Recall around wildlife - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-29-2018, 10:27 PM Thread Starter
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Recall around wildlife

Hi all,

My dogs and I had a "coyote incident" a few weeks ago and I'm at a loss as to where to go from here to keep them safe. For background, we (6yr old GSD and 1yr old Jack Russell mix) hike roughly 25 miles a week, off leash. We live in major coyote territory, and sometimes mountain lion territory. I thought my GSD had absolute perfect recall... until "the incident".

What happened:

We were heading up a hill when a coyote appeared over the crest, not far away from us. I called my dogs to come. They both came. I bent to put my Jack Russell mix on a leash (she's a cheeky one) and made the tremendous mistake of not putting my GSD on a leash. He's seen coyotes probably a dozen times before with no misbehavior, and he's shy in general so he always sticks near me at first when a new dog approaches. Then the coyote started trotting towards us, which is extremely unusual in my experience with them. I reacted by taking a step forward and yelling "HEY!" at it so it would run off. I realize now that my GSD took that to mean "fight's on", and while the coyote ran as planned... my dog was in hot pursuit of him. He chased him full speed for about 10 to 15 seconds before he finally listened to me telling him to come. He may be twice the size of a coyote, but he'd be outnumbered if they ambushed him. I'm terrified he'll do this again now that he's experienced it once.

I take full responsibility for his initial reaction to chase it, I fully believe he was reacting to my body language and I should have leashed him. But I'm very unhappy that he didn't pull off the second I asked him to. I immediately bought a couple long lines for my dogs with the intent of going "back to basics" and working on recall. But we've been doing this for a few weeks now and they've come every single time I've asked. I brought my GSD to an area we hike with loads of squirrels he loves to chase, and waited until he was focused on one to recall him... he listened every time. So I'm frustrated feeling like I can't work on the actual problem unless I simply keep them on leash until we encounter more coyotes.

Am I being too tough on them, should I just chalk it up to my own bad body language and continue on as normal? Are there any training scenarios I can set up to practice recall that might challenge them more like that real situation? Or am I crazy to want to keep them off leash? It's such a huge part of our life and the joy they get from that freedom is extremely important to me, but the general consensus when I search for solutions online is that the only solution is to leash them always. I'd love to hear any input on how to work on this!

Edit: I've also considered practicing recall the instant we see other off-leash dogs on our hikes. However... my GSD was attacked at 6 months old, and we've worked harder than I can even express over the years at getting him over his fear of other dogs. He's now at the point that he can pass, interact, and sometimes even play with other off-leash dogs on our hikes with minimal anxiety (yay!). But only if I continue on as if nothing is happening... for some reason, getting his focus on me just assigns more meaning to the interaction and causes him to backtrack. So I'm hesitant to give him any excuse to assign more meaning to the presence of other dogs.

Last edited by pongo; 10-29-2018 at 10:33 PM.
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post #2 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-29-2018, 11:05 PM
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Leash or E collar.
I'm lucky my dog hasn't chased a coyote, yet. I hook her up to leash when I see them.
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post #3 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-29-2018, 11:06 PM
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I believe you're correct about your dog reacting to your body language.In hindsight leashing him or a down\stay(if it's rock solid) would have been best.This is a perfect scenario for ecollar training.Sounds like you're doing an outstanding job with your dogs already@ Muskeg or @Thecowboysgirl hopefully will chime in.They have much more experience than most of us at humanely training anti crittering.
You're not alone!It takes some practice and skill to stop a dog she he's in drive.
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post #4 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-29-2018, 11:12 PM Thread Starter
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I've never used an e-collar before, sounds like I definitely have some research to do! Would that be appropriate on him even though he's already generally an anxious and very sensitive dog? I've worked so hard on his anxiety that I'm afraid associating anything at all with a physical correction will make him more fearful of his surroundings again. Are there any alternatives that would give similar results? He's unfortunately not even remotely treat or toy motivated, I'm not entirely sure how I ever trained him to begin with lol.
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post #5 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-29-2018, 11:59 PM
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Mine are on E collars whenever in wildlife territory or else their lives would be on leash only. Because your dog is sensitive I would hire a trainer, who is knowledgeable (references!) to help you to prevent causing trauma in your dog. Glad that things turned out to be OK. This could have been very bad.
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post #6 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-30-2018, 08:15 AM
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I think that the main issue is your boy's reaction to your reaction. These are my thoughts and they are only worth the 2cents but wanted to offer them. I would not do anything different than what you are doing while around other dogs considering how far you have come and your success with that.

The practice with squirrels had no change probably because you did not and have no reason to react to them. I think that the basic issue for you is your reaction and I say this only because my guy is also quite sensitive/aware of my body and verbal reactions to things and situations. I also had to practice being calm. It was hard.

Maybe practice with the squirrels or anything else while you yourself indicates intense interest in the object and a "hey" to shoo it away. It might help him understand that when you are in that state his default needs to be "look at your for more instruction"

That might help while working on the long line.

Also, this is just an idea that has worked somewhat with mine so if the trainers on here suggest not to, please defer to them.

If I had the kind of space to allow my guy off leash, I wouldn't want to give that up either and would consider e collar training.

"If you can't see his soul when you look in his eyes, then you need a seeing-eye dog"
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post #7 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-30-2018, 09:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pongo View Post
I've never used an e-collar before, sounds like I definitely have some research to do! Would that be appropriate on him even though he's already generally an anxious and very sensitive dog? I've worked so hard on his anxiety that I'm afraid associating anything at all with a physical correction will make him more fearful of his surroundings again. Are there any alternatives that would give similar results? He's unfortunately not even remotely treat or toy motivated, I'm not entirely sure how I ever trained him to begin with lol.
I do like E Collars for proofing recall off wildlife...but...

You've not used an E Collar before and your dog is fearful and has an issue with other dogs. Those factors don't make me feel great about saying yeah give it a try with the E Collar because you *can* accidentally make superstitious associations or other issues. You also can e collar train a sensitive and even fearful dog, but I wouldn't feel good recommending it for your first time using an E Collar with no help.

A few thoughts--- after I started my most recent one on e collar I had to wait like 3 weeks to find a deer to test him on. Of course once we were ready they would not show themselves. I don't like to let a dog off the long line until I've tested my work under the circumstances they last failed and was successful. So I finally sprung a deer and called my dog off and then he got his privileges back.

You might just do that same process with your dog and if he is successful next time on the long line with no e collar maybe that's enough. It's a little risky, but honestly so is trying an E Collar under your circumstances, I think. You don't have a chronic recall problem with this dog, so your chances fixing it without an E Collar are better I think

I think using a long line until you've had an opportunity to have a "redo" on another coyote is the best bet. And also maybe revisit reward options, you said the dog isn't food or toy motivated---what have you tried? Does anything at all get him excited? I have gotten less food motivated and even fearful dogs to enjoy food rewards using Michael Ellis' food chase, there are DVDs on that on Leerburg.
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post #8 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-30-2018, 09:19 AM
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OP: "Am I being too tough on them, should I just chalk it up to my own bad body language and continue on as normal? Are there any training scenarios I can set up to practice recall that might challenge them more like that real situation? Or am I crazy to want to keep them off leash? It's such a huge part of our life and the joy they get from that freedom is extremely important to me, but the general consensus when I search for solutions online is that the only solution is to leash them always. I'd love to hear any input on how to work on this!"

Training scenarios-- possibly spring for a coyote decoy and set it up or have a helper set it up so you can encounter it? One of these fooled my GSD when she was young--it had been set up on a field to keep the Canada geese away. Cheaper than an E Collar!

Are you crazy for wanting to keep them off leash, I don't think so. Mine are offleash all the time and I just feel like leash walking is a drag...and so do they. It's a risk. Worth it to us so far. i love watching them run and frolic and explore.

If you do decide to go E Collar, I agree with Wolfy, hire the best trainer you can find. And get a good e collar, either Dogtra or E Collar tech, although I'd be suspicious of a trainer who suggested you use another brand other than those 2 or maybe Tri Tronics but if I'm not mistaken Tri Tronics has far fewer levels and therefore less sensitivity (I think it's Garmin now)

E Collar tech does make a vibe only collar with different settings. The vibe can be more scary to a dog than the stim on a traditional E Collar but I don't know what this particular collar is like as I haven't ever used one.
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post #9 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-30-2018, 10:30 AM
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I have the Dogtra and it works great; has many levels of stimulation and a long range. The Ecollar gave them the freedom to be off leash. Whenever they smell a deer or see deer or any critter, they come back to me without me having to recall. I am not sure if they are 'collar-smart' so I don't want to test them on wild life without the Ecollars.
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post #10 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-30-2018, 10:36 AM
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Max has a higher prey drive then Luna so proofing recall off leash around wildlife was a challenge and could be inconsistent. I use the ecollars for when the dogs are off leash. I like to have my dogs off leash in quiet areas end enjoy that the most. To learn to use ecollar I watched YouTube videos and read books- Larry krohn -everything you need to know about ecollar training -but after all that I still felt most comfortable going to a trainer to show me how to use an ecollar with max, as I like to proof for off leash recall around wildlife. Max was about 14 months when I decided to use a trainer who did ecollar training. The trainer also showed me how to use it to proof behave around dogs as I had already done much work with both. I had a dogtra that I bought first but learned on my garmin sport ecollar which i felt was easier to use at first but use both now.

With behaving around other dogs I just usually the word leave it and yes body language is so important and breathing to if I’m relaxed and talking to someone with a dog for a few minutes max will just look the other way and pay no attention to the dog and I believe that is because I’m then relaxed. I can see how max can smell deer or some wildlife in the woods by his body language which is very clear so when off leash I still have the ecollar on but would not use it but simply call him over to me to get him out of that mode. I use the ecollars as a emergency back up correction for any off leash wildlife training inconsistencies. I have no problems with keeping wildlife and my dogs safe and still able to enjoy their freedom galloping along! The trails have been super busy with dogs and their people enjoying this short fall season- so on leash right now and not so much off leash wild runs or free exploring accept for the backyard or trails near our house.
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Last edited by Jenny720; 10-30-2018 at 10:58 AM.
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