will help.
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Old 03-22-2014, 11:50 PM   #5 (permalink)
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If it actually is prey drive then of course it can be fixed. There are a bunch of working dogs like Sar or police that are high drive and they don't chase critters.
That's because if they had a tendency of attacking smaller dogs, they would be washed from SAR. And I'm guessing most of them aren't adult rescues with an unknown history of socialization and training. I don't think it's a matter of how high drive so much as learning what is an appropriate outlet for drive/frustration and what isn't. Your point is taken, though. I am not convinced I am dealing with pure prey drive. I think there is an element of protective/territorial behavior going on too, but for some reason it only manifests itself as dangerous behavior with smaller dogs. Maybe because my dog is a wuss?

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I think possibly agility classes might help as there are always little poodles in those classes, so you will be able to work with her there in not reacting to them and the fact they will all be 'working' will help.
We went to the training club today and practiced rally while someone else was doing agility in another ring and the CGC class was going on in the other. No issues, perfectly well behaved, rock-like focus. I was even comfortable doing a distance down-stay with her. So far so good. Then afterward during tracking, she saw a schnauzer walking across the parking lot and couldn't stop staring. She completely forgot what she was doing and we had to quit.

Although, I can definitely understand how this is just a matter of more training and more management, though it feels like an uphill battle. Maybe I should incorporate an emergency recall with super awesome treats into those times where she sees a dog off in the distance and it bugs her.
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Old 03-23-2014, 04:41 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Kaimeju View Post
I adopted my dog about a year ago. Some of you know her story and have commented on my threads already: got her as an adult, shelter blatantly lied to me about her history, didn't know what I was doing, she attacked another dog in an off-leash hiking area, commence behavior modification. Well, she has made some really awesome progress from being reactive to all dogs to being selectively reactive to really obnoxious dogs that are too close to her (which almost never happens). I've taken her through three classes and she is very well-trained on leash now. Off-leash she is also perfectly behaved unless another dog is around, then she just loses her mind. So we don't do that.

I guess I'm wondering what to do about her prey drive towards smaller dogs. There is an element of insecure aggression here too, but it manifests itself with small dogs as prey drive. With big dogs, she seems to play nicely if they know each other already. I don't want to take a chance on having her play with anyone smaller than 50 lbs at this point. I have been able to introduce her to small dogs without incident if we take them on a walk together first and give lots of treats, but when dogs just appear out of nowhere, it's another story. Despite heeling nicely and doing what I say, she will not stop staring at them and I know what's going through her head: it's the exact same body language displayed when she wants to go after a rabbit. I know if she were off-leash she would attack them in a heartbeat. She will air snap if other dogs get too close and is dead silent the whole time.

Can this sort of behavior be cured? Or is this just the sort of case where I have to keep her in situations where we will never run into small off-leash dogs? I have some precautions (martingale collar, prong) that I use, but I can't control what other people do. I am going to be taking her to proof obedience next to an agility class so she can get desensitized to the movement. It seems like the only safe way to do things.
What type of training do you currently do? As in markers, corrections, e-collar?
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Old 03-23-2014, 07:33 AM   #7 (permalink)
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If it is prey aggression or even agression that is just not fear based then yes it can be punished and yield good results if the punishment is well timed. If it is fear based it will quite possibly make things worse unless it is made quite clear why the punishment is happening and who it is really coming from and this isn't always easy.

Not something you want to do without an experienced professional there, but yes it yields good results. I'd use an e collar and leash for safety. Your "bait dog" should ideally be balanced and non reactive but eventually you might want to use a reactive one. The dog might have been a fence fighter at some point. If so then you can never fully trust the dog around other dogs necessarily but with an e collar on and enough consistency you can work them around other dogs with tight obedience as long as you are able to deliver stims if the dog is going to screw up.
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Old 03-23-2014, 07:57 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Kaimeju I just posted some videos in a dog park thread that may be helpful. I haven't looked at pics of your girl lately - I just wondered if she's got any racing Husky in her from that profile pic in your avatar. Or I could be nuts, or both.
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Old 03-23-2014, 11:37 AM   #9 (permalink)
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What type of training do you currently do? As in markers, corrections, e-collar?
Mostly verbal markers with positive reinforcement (food). We have done counter-conditioning with situations that make her anxious, like dogs walking by while she has to be stationary, and dogs barking at her from behind fences. I give short corrections on the prong if she doesn't follow through with a command, or breaks heel. I have also tried correcting her for staring, but it doesn't work at all. She just leans into my leg as if to say "I AM heeling, stop bugging me." Sometimes if I can get her to "watch me" before we get close to the other dog, she understands the correction better. I have not tried an e-collar because there is no one qualified to teach it where I live.

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Originally Posted by JeanKBBMMMAAN View Post
Kaimeju I just posted some videos in a dog park thread that may be helpful. I haven't looked at pics of your girl lately - I just wondered if she's got any racing Husky in her from that profile pic in your avatar. Or I could be nuts, or both.
She certainly loves the snow! That was very helpful, thank you. I think she has been on both the giving and receiving end of harassing behavior. I definitely have to watch her arousal level closely, and if she doesn't seem calm, she doesn't get to approach the other dog at all. Her behavior is exactly like the bulldog in the first video, except at 0:07 when he lunges, that would have been a bite in Gypsy's case. She likes to grab small dogs by the scruff of the neck. Obviously not a good candidate for dog parks! Like I said, I can keep her out of these situations, I'm just wondering if it's possible to help her since it seems like she goes from zero to biting in mere seconds.

Maybe I can post some video if we run into any of the usual problems on our walk today.
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