Lunging for critters at the end of a leash - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-23-2019, 09:06 AM Thread Starter
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Lunging for critters at the end of a leash

Hi!
So Rumo is a pleasure to walk normally. He knows his "Stay Close" command (a casual Heel) and he'll walk by my leg to pass cars, kids on bikes, etc. He can pass other dogs and walkers calmly. We have long pleasant rambles daily, and we can even walk through the local crowded strip mall and buy a coffee, where he gets compliments for being calm, well-behaved and "beautiful". At home, he is a good dog and I am ready to award him his H.H. degree (Honorary Human :-)

HOWEVER there is one thing he does that drives me crazy. Every once in a while, he will be sniffing avidly under a bush and he will flush out a cat or a bunny! Then he lunges for it with 100% power and speed! I stumble, I trip and although I haven't fallen yet, I feel like it's going to happen someday. It's almost like a reflex of his, I don't think there is time for me to give a command, it happens so fast. The yank is so powerful that I worry that he's going to damage his neck.

I have been stuck on how to handle. A prong collar crossed my mind, but the thought of buying one, fitting it to his neck, learning to use it, just for these random incidents seems like too much work (1 or 2 cats a week, then maybe nothing for several weeks, then another 1, etc). I have been "living with it" but this week was a 3-cat week, and my back is actually bothering me this morning (I suspect the cat lunges).

Has anybody trained their dog not to lunge in these conditions? How did you do it...
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-23-2019, 10:42 AM
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I adopted a male GSD that on first exposure, was not cat friendly. When I first introduced him to my cat, I made a very bad mistake. I forgot the vet had taken his collar off because he had an abrasion on his neck. When he saw the cat, and went after it, I had no way to hold him back, and he actually grabbed the cat in his mouth twice, despite me yelling at him. I am fairly sure that if I hadn't been there, the cat might have been killed.

Eventually, he chased the cat into the living room where it got out of his reach by climbing the Venetian blinds. I at last managed to grab him and secure him in his crate. The cat eventually emerged, unharmed, from behind the books on the top shelf of my study.

After that, things were much more controlled. The dog spent a lot of time in my study, where his bed and crate were, and when the cat came into the room, I was very firm with him: "LEAVE IT!" I'd tell him. And if he didn't obey, I'd get up and give him a physical correction.

Before very long, he and the cat were the best of friends, and were playing together. When the cat slipped out the door one dark, foggy night, and got run over by a car, he became quite depressed, and obviously missed his friend.

I know this is a different situation from yours, but if I were you, I would get a prong collar, and use it to correct him. If he gets away from you, I think it's quite possible he could kill either the cat or the rabbit. Since you don't have a cat in your home, this is really the only way you are going to get control of this situation.
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-23-2019, 10:51 AM
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It may not seem worth the trouble now but if you ever lost that leash and he ended up in front of car during the chase...

I would buy a prong and, since you are well aware of the behavior leading up to the lunge, I would teach him a good Leave It command so you can stop it before he happens.

And, I would have that prong on a second line waiting for the behavior and only use it for that moment. He has gotten away with this for weeks and it's a habit now. One good correction coupled with a solid Leave It command should stop most of that.




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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-23-2019, 01:18 PM
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And just to add to my post above - A coworkers wife was face planted into a curb in a parking lot by their dog lunging. She's lucky she wasn't killed. Literally face first into the curb.
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-23-2019, 03:08 PM
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True, my mom's friend was killed by her daughter's dog lunging on leash from the fall, the dog just being a dog. So sad- I now don't let my parents walk any but the oldie on leash because you can't really ever be 100% especially with a different handler.

A prong is a good place to start as far as control, but I've also been there with the dog just sniffing and then, oh boy, there's a cat right underfoot. It's super hard if you are just a bit distracted or not right on it with the correction because it ends up being all about holding onto the leash and not losing dog or getting the cat killed.

I think if you are able to pay attention (I know sometimes that can be hard an entire walk) you'll see the body language where he is getting really excited about the scent, and then you can use leave it and a correction with the prong or whatever you chose as a correction.

At least a prong lessons the mechanical advantage in the dogs favor if he does lunge because he'll self correct. May not matter for the most prey-driven dog, but still gives you a physical chance to correct and quickly stop it.

But the best way to head it off is notice when he starts indicating on a prey animal and correct him really early. Then work OB around the prey animal if you have that level of control

I remember there was this rest stop in the midwest somewhere that was absolute squirrel haven and I was walking two large dogs at at time. It was near roads, and I couldn't risk losing a dog and was I ever glad for leave it! If you can catch the dog early, it is half the battle. I did use prongs in that scenario.
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-23-2019, 03:41 PM
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Years ago A small dog of some sorts came out of a yard and ran at my wife and Ranger. Ranger lunged at it pulling my wife down and dragged her a fair distance. My wife was fortunate enough to only come away with scrapes and bruises. Easy to blame the loose dog, but in reality we only have control over our own. I would consider Jax08’s advice and work with a prong to squish this behavior now.
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-24-2019, 05:45 AM
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I was suffering from the same.

When I got Rex, I used to walk him and as soon as he saw a cat he used to lunge and pull and even when the cat runs away, he was constantly pulling to search. It screwed up the walk.

I tried leash pops, tried re-directing using treats, using toys. Nothing. It was as if he was possessed.

One day I was walking him at night and a cat ran suddenly across from us. The leash slipped and he took off. The cat went up a tree and he stopped under the tree. I got very startled and reacted somewhat impulsively. Grabbed him by the collar. My movement was brisk and I think he sensed I was not happy AT ALL. He yelped when I grabbed the collar. Led him by the collar away from the tree. Grabbed him by the side of his cheeks. Looked into his eyes and shook his head three times while looking into his eyes with a NO, NO, NO. Then we went home.

The scene was not pretty as I clearly lost my cool. I felt guilty actually and I posted about what happened here. That being said, Rex was a changed dog after this event in terms of cats. Now, he looks at them and at worse moves towards them slightly and with a "no" he is off them. Most of the time, he just looks and continues.

I am pretty sure that this event is what "solved" it.

Best
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-24-2019, 08:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mozi View Post
I was suffering from the same.

When I got Rex, I used to walk him and as soon as he saw a cat he used to lunge and pull and even when the cat runs away, he was constantly pulling to search. It screwed up the walk.

I tried leash pops, tried re-directing using treats, using toys. Nothing. It was as if he was possessed.

One day I was walking him at night and a cat ran suddenly across from us. The leash slipped and he took off. The cat went up a tree and he stopped under the tree. I got very startled and reacted somewhat impulsively. Grabbed him by the collar. My movement was brisk and I think he sensed I was not happy AT ALL. He yelped when I grabbed the collar. Led him by the collar away from the tree. Grabbed him by the side of his cheeks. Looked into his eyes and shook his head three times while looking into his eyes with a NO, NO, NO. Then we went home.

The scene was not pretty as I clearly lost my cool. I felt guilty actually and I posted about what happened here. That being said, Rex was a changed dog after this event in terms of cats. Now, he looks at them and at worse moves towards them slightly and with a "no" he is off them. Most of the time, he just looks and continues.

I am pretty sure that this event is what "solved" it.

Best
I think in trying to be fair and kind to our dogs we don't help them understand the seriousness of the situation. Even though you did not hurt the dog you let him know that he had crossed the line.
I had to do something similar to my big-boy yesterday. He is such a good boy that I took his behavior for granted. He did something very wrong and ended up on the ground under my arm with me letting him know he wasn't lifting his head or moving a muscle until the situation was dealt with. (not a submissive roll...just a "don't you dare move") He was escorted back to the vehicle and crated until we went home. I was fuming and the adrenaline in my system wasn't going to help him train until I got calmed down.

I also had a ridgie mix that would heel unless she saw a squirrel. We were all using choke chain collars in those days. I'd lift it up under her chin and she knew she had to do well. To be honest she almost never "choked" after her first time of feeling a bit of pressure. But squirrels were her trigger. Then came the day a squirrel ran right in front of me while we were jogging downhill. My dog turned quickly in front of me and I crashed into her. I flew over her but luckily didn't bruise anything more than my pride. From that day forward, she heeled beautifully. Even though I don't recommend that as a training technique, It does show that sometimes you just have to have a "come to Jesus" moment.

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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-24-2019, 12:00 PM
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There is one set of bushes on the side of my house (same side as the neighbors cat) that I won't go near during his last potty of the night due to a few "found a very strong hot spot odor" frantic sniffing and bursting into a furious lunge. For him, it's not just prey drive (he's never flushed something out) but also I think territorial. He is an avid sniffer but in these circumstances, it goes beyond avid. This intensity doesn't happen outside of our property while sniffing.

He does wear a prong and the times he has caught me off guard the prong stopped him but just barely. Being aware of how he breathes when sniffing and his body language along with a really solid leave it before the frantic breathing and the timing of it was essential to learn.

Imho, it would be a good tool to learn and a good back up for those Just in case moments while you work on "the leave it" and fine tune the observation skills.

"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 #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-24-2019, 01:23 PM
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