Keilan and the lambs - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 04-20-2009, 02:08 PM Thread Starter
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Keilan and the lambs

Where to start? . . . About 5 weeks ago our family brought Keilan home. He's almost 2, was raised by LauraC, and is a wonderful dog in the house, on a leash, out in public, etc.

The problem we are having is with him and our livestock. I don't think the problem is aggression. He's happy barking, good body language, but he just gets to excited. In the past few weeks he has managed to de-feather 2 roosters, crash through the chicken coop fencing and gate, and is now charging at the fence, barking at the lambs and trying to chase them. These lambs are only a few weeks old--so they are fairly helpless.

When we brought him home we let him sniff the sheep, praised him for approaching the fence quietly, and taught him "shush." So it isn't like we just turned him out into the dog yard and expected him to be good. He also charges the bedroom window when he can see a lamb out it. I'm afraid he's going to get hurt.

I've tried no, shush, stop it, doing his training sessions near the fence so he has them as a distraction, getting treats right in his face as he attempts to charge the fence (to distract him), taking him out only on lead (nearly lost my arm that day!), and many other techniques. He just seems bent on getting to those poor lambs.

I am looking for suggestions, help, advice, encouragement . . .

I have to get this under control before he teaches Jake bad manners. Jake was raised around the livestock and he knows better. In fact he comes and sits on the porch when Keilan gets ready to run for it. He doesn't like all the barking -- nor does he like it when his mama gets upset.

Jake's Mom

Max (GSD) June 1997 to Sept 2006
Jake (GSD) Oct 2008
Keilan (GSD) May 2007
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 04-22-2009, 06:17 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Keilan and the lambs

Oh dear. I had really hoped for some suggestions.

Jake's Mom

Max (GSD) June 1997 to Sept 2006
Jake (GSD) Oct 2008
Keilan (GSD) May 2007
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 04-22-2009, 12:49 PM
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Re: Keilan and the lambs

It sounds like you have some experience with training dogs. If what you know isn't working for you, it might be beneficial to get the help of an outside trainer. With that caveat said here are a few thoughts.

I think you have to match the intensity level of Keilan. If a working dog like a GSD gets in drive mode they can often ignore treats. I'm always amazed when a dog in drive spits out a tasty treat like a hotdog to continue focusing on the rabbit/other dog/whatever distraction. So instead of treating her by the lambs, I would suggest getting her to focus on you near the lambs. This may require a physical correction. I'm not saying to hurt your dog of course, just something that distracts the brain and gets her to focus on you and not the lambs.

You of course need to be calm when doing this. You said Jake runs away because he doesn't like it when you are upset. If you are visibly upset, Keilan is likely to feed on that and get more excited.

My own pup (GSD mix) has a huge prey drive. In an open space area we frequent, there is a fenced off area that is filled with prairie dogs. This is a distraction that Nikita just couldn't (at first) ignore. She'd charge the fence and try to get through to kill the prairie dogs by any means possible. So we now have a training exercise near that fence. I put her on leash (normal, ordinary collar) and take her over to the fence myself. I sit her down with her back to the fence and have her focus on me. If she pays any attention to the prairie dogs at all, she gets a correction--a quick tug on the leash and then no tension. If she calms down and focuses on me, she gets a treat.

The first time was tedious and I had to correct her many times. She refused treats. It has gotten better each time. She'll even lay down now and just chill with her back to 20+ chirping prairie dogs. I couldn't be more proud. It took a lot of patience and I will readily admit I was on the verge of giving up many times.

The idea you want to convey is that those are YOUR lambs and going after them is not acceptable. Fixating on the them is not acceptable. You are the alpha and your pack is going to stay away from YOUR lambs. This is not something you will tolerate being questioned. The same way your pack doesn't jump up and take food off YOUR table. Or growl at YOUR friends that stop by to visit.
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 04-22-2009, 02:25 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Keilan and the lambs

Many many thanks for replying! We have a behaviorist coming in later this week to see what she can do to help.

I'll try the focus exercises again. Maybe this time he'll pay attention. I've been working with him daily on this (for 5 weeks with the sheep, but only 3 with the lambs), but maybe it will just "click" this time.

Again, thanks for the suggestion.

Jake's Mom

Max (GSD) June 1997 to Sept 2006
Jake (GSD) Oct 2008
Keilan (GSD) May 2007
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 04-22-2009, 04:04 PM
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Re: Keilan and the lambs

I don't have any advice for you, but I can relate. Heidi goes bonkers for squirrels, and since we have a walnut tree and redwood tree in our back yard, there are tons of them. She'd much rather chase squirrels than eat the tastiest treat I give her. And she completely tunes me out when I call her, if there is a squirrel around.

I hope you'll post your experience with the trainer and let us know how it goes. Good luck!!!

Karin and Dave

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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 04-22-2009, 04:34 PM
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Re: Keilan and the lambs

Hey, sorry to hear about your troubles. I can also relate to the frustration of meshing dogs and livestock. My gsd is very apt to go after the goats.

Like Colorado said, you have to match a correction to his level. He needs a strong enough correction to make him realize that the lambs are off limits. Focus exercises and distraction are good training tools, but ultimately this comes down to control - "you cannot chase/bother the stock because I said so and if you do you will not be a happy camper"

My boy seems to do much better if he has a toy in his mouth while outside (if yours is one who will carry a toy all the time). If he doesn't have a toy he's more likely to get into trouble. I would still never leave him unsupervised with the goats.

Also, how about some herding training? Seems like he has the drive for it and it would teach him the control. And then he'd also be useful! Unless you're really lucky, it seems to be hard to find herding trainers though, without having to drive 2+ hours.

Good luck!
Emily
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 04-28-2009, 09:09 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Keilan and the lambs

We've consulted with the behaviorist. She said we were doing the right things. She also said that dogs that aren't used to fences and suddenly find themselves with some freedom inside a fence can become aggressive about the fence line. She said to watch him carefully because the frustration he feels (not being able to get to the lambs) could easily make him surly towards Jake or us. She gave us few pointers about his body language. He's basically tuning us completely out when he does this.

We're going back to sitting with him on-lead 20 feet from the fence. That is where we'll do his grooming and training. Each week we move in 2 feet. We may never be able to trust him, but I hope we will.

A second thing she said that was interesting: The turning point for him might have been the smell of blood (from the births). She said if he was used to raw meat/prey style feeding that it might be that now he sees them as food where before he just thought they were an animal. That makes some sense, but what do you all think?

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Max (GSD) June 1997 to Sept 2006
Jake (GSD) Oct 2008
Keilan (GSD) May 2007
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 04-28-2009, 09:42 AM
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Re: Keilan and the lambs

Quote:
Originally Posted By: Jake's Mom

A second thing she said that was interesting: The turning point for him might have been the smell of blood (from the births). She said if he was used to raw meat/prey style feeding that it might be that now he sees them as food where before he just thought they were an animal. That makes some sense, but what do you all think?
The other ideas sound good but this one sounds a bit too much like "feeding raw makes your dog vicious."

Dogs know the difference.
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 04-28-2009, 10:16 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Keilan and the lambs

That was my reaction at first, but the more I thought about it the more it makes some sense. And she didn't say it would make him vicious. Just that the smell of blood might mean food to him and that made a difference on the fence charging during lambing season.

The sheep have been more of a problem during lambing season. There is always blood, sometimes a lot of blood, and the lambs carry that smell for 3 weeks or so. We can smell the difference in the older lambs and the younger lambs.

To be honest, Keilan does think of the chickens as meals on feet. We have to be very careful when we clean the coop that a chicken doesn't take a walk. He has done his fair share of damage in that department.

Yesterday he tried to eat a baby rabbit we had in the house. We caught him before he got his head the basket, but boy did he get stuck in the crate for that!

So anyway, I'm glad she had some recommendations. I hope that we are able to get a handle on this problem.

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Max (GSD) June 1997 to Sept 2006
Jake (GSD) Oct 2008
Keilan (GSD) May 2007
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 04-28-2009, 12:46 PM
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Re: Keilan and the lambs

I agree with Lies, I don't believe blood or a raw diet has anything to do with it. My dogs eat raw, and have killed two of my goats in the past (not sure which dog was the culprit or if it was a group effort). They did not even attempt to eat the goats. It's only the prey drive that drove them to do it, after the prey stopped moving, the interest was gone. They won't even eat dead rabbits with the fur on (although I do know of other peoples' dogs who will).

More examples:

- My fiest, who keeps the rat population down in the pastures, does not eat what she kills.

-My neighbor's cattle dog eats raw (straight from the chicken house most days). He neither kills and eats the live chickens or the goats (whom he herds and possibly would kill if left unsupervised with them) - and he has major prey/herding drive to control!

-It is not uncommon for those that keep livestock guard dogs to feed raw, including scraps from the very stock that they guard. These dogs do not then decide to kill their charges.

I'm not saying that is is completely out of the realm of possibility that he would eat a lamb if he did kill one, but I think that the motivation for him chasing them being hunger/blodd is very unlikely. GSD's have high prey drive naturally, I would place a bet that this is the drive behind your boy's lamb obsession

Keep at it with the obedience and it will get better. You're right though, you may not ever be able to trust him alone with stock. And you're not alone in that, many herding type dogs are not left alone with stock, but they can be controlled around them with their person.
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