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Discussion Starter #1
I know there are SO many opinions about how to train a dog, what to do, what not to do, how to reinforce a behavior and how to stop a behavior.

That being said, I have heard from a couple people at my work and my sister who say i should give my 8 month old a scruff on her side with a big firm "NO!" When she chases to maul cats.

I am doing another approach currently, and it will take a while before i can have Zelda off leash in the house, I however prefer this approach because I have no fear in that I will hurt her physically or mentally, and in the process potentially hurting our relationship. I have had previous posts on how to stop my pup from attacking our 5 cats. And have gotten some really helpful ideas: I've tried some out and none have worked so far.
Right now I have a flirt pole and am working on "leave it" whiel she is in her prey drive mode and "on the side" i am working on down stay, and will bring that in once her down stay is perfect without distraction. Once Zelda can down-stay and leave it on command perfectly while in her prey drive with the flirt pole. I will muzzle Zelda and let her on leash while the cats are in the house and work on that. Than i will have her off leash with a muzzle and see if she listens. And if she does this perfectly every time i will take the muzzle off while she is off leash as well. I will never leave her alone with cats-but it would be ncie to have her not try and chase and kill every single cat. To be peaceful in a room with cats. She waits by the stairs or the cat door for them and just watches them or watches the door to see if a cat will come in..
So that is what I am doing, yes, it will take months and months before i can get to where i want to be with her. But i will not be hurting our relationship but rather building it up.
However, those friends at work and my sister said i should scruff her and lay her on her side when she tries to chase them and tell her "NO!" until she starts listening. But i do not know if im that "type" of person, nor do I think it will improve our relationship-it may do nothing, but i do not think it will make it better. I told them this reasoning, and what my sister said to me was that I shouldnt have gotten a GSD then, because they need that "type" of person. I love GSD's.. I love their soulfulness, intelligence, being truely loyal, loving, fun and beautiful dogs. I found myself connecting with almost every mix and full bred GSD that comes into the shelter at my work. There is just something about them that gets to me every time. Not that i do not like other dogs or connect with them, there is just something special about a GSD that i love.

*So i am wondering if its true that i should not have nor get another one in the future, if i cannot be that "type of person?"

*Also should i listen to them and scruff her and be physically firm about the cat thing? What are your opinions on that? I understand the severity of her prey drive and the fact that, yes, it is scary she could really hurt or potentially KILL a cat. And that does worry me a lot! I just am trying another method i find better in general and it will take a lot of time, work and patience-but i think its the best route (thanks to someone on this forums for the idea!)

I'm sorry for doing so many threads, i just know that i dont know everything about dog psychology, training, etc. And know that there are lots of people with wealth of information and wisdom on such things, and even if they post something that do not agree with, it still is good to have different opinions. And i really appreciate you guys who do help me and post replies. Zelda means the world to me and i need as much help with her as i can get.
 

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I am not sure what your sister means by "that type of person," but you can certainly train a GSD using force-free methods. It is possible to train any breed of dog in any major endeavor -- sport competition, life skills, service work, whatever -- without the use of force, if that's what you want to do.

Conversely it would not be possible for me, personally, to achieve the results I've gotten with my dogs using force-based methods, because I am neither comfortable nor sufficiently skilled with those techniques to get good results with them. That doesn't mean those methods don't work, and it would be foolish for me to claim otherwise. It just means that I can't do much with them.

Anytime anybody tries to set forth an absolute rule that "X breed of dog needs Y technique" or "X endeavor needs Y tool," they're wrong. The whole reason there's such a wide variety of techniques and approaches in dog training is because there are no absolute rules. For different handlers with different values and different skill levels, they all work.

The trick is to find the method (or combination of methods) that feels right and works for you.

If you don't want to grab your dog and scruff her for bothering the cats, then don't. It might work if you did (and it might not). But it's not the only thing that could ever work.
 

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In general, I think GSDs are eager to please. They respond very well to praise. They may seem really tough, but I have found them to be extremely sensitive. I think harsh corrections are a mistake with this breed. I disagree with your sister. I'm glad you aren't that "type" of person. I believe you are the type of person you need to be for your dog. Keep doing what you are doing. It sounds like you are on the right track.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Merceil- I agree with what you said. I suppose I am still learning what method(s) of training works for both Zelda and I. And it will be a process! I am wondering what you did Merceil for training of your dogs? Are you into clicker positive reinforcement training? Progrssive? Or something perhaps i have never heard of? What would you do if you got a dog that was aggresive, prey-driven to cats, how would you go about training?

Steven- Yes, i also believe it is a mistake with GSD's to be harsh, i think there is a great misconception that they are a breed where you need to show physical dominance or you will end up having a bad dog, at least this is the understanding i get from certain people, both non GSD owners and GSD owners. I am also going to throw the same question to you as i did to Merceil, How would you go about training a dog that is prey-driven to cats?

Thanks guys i really appreciate the help!
 

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It sounds like your sister is basically telling you to alpha roll the dog, which I wouldn't do.

I don't advocate 'beating a dog' obviously, but I am not known to be a purely positive trainer either. It totally depends on the dog.

While you may not want to really get on her (and I don't mean a physical beating), about her behavior with the cats, you may have to. It's not about "you" it's about the dog and what training method works for her not you:)

My female aussie is a marshmellow, I would never ever use a harsh correction or really stern voice with her, she would shut down in a second..Now with all the gsd's I've had, THE LOOK, does it for them, I can use my voice to get across when I say knock it off, I mean it..and it doesn't have to be a physical thing either.

I can't tell you what to do with Zelda regarding the cats, some dogs are NEVER going to accept cats and that's just the way it is..

You may want to go a certain way with training and that's fine, but it's going to depend on 'her' as to what will work and what won't..

In general I don't know why people are afraid of correcting a dog that needs a correction (again I don't mean a beating or hitting etc)..There are some dogs that are sooo strong willed and determined / thick headed, that getting something across to them means a correction..

You don't need to be dominant, you don't need to be the "alpha", you (general you here), you just need to be as determined as they are and figure out what method is going to work for the dog....respect on both sides.

These dogs are not marshmellows, nor are they supposed to be..

I would find a good trainer who knows gsd's in your area to come in, evaluate her and give you some tips..

Just my 2 cents
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thank you Dianne, your very helpful!
Unfortunetly, Zelda does not take my stern voice seriously when she is in her cat prey mode.. And she doesnt look at me when she is in the mode, i can be literally right up in front of her face while saying her name and she will not make eye contact and will try and look past me- its like an alien took over her body. But on a serious note she really just doesnt care what i have to say when it comes down to it when there is a cat in the room. And im not sure if that means that our relationship is not at the level it should be.
And i agree with you completly that some dogs just wont accept cats, and i wish people would understand that- and not have unrealistc expectations for them.

Your 2 cents are appreciated. :)
 

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E collar??

I wish i had one lol.

I just used a leash pop to cure my dog going for the new cat. She did get the odd slap too. Bullmastiff mix very stuborn. She still chases cats but not mine. Also trained her with chickens. A stone on the rump(irish e collar) or a flick with a flexi rod gets there attention when they are ignoring you and stalking the prey.
 

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I am wondering what you did Merceil for training of your dogs? Are you into clicker positive reinforcement training? Progrssive? Or something perhaps i have never heard of? What would you do if you got a dog that was aggresive, prey-driven to cats, how would you go about training?
This answer probably isn't going to be very helpful, but I just got back from dinner and I'm mildly tipsy so whatever, bear with me here.

I'm on the record elsewhere on this board as saying that I would classify myself as "dog friendly" or "force free" or "relationship-based" or some other permutation of buzzwords that basically comes down to:

(1) I have developed a somewhat idiosyncratic way of communicating with Dog Mob that works for us;

(2) I don't use pain or fear in training. No prongs, no e-collars, no chokes, etc. As a rule I will not hurt a dog to get compliance with my wishes. Even if that's the fastest way to get the point across, it's a method I am not interested in pursuing;

(3) To the extent possible, I respect the mutt monsters' autonomy and strive to give them as much freedom as they can safely enjoy without infringing on the rights or comforts of others. I let them express their choices and preferences whenever possible, because that is useful information that I can use to tailor their rewards.

I would more or less align myself with the Leslie McDevitt/Denise Fenzi/Shade Whitesel/Patricia McConnell axis of dog trainers. Aversives are minimal and nonphysical; motivational methods are greatly preferred.

As for what I'd do in the situation you describe: well, I don't have cats, and I wouldn't trust my own recollection of how I trained Dog Mob, because it's been long enough that I've probably forgotten some important details along the way.

But I do have guinea pigs in an open-topped, easily accessible pen, and what I do when a foster dog wants to go after the guinea pigs is a combination of a verbal "NO" + body block to increase distance + mark and reward the instant the dog shifts focus + consistent management to interrupt/prevent fixation on the pigs plus rewards when the dog can focus on me in the pigs' presence + alternative work/play in the pigs' presence to practice ignoring them.

That is what works for me.
 

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it sounds like she goes into the "zone" which is expected with a dog that can be so fixated on something that nothing else matters.

Have you tried muzzling her with the cats around? How did that go? maybe I missed that part..

With a dog so focused, I would "think" that zoning in on them like she does, if you have her on leash and she sees them but can't get to them, may amp up her desire "TO" get to them..

I know you mentioned the muzzle,,I guess I would put it on her, put her on leash but allow her to get close to the cats to see exactly what she's going to follow thru with?
and go from there..
 

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My GSD was aggressive to our cat when we first adopted her. What we did was keep her on leash with a prong and have her sit next to the cat while feeding her treats for short periods. However, she never tried to chase the cat in the house and it was more of a territory thing. The cat was just being a butthead to her.

Outside, she has very strong prey drive to cats/small dogs and I simply do not stand for it. We do impulse control games and leave it and she gets rewards for that. But at some point you have to make it clear that leaving the cats alone is not just an option- it is the ONLY acceptable option. So I tell her to leave it and if she doesn't she gets a pop on the collar. If she ignores that, I make her sit until the cat goes away. It is going really well so far as I have to correct her less and less.

I disagree with your friends that you need to scruff her and pin her. That isn't very clear communication. In dog language, that could be interpreted as rather serious aggression or just play, neither of which is useful. She will possibly be frightened and not learn anything. I think you need to set better boundaries with her, but how you do that depends on her personality. For some dogs, "No" is enough. I would use the minimum amount of force necessary to get her attention. Recall and downstay are great but what happens when she decides you are too far away, the treats aren't good enough, the cat is right there? I think you could use your method but without any negative consequences it will be slow going.


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Patricia McConnell would advise teaching an incompatible behavior so that Zelda learns to do that behavior (sit or down) every single time she sees a cat, instead of chasing the cat. It's a trained interruption, basically.

Here is a post where she breaks down how to teach her dog not to chase the cat:

incompatible dog behaviors TheOtherEndoftheLeash
 

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I have a similar problem with Cruz and my cat also. I'e tried the leave it command, spray bottle, making both sit in the same room together coupled with the leave it command. I have slapped my dog a few time on the muzzle for biting or nipping. He doesn't recieve it or react to it like you would think. He becomes very agressive in letting me know he didn't like that. In other words, all he got out of it was him letting me know he doesn't approve and the whole don't bite thing was just lost somewhere. So any type of physical punishment with my dog is fruitless. I don't like doing it anyways. But you get to a point where you run out of ideas and it leaves you perplexed as to what to do now.

As far as my cat and dog, I've wondered if the flirt pole reinforces his prey drive too much to where he views the cat as just another toy to go after. His prey drive is so strong it overwhelms everything else. I have to be careful with the flirtpole because he see's nothing but the toy. I could run him straight into a wall easily he is so focused. There is just no breaking it. He does the same with car on walks. He likes to go after cars. I have had success with toning it down some. It takes a ton of rewarding and some very high value treats but he gets it. I use the leave it command and if he ignores the car he's praised and treated very well. If he doesn't he gets scolded for the lack better terms. Low voice, almost growling no and disapointment. He hears it because he will heel back into stride with me.

I am going to try the same process with the cat. My only problem now is keeping the cat in the same room. I may try puting us in a small room where the cat has no choice but to run where the dog can see and try my leave it commands and treats. I know it sounds risky but it needs repetitions close together timewise for him to understand he gets rewarded for not chasing the cat. Would I recommend this for everyone? No, especially if your having trouble controlling the dog. They are powerful and I'm strong enough to keep the dog off the cat if need be. So unless your strong enough to control him or her, I would not try this. But I'm running out of options. You with as many cats as you have shouldn't have a problem running across a cat and getting the repetitions you need to train.
 

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We have similar trouble with our pup and the cat. I'll tell you now that the scruffing never work for our dog. He just does so much better with positive reinforcement. Scruffing him only ever stopped the negative behavior at the time, it didn't deter him from trying it again later.

After more reading, I'm going to be trying a different method. First, I'm going to start by sitting on the couch with him leashed by me. We he lays down and displays calm behavior, I will give him treats (no clicker). If he looks at me to expect treats, no treats. Only when he is calm and quiet. Once he gets that down, I will harness and leash my cat and tie him across the room, and sit with Duke at the couch again. After a while, he will (hopefully) resort back to calm behavior for treats. I will only treat when he's not focused on the cat, or me/treats. Then I will slowly tie the cat closer to the couch working up to having the cat on my lap, having my SO sit across the room and play with the cat, etc. I know it will take a while, but I think it's the only way to get him from being so on-edge every time the cat comes in the room.

I have done leave it, etc. But leave it only works for a certain amount of time before he wants to go bug the cat again and I have to give him another "leave it".

Hope this gives you ideas for your pup! Good luck! I know how frustrating it can be :/


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We have similar trouble with our pup and the cat. I'll tell you now that the scruffing never work for our dog. He just does so much better with positive reinforcement. Scruffing him only ever stopped the negative behavior at the time, it didn't deter him from trying it again later.

After more reading, I'm going to be trying a different method. First, I'm going to start by sitting on the couch with him leashed by me. We he lays down and displays calm behavior, I will give him treats (no clicker). If he looks at me to expect treats, no treats. Only when he is calm and quiet. Once he gets that down, I will harness and leash my cat and tie him across the room, and sit with Duke at the couch again. After a while, he will (hopefully) resort back to calm behavior for treats. I will only treat when he's not focused on the cat, or me/treats. Then I will slowly tie the cat closer to the couch working up to having the cat on my lap, having my SO sit across the room and play with the cat, etc. I know it will take a while, but I think it's the only way to get him from being so on-edge every time the cat comes in the room.

I have done leave it, etc. But leave it only works for a certain amount of time before he wants to go bug the cat again and I have to give him another "leave it".

Hope this gives you ideas for your pup! Good luck! I know how frustrating it can be :/


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Unless your cat is very comfortable in harness and unafraid of the dog, please do not tie down your cat as part of a training exercise. It is unfair to the cat. It would be preferable to have someone holding the cat and they can walk away if the cat is frightened.


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I have two outdoor cats and one of them excited Minka more than the other. So to make it clear to her how I wanted her to interact with the cats was to do this:
1. Exercise her well so the energy level doesn't contribute to the problem.
2. Put the cat in Minka's 10x6 covered kennel.
3. Before feeding her I would put Minka on a leash and go into the kennel with dehydrated liver (or other high value treat).
4. Reinforce calm behavior with the food and block bad behavior and say NO.

Eventually she figured it out and we started working outside the kennel with a long line on Minka. I would call her back to me, give her good food and release her OK to go back to the cat. Then call her back after a bit and so on.

Minka is still obsessed with the cat but the cat trusts her so he doesn't run and Minka was NEVER ever given the opportunity to run the cats.

Management until the dog is dependable, is key. Now I can trust her with the cats and she won't run deer or rabbits either.

Anyhow, the first year of her life was spent making sure she never ran or molested the cats. It was a lot of work but worth it in the long run.


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Discussion Starter #16
Thanks for the help guys. I have been getting through to her more. She will eat a treat from my hand when a cat is in the same room and i can sometimes get her to look at me and make a big happy deal about it when she does. I always ask her to sit when a cat is in the room, sometimes i have to just touch her with my hand and then she sits. So this is improvement. I have boiled chicken as a treat: smelly, slimmy and i am sure delicious for her! Everytime she looks away from the cat i click and treat, when she looks away at the cat and looks at me i click treat and praise her making a big deal out of it. It is almost too bad that there are 5 cats, because sometimes the cats come out of no where and she notices them before me so i have to prepare myself. And she is on a leash all the time, which is a big pain in my rear. But like Janae said, it will be a lot of work but worth it in the long run.
Merceil- i prefer motivational methods, so perhaps those trainers are better for me.
Jakoda- i have not tried to muzzle her, i actually have never put a muzzle on her before. So this is a good idea. But i might need to buy one later when i think i should try them together to see if she will leave them alone. She already tries to nip/bite them. :(

Kaime- "But at some point you have to make it clear that leaving the cats alone is not just an option- it is the ONLY acceptable option. So I tell her to leave it and if she doesn't she gets a pop on the collar. If she ignores that, I make her sit until the cat goes away. It is going really well so far as I have to correct her less and less." Yes i do try to do the sit thing, and just keep resitting her when her butt goes up again.

Bow-wow-meow: "Patricia McConnell would advise teaching an incompatible behavior so that Zelda learns to do that behavior (sit or down) every single time she sees a cat, instead of chasing the cat. It's a trained interruption, basically." This is what i hope to accomplish and her looking at me! thanks for the article.

Thank you Imuns and Jafo for your imput as well!

I am seriously just so blown away by how helpful you guys have been with everything.
I cannot imagine not having the support system from this forum, all the inspiration, ideas, wisdom and friendly critism and everything else that makes me a better mama for my Zelda. :) You guys are awesome! And i will continue to utilize this GSD loving-knowledgable forums as much as i can!
 

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VTGirlT - just like there are different schools of thought on how to handle Dog Aggression, one being have the dog focus on the handler and treat; another is to allow the dog to look at another dog and then reward for good behavior. The first method is fine, but it really doesn't change the dogs "feelings" when it LOOKS at another dog and I think it's important to help the dog change its feelings.

The same thing (I think) with the looking at you instead of the cat. Eventually I would try to work into allowing your dog to look at the cat and rewarding the expected behavior of not lunging or getting all hyped up. So desensitizing her to the cats themselves.

If you watch your dog carefully, you might notice that she is turned on more by one cat over the other. With Minka that was due to one cat being more leery of her and acting leery. She knew it and that cat is the one that interests her the most. So that is the cat I had to work with her the most. It got to the point that she ignores the black & white cat but is still fixated on the grey cat, BUT she does not chase or play rough with the grey cat like she originally wanted to do.

The black & white cat is a riot. He comes down to the training field every morning and sits on the sidelines to watch. Minka can run straight up to him, full speed, tongue hanging out of her mouth, and skid to a stop in front of him. He will never flinch. He calmly grooms himself :) That is why Minka likes him but is not fixated on him. The grey cat goes into a freeze and that translates into vulnerability, and so Minka becomes focused on him.

Anyhow, just some thoughts. Sounds like you are doing an excellent job!

 

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And another point in the way I desensitized Minka to the cats - Since I started when she was a under a year old, first I used food rewards for good behavior and blocked bad behavior. As mentioned, she was on a long line all the time at home (outside) even though I have a farm where she could have conceivably been off lead but because of the cats lurking about I did not want her to ever get a taste for chasing them so the long line was on for a year. During that year we practiced allowing her to interact with the cats and then coming back to me when I called her. At some point after a year, I introduced the e-collar (using a method of introducing the collar which is important) so I could do an off-lead recall off the cat (using a very low stim). So steps to gain correct behavior and eventually off lead proofing with the e-collar. Maybe some dogs won't need the e-collar step but Minka would get into that "strong-eye" lock and literally it was like she couldn't hear me so I needed something to snap her out of it and come back to me. Again, very low stim, just enough to break her focus from the cat. I am always hesitant to mention the e-collar because I think the foundation steps are important to use prior to slapping on an e-collar (if ya know what I mean).
 

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Kaimeju- oh no! I would never tie down a scared cat! I've owned cats and raised kittens my whole life, and my cat is not scared of my dog in the least. Simon (the cat) just doesn't bother coming into the living room to hang out with us because he knows he will NEVER be left alone. So he leaves, which of course enforces the dog's behavior, as Duke just wants to chase him, or get him away from me. Not sure if dogs can experience jealousy, but whatever he feels it looks a lot like jealousy!

Anyway, this is just to desensitize the dog to the cat being in the living room. 99% of the time, the cat is instigating anyway.


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Discussion Starter #20
The same thing (I think) with the looking at you instead of the cat. Eventually I would try to work into allowing your dog to look at the cat and rewarding the expected behavior of not lunging or getting all hyped up. So desensitizing her to the cats themselves.
That is a really good point!
It might take me a year as well before i get to the off leash stage.
But your photo gives me confidence! I hope Zelda can let a cat do that to her one day. :)
BTW gorgeous girl you got there!!
 
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