Squirrel chasing
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Thread: Squirrel chasing

  1. #1
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    Squirrel chasing

    I’ve been training my 4 month old puppy on leash and all is well until she sees a squirrel or a bird at which point she will shoot towards it and strain against the leash until it leaves her view. The only methods I’ve found to address this behavior involves training colors. As she is less than 6 months I doesn’t want to use a training color with her. Does any one have any suggestions how I can deal with problem with out a training color or do I just have to deal with it until she is six months?

    Thanks, Mischa

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    Super Moderator RonE's Avatar
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    Re: Squirrel chasing

    I've been trying to figure out what a training color would be and how it might work. I always heard that dogs are color blind.

    Are you talking about choke chains and pinch/prong collars? I wouldn't use those on a puppy either, but I think there are training collars that can discourage a dog from pulling without risking injury.

    We're going to need someone more expert than me to advise you on this. My own opinion is that chasing squirrels and rolling in dead fish (and other stinky stuff) are two of the most primal urges among dogs. You can control another primal urge with spaying or neutering but I'm not aware of a surgical procedure that will curb squirrel-chasing.

    This is coming from a guy who was dragged five feet across the ground by a very powerful dog who could normally be walked by my 70-pound daughter but went ballistic when a spotted a squirrel. On that particular Sunday morning, he spotted a half-dozen while I was day-dreaming.

  4. #3
    Senior Member luv4gsds's Avatar
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    Re: Squirrel chasing

    I would not use a training collar on a puppy. How about the leave it command?

    Walk to cure diabetes

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    Senior Member Ginny01OT's Avatar
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    Re: Squirrel chasing

    How big is your dog? I started using a prong collar on my dog at about 4 months of age as he is a large breed dog. I did not get the heavy duty prong collar but a smaller, more delicate looking one--this was based on my trainers recommendation--he told me specifically what type to buy. Riley would love to chase squirrels, was distracted by other dogs and people and he also loved to run after leaves. He is getting much better now (nine months old). When he gets distracted by leaves, squirrels, etc. he now does a pause/pose as he is getting ready to run. I have been using the heel command. When he runs/walks in front of me (he must always be on my left side with my thigh and his front leg shoulder in alignment (unless he is getting ready to go to the bathroom). The correction I used when he was younger was the following: if he walked in front of me or would start to run I would walk backwards facing him saying "heel, heel" until he came back to may left side. The tension of me walking backwards would bring him to me. Now I actually "correct" with the leash and only say heel once. It is a matter of safety too--what if your dog got out, off leash and was distracted--I know where I live there are many cars and it could be a potentially dangerous situation.

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    Senior Member Lorina's Avatar
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    Re: Squirrel chasing

    My dog used to pull when he saw squirrels. A combination of learning leave it, and stopping dead in my tracks or changing directions if he pulled helped.

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    Re: Squirrel chasing

    Quote Originally Posted by RonE View Post
    I've been trying to figure out what a training color would be and how it might work. I always heard that dogs are color blind.
    Ha! You’ve found me out: I’m a terrible speller and overly reliant on spell check.


    Quote Originally Posted by luv4gsds View Post
    I would not use a training collar on a puppy. How about the leave it command?
    How can the leave it command be taught with out a training color?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ginny01OT View Post
    How big is your dog? I started using a prong collar on my dog at about 4 months of age as he is a large breed dog. I did not get the heavy duty prong collar but a smaller, more delicate looking one--this was based on my trainers recommendation--he told me specifically what type to buy… I have been using the heel command.
    She is a little over 20 pounds now. I don’t know about prong collars specifically but I’ve definitely read (I believe in the New Skeet Monk book) that a trainer color shouldn’t be used before 6 months.

    We’re not quite up to a formal “heel” yet: just the looser “let’s go” which means walk next to me and pay attention.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lorina View Post
    My dog used to pull when he saw squirrels. A combination of learning leave it, and stopping dead in my tracks or changing directions if he pulled helped.
    I’ve read similar techniques but again, teaching “leave it” and stopping/changing direction as a correction require a training color – don’t they?

  8. #7
    Senior Member luv4gsds's Avatar
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    Re: Squirrel chasing

    The training collars I am talking about are the prong collar and the choke chain. Because if you do not know what you are doing or better yet do not know how to use these training tools you can cause damage. Whatever you do to a puppy it will reflex on it when it becomes an adult dog. What type of training collar are you using now?

    I also wanted to say that you can cause damage with a flat collar also. My next door neighbors own two lab puppies and they have already caused collapsed trachea using a flat collar on one of them.

    Have you looked into a dog trainer or maybe training classes?

    Walk to cure diabetes

  9. #8
    Senior Member very_vizsla's Avatar
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    Re: Squirrel chasing

    your dog is a puppy & it's just having fun. heck, if i had four legs, i'd probably chase squirrels, as well, it's looks like fun!
    Life it too short to wear a boring dog collar - Custom made handbeaded dog collars & martingale collars

  10. #9
    Senior Member Snowshoe's Avatar
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    Re: Squirrel chasing

    Sounds like a case of prey drive.

    I think you must just keep a positive and consistant attitude about corrections.

    When training my girl to walk on a leash, when she pulled one way I'd switch directions to the opposite way.

    She learned after a while that I make the decisions when it comes to which way we go during the walk. I don't care what bunny or bird is around.

    I also don't let her sniff when she wants to. I choose the time she is allowed to sniff at the grass. I make her sit, and when she's paying close attention to me (treats help) then I allow her to play around for a minute while on lead.

    NILIF is an excellent training device. Basically, it just means that a dog has to earn any reward that it gets, from getting fed every day, to playing games, etc.

    That way, you won't have to use a training collar. Some people love them, because they're a quicker fix then positive reinforcement.

    But, it sounds like your puppy just needs to understand her place in your relationship.

    Here is a good article. It will illustrate much better what I'm getting at:

    Undesirable behavior can be caused by many things, including undetected illness. No behavior modification program should begin without first taking the dog to a veterinarian for a complete physical examination. While you're there, give your vet a printed copy of this page and ask if it would be an appropriate technique for you to try. The NILIF program is an accepted standard in dog training/behavior but it is not, and is not intended to be, a substitute for an in-person, professional evaluation of your dog's behavior. This technique is intended for dogs in good health and of sound mind and stable temperament.

    The NILIF program is remarkable because it's effective for such a wide variety of problems. A shy, timid dog becomes more relaxed knowing that he has nothing to worry about, his owner is in charge of all things. A dog that's pushing too hard to become "top dog" learns that the position is not available and that his life is far more enjoyable without the title.

    It is equally successful with dogs that fall anywhere between those two extremes. The program is not difficult to put into effect and it's not time consuming if the dog already knows a few basic obedience commands. I've never seen this technique fail to bring about a positive change in behavior, however, the change can be more profound in some dogs than others. Most owners use this program in conjunction with other behavior modification techniques such as coping with fear or treatment for aggression. It is a perfectly suitable technique for the dog with no major behavior problems that just needs some fine tuning.

    ATTENTION ON DEMAND
    The program begins by eliminating attention on demand. When your dog comes to you and nudges your hand, saying "pet me! pet me!" ignore him. Don't tell him "no", don't push him away. Simply pretend you don't notice him. This has worked for him before, so don't be surprised if he tries harder to get your attention. When he figures out that this no longer works, he'll stop. In a pack situation, the top ranking dogs can demand attention from the lower ranking ones, not the other way around. When you give your dog attention on demand you're telling him that he has more status in the pack than you do. Timid dogs become stressed by having this power and may become clingy. They're never sure when you'll be in charge so they can't relax. What if something scary happens, like a stranger coming in the house? Who will handle that? The timid dog that is demanding of attention can be on edge a lot of the time because he has more responsibility than he can handle.

    Some dogs see their ability to demand attention as confirmation that they are the "alpha", then become difficult to handle when told to "sit" or "down" or some other demand is placed on them. It is not their leadership status that stresses them out, it's the lack of consistency. They may or may not actually be alpha material, but having no one in the pack that is clearly the leader is a bigger problem than having the dog assume that role full time. Dogs are happiest when the pack order is stable. Tension is created by a constant fluctuation of pack leadership.

    EXTINCTION BURSTS
    Your dog already knows that he can demand your attention and he knows what works to get that to happen. As of today, it no longer works, but he doesn't know that yet. We all try harder at something we know works when it stops working. If I gave you a twenty dollar bill every time you clapped your hands together, you'd clap a lot. But, if I suddenly stopped handing you money, even though you were still clapping, you'd clap more and clap louder. You might even get closer to me to make sure I was noticing that you were clapping. You might even shout at me "Hey! I'm clapping like crazy over here, where's the money?". If I didn't respond at all, in any way, you'd stop. It wasn't working anymore. That last try -- that loud, frequent clapping is an extinction burst. If, however, during that extinction burst, I gave you another twenty dollar bill you'd be right back in it. It would take a lot longer to get you to stop clapping because you just learned that if you try hard enough, it will work.

    When your dog learns that the behaviors that used to get him your attention don't work any more he's going to try harder and he's going to have an extinction burst. If you give him attention during that time you will have to work that much harder to get him turned around again. Telling him "no" or pushing him away is not the kind of attention he's after, but it's still attention. Completely ignoring him will work faster and better.

    YOU HAVE THE POWER
    As the human and as his owner you have control of all things that are wonderful in his life. This is the backbone of the NILIF program. You control all of the resources. Playing, attention, food, walks, going in and out of the door, going for a ride in the car, going to the dog park. Anything and everything that your dog wants comes from you. If he's been getting most of these things for free there is no real reason for him to respect your leadership or your ownership of these things. Again, a timid dog is going to be stressed by this situation, a pushy dog is going to be difficult to handle. Both of them would prefer to have you in charge.

    To implement the NILIF program you simply have to have your dog earn his use of your resources. He's hungry? No problem, he simply has to sit before his bowl is put down. He wants to play fetch? Great! He has to "down" before you throw the ball. Want to go for a walk or a ride? He has to sit to get his lead snapped on and has to sit while the front door is opened. He has to sit and wait while the car door is opened and listen for the word (I use "OK") that means "get into the car". When you return he has to wait for the word that means "get out of the car" even if the door is wide open. Don't be too hard on him. He's already learned that he can make all of these decisions on his own. He has a strong history of being in control of when he gets these resources. Enforce the new rules, but keep in mind that he's only doing what he's been taught to do and he's going to need some time to get the hang of it all.

    You're going to have to pay attention to things that you probably haven't noticed before. If you feed your dog from your plate do you just toss him a green bean? No more. He has to earn it. You don't have to use standard obedience commands, any kind of action will do. If your dog knows "shake" or "spin around" or "speak" use those commands. Does your dog sleep on your bed? Teach him that he has to wait for you to say "OK" to get on the bed and he has to get down when you say "off". Teach him to go to his bed, or other designated spot, on command. When he goes to his spot and lays down tell him "stay" and then release him with a treat reward. Having a particular spot where he stays is very helpful for when you have guests or otherwise need him out of the way for a while. It also teaches him that free run of the house is a resource that you control. There are probably many things that your dog sees as valuable resources that I haven't mentioned here.

    The NILIF program should not be a long, drawn out process. All you need to do is enforce a simple command before allowing him access to what he wants. Dinner, for example, should be a two or three second encounter that consists of nothing more than saying "sit", then "good dog!", then putting the bowl down and walking away.

    ATTENTION AND PLAY
    Now that your dog is no longer calling the shots you will have to make an extra effort to provide him with attention and play time. Call him to you, have him "sit" and then lavish him with as much attention as you want. Have him go get his favorite toy and play as long as you both have the energy. The difference is that now you will be the one initiating the attention and beginning the play time. He's going to depend on you now, a lot more than before, to see that he gets what he needs. What he needs most is quality time with you. This would be a good time to enroll in a group obedience class. If his basic obedience is top notch, see about joining an agility class or fly ball team.

    NILIF DOES *NOT* MEAN THAT YOU HAVE TO RESTRICT THE AMOUNT OF ATTENTION YOU GIVE TO YOUR DOG. The NILIF concept speaks to who initiates the attention (you!), not the amount of attention. Go ahead and call your dog to you 100 times a day for hugs and kisses!! You can demand his attention, he can no longer demand yours!






    ©1999 Deb McKean

    Found at: http://k9deb.com/nilif.htm
    Last edited by Snowshoe; 04-07-2007 at 12:42 PM.

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    Senior Member Ginny01OT's Avatar
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    Re: Squirrel chasing

    [QUOTE=BigMish;54484]

    She is a little over 20 pounds now. I don’t know about prong collars specifically but I’ve definitely read (I believe in the New Skeet Monk book) that a trainer color shouldn’t be used before 6 months.

    We’re not quite up to a formal “heel” yet: just the looser “let’s go” which means walk next to me and pay attention.


    I use the words "Okay, Let's Go" when I am releasing Riley from a command. I don't think it is too young to start using the terminology you want to use for your commands. The heel doesn't have to be "formal". If the dog starts to run after a squirrel walk backwards facing him and say heel until he comes to your side then let's go. If you feel it is too young to start using a training collar I would still definitely use the terminology over and over so by the time they are 6 months or so they know what you are talking about.

    The New Skeet Monk book is also controversial as they use techniques to put dogs into submissiveness. I had a long discussion about it with the trainer I used and although they were at one time considered the end all and be all of dog training there are many other alternatives that can work such as NILIF, traditional corrections, ecollars, pinch or prong collars, choke collars you name it. You have to find what works best for you and be the pack leader and no matter the technique, it takes firmness and hard work (I am still working at it) but also a lot of love and understanding and patience. Good luck!

  12. #11
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    Re: Squirrel chasing

    Quote Originally Posted by BigMish View Post
    Ha! You’ve found me out: I’m a terrible speller and overly reliant on spell check.
    I gave a teen $20.21 on a purchase of $10.21 and he had to use a calculator to calculate the change. He'll never catch on when he's short changed.

    I'm terrible too and keep a dictionary next to the PC for sites that don't have spell check or when I'm just to lazy to use it and fall back on ol reliable.

    Spell check doesen't know the difference between to too or even two.

  13. #12
    Senior Member Lorina's Avatar
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    Re: Squirrel chasing

    Quote Originally Posted by BigMish View Post
    How can the leave it command be taught with out a training color?
    I’ve read similar techniques but again, teaching “leave it” and stopping/changing direction as a correction require a training color – don’t they?
    My dog was taught "leave it" in a basic obedience class with a clicker and a very loose leash. Actually, he learned most of it in my living room without a leash at all.

    Once he learned to "leave it," no leash correction was needed for most distractions - just the words alone was enough for him to recognize I didn't want him to sniff roadkill or eat a cookie he found on the street. It did take a little longer for him to associate "leave it" with living moving creatures like squirrels, and to be perfectly honest, it doesn't work well with other dogs yet, but no matter what collar or harness you have on, he's going to understand when he can't move any further or when his owner is moving in a different direction that he also needs to stop or change direction.

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