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Help with prey driven dog. Please!!!

2298 Views 27 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  Lilly Pad
I got Lilly from a shelter in December. She had a lot of health issues but she is over them all now. She knew no commands whatsoever when I got her. She now knows the basics, come,sit ,down,stay{not too good at this though}. She will do everything for me in the house. Outside she is not a bit interested in training. If I let her off leash she takes off after anything that moves, and if we leave a door open without a leash on her she takes off around the neighbourhood, ingnoring us. Comes back when she feels like it. I can`t even get her to make eye contact outside, she looks everywhere else. I am getting frustrated with the whole adoption thing at this point. She is not interested in toys or playing. When I act goofy and try to get her to join in a game she ignores me. Seems uncomfortable with it. Don`t know her age. Best guess between 2 and 5. She is clean in the house and behaves herself but I want so much more from her. Help, At my wits end.
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This is not uncommon in dogs that haven't been raised as real "pets" so it's new for them to try to have someone connecting with them and giving commands. They can learn all this and be wonderful but for now it sounds like she's having some trouble generalizing her new skills from inside to outside. Also, she probably knows your upset when she runs off and that elevated anxiety/desire to avoid punishment, is excerbating your problems. I have some ideas but questions first.

Do you have a fenced in yard?
Have you tried working with her on a long line?
Is she interested in food? If no, what treats have you tried?
Are you familiar with clicker training?

Hang in there! There's lots of info on the board and I'm sure we can help you get her sorted out.
Hi there!

Thanks for rescuing Lilly. I've fostered and adopted adult dogs before who sound similar to Lucy so I understand where you're coming from. My first piece of advice is to adjust your expectations for Lucy. She is who she is right now. That may change some day or it may not. My Basu didn't know how to play with toys and it was a foster puppy who finally was able to teach him.

There are other ways to build your bond. Clicker training is a great one. There is an exercise called shaping which can be a super confidence builder for a dog like Lucy. Here's a great on line library:

I've had several fosters and one dog (again, Basu) who were not reliable outside off leash for a very long time. Basu was kept caged before I adopted him and outside was like forbidden fruit to him. He got easily overstimulated and overwhelmed and had trouble listening to me. I bought him a 30 feet lead line and kept him on it for a long time (a year?) unless we were in a fenced in area. That way I didn't have to worry about him taking off and could reel him in, if necessary.

Have you tried really high value treats like cheese or bits of fresh cooked chicken? I'd recommend something like that that she ONLY gets outside.

How much exercise is she getting? I find it's a lot easier to get their attention after they've already had a couple hours of good exercise (which in her case would mean leashed walks or jogs).

Hope some of this helps. Pictures?
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I live on a lake in Florida and we are not allowed to fence. She gets two long walks a day. We are both melting in the heat by the time we get back. I take her down to the pool area at the beginning of each walk so she can do her business and then we walk fast for 45 minutes twice a day. I take her off leash in the tennis court and try to get her to chase a ball of frisbee. I do some come and stay commands. She will do the sit command and then look everywhere but at me. I use liver treats and jerky and small cookies. She is very food responsive. That is what gets her attention in the house for training. I have a long line. Gets tangled a lot. Do you just let them drag on the ground? I am always trying to hold it up. My previous shepherd used to play and never left our sides. This one will be the death of me with frustration.
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Originally Posted By: Lilly`s MomI live on a lake in Florida and we are not allowed to fence. She gets two long walks a day. We are both melting in the heat by the time we get back. I take her down to the pool area at the beginning of each walk so she can do her business and then we walk fast for 45 minutes twice a day. I take her off leash in the tennis court and try to get her to chase a ball of frisbee. I do some come and stay commands. She will do the sit command and then look everywhere but at me. I use liver treats and jerky and small cookies. She is very food responsive. That is what gets her attention in the house for training. I have a long line. Gets tangled a lot. Do you just let them drag on the ground? I am always trying to hold it up. My previous shepherd used to play and never left our sides. This one will be the death of me with frustration.
once your confident she knows what the commands are and will do them smartly in a distraction free area, I like using a tennis court, I would use a prong collar and long line or an E Collar and increase the distraction level a little bit each time. When the pupper does come back, treat it like the second coming and reward greatly.
She hangs out with me all day in the house but she doesn`t do anything. She will be in whatever room I am in. I don`t work, retired so she is never crated for very long when I go shopping.Has separation anciety when I leave the house. I have a treat ball for her and she will chew on it for hours if the food is stuck inside. Rarely she will chew on a nylabone for a few minutes. I have a basket of assorted toys but she is not interested.I worry about her as she is missing so much in life by not playing. in July we are going to Denver for 3 months to escape the summer heat in Florida. She will have a fenced yard there. My hubby has bought her a kiddy pool and we hope she will learn to play in it as our Darling Tara used to love. There are lots of biking trails we can walk on there so I am hoping she will get goofy for me as I know she could probably be.
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Yes, not having a fence can definitely up the frustration! I was fostering two adolescent sable GSDs last year who could scale a 6 foot fence and were very prey driven. I think "death to birds and squirrels!!!" Was their motto. All their potty breaks, all their exercise and all their outings were on leash and I definitely got a work out.

I know you're in FL and it's hot so that's going to limit you but when it gets cooler you might think about getting a bike attachment as another way to run her.

I think the not wanting to make eye contact outside thing is significant - and common in rescue dogs. She is unsure about what she's supposed to do out there and basically reverts to what she knows and what is fun.

I wouldn't have her off leash at all for a good while. Like Ruth said, this is where she is right now.

The longline can be useful if you have a fenced place to practice (like the tennis court) for working on recalls. I agree they're a pain for just general use. There are people on here who I respect very much who HATE them, but a Flexi leash might be an option, depending on what your dog is like and your level of comfort with them. If you go that route, I'd suggest getting the large size and getting the type that has a flat band rather than a cord. Even so, do NOT let that thing wrap around you - it burns! Also, you need to be pretty confident that you aren't gong to drop it because catching a dog who is spooked because they're dragging this bonking thing is hard. But all that said, they can be preferable to letting her loose and useful for potty breaks if you get desperate.
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What you want to work on now with the long line or even just leash is having very yummy treats with you, waiting until she gets distracted by something, and then calling her and giving her lots of praise and food when she redirects to you. As she gets better you can change this up, letting her be further and further away on her line before you call but start wherever you think she can succeed. That may just be working with "watch me" on a regular leash while outside.
Originally Posted By: Lilly`s Mom I take her off leash in the tennis court and try to get her to chase a ball of frisbee.
Our adopted Wolf also ignored toys at first. We rubbed his frisbee with Polish sausage (his only treat back then). Somehow, that changed his mind about the frisbee.
You are doing a great job, not a easy one - as you are trying hard and wanting her to be so much like your other dog
I have been there -

First word -- Do not let this dog off the leash

She is unsure what is expected and who is her owner - after going through all the health problems she is finally trying to sort things out - poor thing.

Second word -- Relax as she can feel the tension you are having -- remember baby steps

Clicker training is great - and get that eye contact - bring things up (not to make her jump up, but look up) to your face -- keep saying -- "Look at me" - when walking as you bring your finger to your eyes -- make it fun -- Good Girl --

Bonding time - get on the floor roll a ball to her and try to get her to hit it back or bring back to you -- make yourself the main object to her life (but give her time on her own, so she doesn't get too much separation problems. Crating in a good thing when you have to leave - tell her to watch the house and leave.

You are wonderful to open your heart to her and can see you are in love with Lilly. Give yourself a <<<HUG>> and Lilly !!

Leash, walks and alot of praise
Good luck to you, your husband and special Lilly!!

Keep updating and have fun!
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I have tried some hide and seek games in the house today with chicken treats. I hope to get her to loosen up a bit. She looks confused when she finds me and I treat her. Kind of like I have lost my mind or something , hiding in all the rooms. Took her a while to find me but she seemed to be having some fun. I will take into account all the good advice you all have given me and take baby steps. Maybe I am expecting too much too soon. My last shelter dog, Tara was so goofy after about 2 months with us that I was thinking Lilly would be more relaxed by now after 5 months. Maybe her circumstances were different. Tara had been abused but Lilly doesn`t seem to have issues like those. She doesn`t like being enclosed so I suspect she was kennelled a lot before.
Sorry, maybe I missed it but how long have you had her?

Have you ever had her in the company of other dogs that will play fetch or tug? I have found that some dogs really catch on to this by watching other dogs.
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Yeah, shelter/rescue dogs vary a lot. Some were housepets turned in for one reason or another, others were kennel dogs, some are from mills, others were even feral. All things considered it sounds like your pup is doing pretty well. I just think she doesn't quite "get" some of what you want from her so she doesn't yet know how to give it. The fact that she's so good in the house says to me that she wants to please (which most dogs do) she's just still learning the ropes for all the different situations.

I had a severely abused and neglected foster (a large male) who bonded with me pretty quickly but literally took 6 months to grasp the concept of playing with toys with a human. He liked the toys but he just didn't know how to play as an interactive thing.

So, their baggage varies from none to quite a bit. What you're describing sounds like a dog who wasn't abused but also wasn't worked with and that has a different set of issues associated with it than a dog who was abused but was interacted with which may have been more the case with your first pup. That's what we had with my girl Grace. Her big obstacle was to learn that we weren't going to hurt her, once she got that down, she understood the rest and was a normal high drive dog. In contrast, a lot of the dogs I foster from rural shelters simply don't understand about looking to people for direction. It's nothing they grew up doing. They can get it, it just takes a while. Sounds like you've already done a lot!
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Ok, I see you got her in December!
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Lilly sounds a lot like our Heidi was after we adopted her last October. After four months of major dog reactivity, not paying attention to us, extreme prey drive, total lack of affection towards us (especially my husband), major separation anxiety, etc., etc., etc., we were wondering what the heck we got ourselves into.

It was obvious that she was never treated like a pet, never lived inside a house, didn't know many (if any) commands, AND she was probably abused by the way she cowered when we tried to pet her and was very fearful of men.

She's a LOT better now, although she still has some issues with dog reactivity towards certain dogs, still goes bonkers when she sees squirrels, still has trouble paying attention when outside, and still isn't as affectionate as we'd like her to be.

What really helped was working with a trainer on her dog reactivity issues, taking her to a "grumpy pup" class, taking her to obedience training, working on obedience regularly with her at home (inside and outside), taking her out in public a lot, finding some toys she loves (her Cuz) and playing with her, and just being very kind and loving towards her (without babying her too much).

She now really enjoys playing (with us, but not other dogs!), she's very happy and wants to be around us a lot, she knows a lot of commands, she's less dog reactive (to the point where we can put her in doggy daycare). In fact, today we took her to a dog friendly cafe and sat outside with her and she was perfect!

So, please don't give up! Give it time and she'll come around. And come to this board a lot--there is a TON of valuable information and advice here.

Good luck!
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I'm really so pleased you took Lilly into your home, and she will come along in time with your care and love. I have two rescued, Thor, spent his entire puppyhood tied to a tree in the north 40 of someone's home and the second, Freya, was found running wild in the streets. Both of them are like Lilly....great at following commands in the house and both well behaved and loveable there.

But outside was always a problem similar to yours. No paying attention, no eye contact, no manners at all. Due to a bite problem I had with Thor, I found a trainer. Thor is not food driven (though Freya fact she really needs to go on a diet as she eats anything anytime that's not nailed down and is a tad overweight) so it was hard to find something that caught Thor's attention in training sessions. We discovered he loves sharp cheddar *rolls eyes* as well as tennis balls, so we use either one to grab his attention.

But the difference in both dogs when outside is phenomenal. But I have to admit that it's not all the's really a lot to do with me finding my "inner-alpha" and not gently asking either dog to heel, sit, stay or come. I have to be stern and firm, which is hard since I dearly love them both. But being an older woman it's necessary as the two of them together outweigh me by almost twice my weight. I HAVE to be in control of them.

The training sessions have also helped me to gain that control, and thus I have relaxed and lost a lot of the tension I transferred to them. I use a retractable leash on both so they have some freedom to romp but can be called to my side to heel, sit, or whatever just to remind them that I'm still the boss. Perhaps you could try to find a trainer locally even if only to get some help in finding your "inner alpha". *grins*

But most importantly, please don't compare Lilly to Tara or any other dog. Lilly is Lilly, with her own baggage, her own personality traits, her own fears and hopes. Both my dogs (and I'm sure everyone's here on this site) are all as different as one's own children are. You love your kids even though their personalities are entirely different and you have to do the same with dogs. Find Lilly's positive features and enhance them, work with them and don't worry so much about the negative ones. Just love her as you're doing and listen to the good folks here. They have a wealth of helpful information they are only too willing to share with you. Glad Lilly's found you....she's a lucky dog.
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Just please do be careful of trainers who really stress the "alpha" thing. I think I know what the above poster is getting at - it's about being a clear and firm leader which is all great
, but currently there's a lot of emphasis on "being the boss "and alpha training and it's leading so some less than desirable training techniques that can be pretty scary and counterproductive for the dogs.

Lilly sounds like a good dog who just doesn't understand what's expected of her yet. Training focused on improving that communication and helping shape the behavior you want - I'm a fan of the clicker for this - will help a lot.
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You guys are all great at offering help. I thank you all. I try hard not to compare Lilly with Tara. I realize she is very different. I would just like her to be as fun and loving as she can be.Now that her health is good she has an amazing amount of energy and I want to be able to channel it properly and not by running around the neighbourhood. I have her on a prong colllar to make her walk politely as she is very bad at pulling on the plain collar. I have had her to the dog beach twice and she kept an eye on us and interacted really well with the other dogs. She is not aggressive and loves people and especially small children. I do know that she has had pups but nothing else about her. She is affectionate and likes her belly rubbed and her ears. She will let me groom her and seems to be a really sweet girl. I will persavere with the training and hopefully there will be some improvement outside. I guess I just want her to see me as more fun than the great outdoors. Doesn`t help when she isn`t interested in toys. I might try to get a trainer when in Denver this summer and see if it helps. I will keep you posted.
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I took my dog to agility training (I'd already done basic obedience with her, and lots of home training)--- and *I* learned SO much from it!

My trainer (best trainer I've ever worked with) at one point imitated me giving directions to my dog, and had me be the dog -- my goodness, but I was confusing! Anyway, as a consequence I became eversomuch more aware of the conflicting signals I was sending out and consquently a much better handler. The fact that it was agility training is beside the point; a small, challenging class and an excellent trainer are what counts.

I also learned to read and respond to my dog much better during the training -- she's very subtle in her expressions of confusion and affection, and I wasn't picking up on a lot of it.

You haven't had Lilly very long; I'll bet a year from now you'll think she's perfectly perfect. You're obviously an astute and loving mom, and Lilly sounds like a doll.
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something you might think of trying,,and I have NO idea if it will work or not..

she's food motivated, that's good, carry something REALLY yummy on you (i've used those frozen italian meatballs, nuke a few, cut up in small pieces save for ONLY training).

Get yourself that long line,,I'd find a big open area, so neither of you will get tangled,,I'd hold onto the end of the long line, (don't let go),,and let her 'roam' off,,TOTALLY IGNORE her,,and then start walking around,,if she's at the end of the line,,just keep going, without saying a word,,totally ignore her,,IF she comes to you and "checks" in,,I'd praise her lavishly and jackpot with a reward..

I use this method when teaching dogs on leash to heel,,it "may" work with a dog who's outside in the big wide world and finds everything but YOU interesting,,as others have said,,she's finally got the life of riley,,and she's enjoying it !! wants to check everything else out..

I also find GSD's tend to "check in" with their owners, they do NOT like being ignored either *vbg* ignoring, you may peek her interest as to WHY you are ignoring her?? this may make YOU more interesting than what's going on around her :))

Don't know if it will work,,but just thought I'd throw it out there
Good luck
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