Easing the prey drive? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 30 (permalink) Old 11-15-2011, 07:10 AM Thread Starter
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Easing the prey drive?

Can anyone give me some suggestions. I've been trying to find specifics on google but haven't had any luck - would very much appreciate being pointed in the right direction.

My problem is when we're on walks and we see cats she's putting us both in danger. Walking past them... Is doable. Not great, but I usually ignore the cat, don't let her pull and try to shift her focus as we walk past.

But if one darts out in front of us unxepectedly, well... To put it mildly, on one occasion one second we were walking and the next I was sailing along on the end of the leash behind her. She was on a check chain and it did absolutely nothing to deter her - and I'm not exactly light either. She'll also stalk and charge at birds on her leash, as if she just forgets she's attached once her prey drive kicks in.

I think maybe she needs some more focus? Just not sure how to go about it. I've noticed she'll just walk where she assumes we're going if we've been somewhere before - not dominant, not dragging me, she'll just veer off and smack into my leg like she hasn't even seen me there. And she's often off in her own little world.

After that I'm unsure. We're going to an obedience class in february to get her on track to do the agility classes when she's a little older and brush up on her current commands but I'm impatient . I'm relying on a halti headcollar temporarily because she'd run out in front of a car without a second thought, but it's a hassle. I'd rather just walk her on her webbing collar.

She's 1 year 4 months old, and will leap into chase mode regardless of whether she's fresh or worn out.
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post #2 of 30 (permalink) Old 11-15-2011, 03:35 PM
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I honestly think that the head halter is the worst possible temporary fix to your problem because it could cause serious injury to your dog. Imagine walking along nicely on a loose lead, then she spots a cat and takes off - hitting the end of the lead and snapping her head around. Ouch!

Suzanne Clothier has a fantastic article on her website, titled "The Problem with Head Halters" you may want to check out --> Flying Dog Press - Suzanne Clothier - The Problems With Head Halters

If you need a "quick fix" to prevent your dog from dragging you down the road when she sees a cat (or squirrel), a prong collar would be a much better - and less harmful - way to go because it does not cause her to bend her neck as a weird angle when she hits the end of the leash and you need little body weight or strength for it to correct and stop her.

As far as changing the behavior instead of a quick fix ...

Right now, when your dog sees a cat and takes off behind her, that's extremely rewarding for her and great fun. You can correct her from taking off by means of training collars but the real challenge is being more fun and more rewarding than chasing the cat.

Do you have a favorite toy that uses her prey drive in play? Like one of those stuffing-free furry toys that squeak? They're a lot like prey to most dogs because they flop around, they can shake them, they make noise. If you can get her attention with that, use that in your favor by engaging her to play with the toy if you come across a cat.

You mentioned you can walk past them if they don't suddenly dart out ... that would be the ideal time to engage the dog with the toy, when you have a cat just sitting somewhere. Make the toy interesting and reward the dog for focusing on you by playing with the toy. (Playing tug would be great for this, especially since you can do it while walking.)

You want her to associate seeing cat (prey) with playing with you (and your prey).

At least that's worked for me.

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post #3 of 30 (permalink) Old 11-16-2011, 03:23 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by AbbyK9 View Post
I honestly think that the head halter is the worst possible temporary fix to your problem because it could cause serious injury to your dog. Imagine walking along nicely on a loose lead, then she spots a cat and takes off - hitting the end of the lead and snapping her head around. Ouch!

Suzanne Clothier has a fantastic article on her website, titled "The Problem with Head Halters" you may want to check out --> Flying Dog Press - Suzanne Clothier - The Problems With Head Halters

If you need a "quick fix" to prevent your dog from dragging you down the road when she sees a cat (or squirrel), a prong collar would be a much better - and less harmful - way to go because it does not cause her to bend her neck as a weird angle when she hits the end of the leash and you need little body weight or strength for it to correct and stop her.

As far as changing the behavior instead of a quick fix ...

Right now, when your dog sees a cat and takes off behind her, that's extremely rewarding for her and great fun. You can correct her from taking off by means of training collars but the real challenge is being more fun and more rewarding than chasing the cat.

Do you have a favorite toy that uses her prey drive in play? Like one of those stuffing-free furry toys that squeak? They're a lot like prey to most dogs because they flop around, they can shake them, they make noise. If you can get her attention with that, use that in your favor by engaging her to play with the toy if you come across a cat.

You mentioned you can walk past them if they don't suddenly dart out ... that would be the ideal time to engage the dog with the toy, when you have a cat just sitting somewhere. Make the toy interesting and reward the dog for focusing on you by playing with the toy. (Playing tug would be great for this, especially since you can do it while walking.)

You want her to associate seeing cat (prey) with playing with you (and your prey).

At least that's worked for me.

Prong collars are illegal here . I wouldn't use one anyway.

I actually haven't had any incidents with her stalking or chasing in the halti. She walks at the heel so I'm guessing that the extra contact around her face keeps her more focused. I didn't get it to help with this, to be honest it was just something I noticed. We have a lot of dogs that are not under control here and she gets snappy and dominant when they come up to us - sometimes growling and barking. After one such incident where the dog was in the care of two children under five I was not about to take any chances because if she'd even brushed either one of the kids with her tail she would have been destroyed before I could blink. It's a tool I only use as a precaution in certain places, we just use our webbing collar at all other times so I can work with her.

Regardless I'm not after a quick fix. For any of her behaviour. I want a nice, well behaved dog that I can take anywhere. She's my first dog and I've messed up a fair few times but we're slowly getting there.

I will try the tug rope idea when we see the cats, but I'm not sure if it will help with the actual darting out in front of us - is more of a split second automatic reaction, if it moves and it moves fast she's gone in the blink of an eye. As I mentioned in the first post check chain doesn't do a thing to deter her. I don't think even a prong collar would to be honest, I'm pretty sure that she wouldn't notice it til after the adrenaline wore off. I'd prefer not to use training collars anyway if possible.
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post #4 of 30 (permalink) Old 11-16-2011, 09:26 PM
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I have had success with a simple boneheaded technique, correcting and scalding the dog when she does that chase thing. Tuki has a strong prey drive and would do what you're describing when we're on the trail and a rabbit or squirrel jumps out of the bushes and along the trail. When she would do that, I would give a strong correction with the choker chain (check chain), and make her sit facing away from what she wanted to chase, and give her corrections for looking over her body at it (where the prey item ran).

It is tough to practice that since it's a fairly random event that one pops out and runs. But lately when this happens, she definitely focuses in on it, ears up, ready to chase, but she does not chase. Then to make it easy on her, I usually go back the other way for a bit so she's not tempted to follow the scent trail in that highly aroused state.

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post #5 of 30 (permalink) Old 11-18-2011, 07:56 PM
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You learn to control the dog, not the behavior. When you correct an innate behavior you cause a real conflict in the dog. Prey is genetic, and when you correct that, you correct something they were born to do. In order to prevent conflict that cause, you train to control the behavior, not eliminate it.

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post #6 of 30 (permalink) Old 03-15-2012, 12:11 PM
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Joey has a strong prey drive. He's six years old and intact.

We adopted him about 7 months ago from a family member. He's trained, housebroken and we love him to death.

He's great in the house or backyard; listens to commands very well, until a dog, cat or squirrel gets in his sights.

If we could only slow down his prey drive to where he won't pull me or my husband into the next town!!
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post #7 of 30 (permalink) Old 03-15-2012, 09:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DFrost View Post
You learn to control the dog, not the behavior. When you correct an innate behavior you cause a real conflict in the dog. Prey is genetic, and when you correct that, you correct something they were born to do. In order to prevent conflict that cause, you train to control the behavior, not eliminate it.

DFrost
my mia soft as she is has always had quite a strong prey drive, she CAN'T chase everything in sight only cause i use prongs. but just last night she caught a baby rabbit in our back yard. omg! she left it reluctantly(after i screamed for her to leave it) but still gaurding the poor maimed baby, lest we come and take it away!. somehow we got her in without her 'prey'. and had to put it to sleep humanely cuse she had managed to break its spine and paralyse it! so i really do not believe that a real drive can be 'driven' away, sorry!
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post #8 of 30 (permalink) Old 03-15-2012, 10:15 PM
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In the Toronto Beaches, in a church basement , way back in the late 70's there was an obedience class run by Marjorie Parkinson , and her partner. This is where I met Jan Worthy-Armstrong who later became Sanhedrin (american show line) .
We did obedience and tested it to the hilt . Every possible scenario to proof the dog . As DFrost said , you learn to control the dog, not the behaviour. When we did down stays or out of sights , the instructor would allow his (seasoned and blase) cat to stroll freely in the facility. Each student had focus and control and the dog respected the authority . Sometimes the instructor would bring balloons and let them jet around the room squealing, bring remote control cars and have a car do a circle around a dog , bounce a rubber ball, tease the dog. It was great . The dog was shown what was expected and there was follow through.
The next time I saw this level of control was at my French Ring Club - where the dogs were worked off lead, no collar , with farm cats running through the field where we were training.

Do standard obedience and be consistent in what behaviour you allow .

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post #9 of 30 (permalink) Old 03-15-2012, 10:22 PM
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In the Toronto Beaches, in a church basement , way back in the late 70's there was an obedience class run by Marjorie Parkinson , and her partner. This is where I met Jan Worthy-Armstrong who later became Sanhedrin (american show line) .
We did obedience and tested it to the hilt . Every possible scenario to proof the dog . As DFrost said , you learn to control the dog, not the behaviour. When we did down stays or out of sights , the instructor would allow his (seasoned and blase) cat to stroll freely in the facility. Each student had focus and control and the dog respected the authority . Sometimes the instructor would bring balloons and let them jet around the room squealing, bring remote control cars and have a car do a circle around a dog , bounce a rubber ball, tease the dog. It was great . The dog was shown what was expected and there was follow through.
The next time I saw this level of control was at my French Ring Club - where the dogs were worked off lead, no collar , with farm cats running through the field where we were training.

Do standard obedience and be consistent in what behaviour you allow .

Carmen
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I always read this, and understand the standard obedience part.
But what about the "allowing behaviors" part.
Am I pulling the dog away from the scenario when the undesireable behavior happens? Am I correcting the dog for the behavior with a pop on the leash? Am I training a replacement behavior?
I guess the question applies to more than just controlling prey drive, and more to controlling the whole dog.


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post #10 of 30 (permalink) Old 03-15-2012, 10:28 PM
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Prong collars are illegal here .
Doncha just love it when idiot politicians outlaw something they know fek-all about, simply because it looks ugly and they don't understand it?

"Don't use prong collars, which are highly effective and don't cause damage to the neck; they're too ugly. We'd rather you use choke chains, which have a 500 x higher rate of trachea damage than prongs, or head harnesses, which are capable of damaging the spine. But they look nicer and that's what counts."


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