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FullSizeRender (1).jpg My pup, about a year old, walks well on leash generally. However, when she sees a squirrel she has a little ritual she religiously observes: 1) staring, eyes glazed; 2) sitting/plopping down; 3) lunging at the squirrel. Since I live in a city and walk her around in parks, we encounter squirrels every. day. If I block her sight of the squirrel with my body she'll just weave around me; if I try to redirect her, she'll sit down; once I do get her walking again, she lunges at the squirrel. I'm able to distract her by waving treats in her face 50% of the time. When squirrels are not involved, her recall is good on and off leash -- and she's extremely responsive to my voice/food. In the end, I usually just pick her up and carry her for a few seconds before setting her down again; this works because she's too distracted by being in the air. Any tips of how to get her attention back without picking her up or pulling her in the presence of a squirrel? She's nearly 40 lbs... Thank you!
 

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Or use the squirrel as a training prop. Dog sees squirrel and you use that enticing critter to work on walking nicely to the tree with the reward of getting to jump and bark at the squirrel. I start off with 'inchworm' walks. Sit, stay I walk to end of leash towards the tree, recall dog and repeat until I can release dog to his reward without the leash going taut. Bucky is able to do 'wedding march' walks now. I walk a step and treat dog at my side, walk 2 steps and treat, 1 treat, 3 treat and so on then release to his reward.

Then once dog is happily jumping and barking at the squirrel work on her learning to come off a distraction. Wait until she is slowing down and about ready to resume her hunt for more critters, put a good sized smelly treat in her face and lead her off the tree and give treat to her with much sincere praise. Now is the really important part, tell her to get the critter again. She will be a bit puzzled and at least turn away. Call her with cookie in face again if needed and feed her a step or two away from the tree.
 

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In our working dogs we call this prey drive. Some dogs are retrievers some are more predators by nature. This is an instinct within dogs, some more than others.

Most knowledgeable trainers will say you can't eradicate an instinct but you can shape it and direct it. For example herding, scenting and protection work.

So, to shape this you need to develope a very close bond with your dog. In your dog's mind you become his " light bulb" everything good comes from you. He trusts you for everything. The better you are at gaining the dogs trust the easier it will be to direct the prey drive.....capture or dispatch squirrels in this case.

I start with a " leave it" command. You can start in your living room. Most dogs will eat anything you eat. So, pick something but not dog food, piece of donut. Put it on the floor and get your dog on leash and heel some distance from it. Say" leave it" when he even looks at it. The response you are looking for is for him to look at you. When this happens instantly reward with a dog treat something he really likes. Continue do this until he looks to you when you say " leave it" even though there may not be anything there.

This takes time to develop. I'll say it again ..it takes time. I work on this every day as in my dog the herding instinct is extremely strong. For now outside try to keep him away from squirrels as much as possible but use " leave it" and reward for correct looks. As he gets better he will maintain heel and look at the squirrel then you for reward and praise. If my dog is say sniffing at the end of the leash and spots a squirrel, I proof a number of other commands, leave it, sit, down,stand, recall and come to heel. An instant reward can be a small handful of liver or hotdog chips. A huge reward for completing the command.
Sometimes I think she searches for squirrels just for the reward. But again this takes time and a very well developed bond. I never use harsh corrections as this is counter productive. If she gets really Focused on the squirrel I will go up to her and redirect her to something else, a quick heel and turn with reward. You are now rewarding the moment and not the squirrel.

Most dogs are not the super high drive intense dogs that I like but respond the same .....usually easier and quicker and forgive mistakes on your part.

Your dog is only a year old so don't expect miracles. He hasn't even arrived at the terrible teens yet.
 

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My previous Lab/GSD was good around cats and other dogs, but difficult around squirrels, rabbits, and large birds. With cats, I was able to teach him to look at me when I saw the cat before he did, and eventually, I could get him to look away when I said leave it. Sometimes, he'd do this with large birds. But, with squirrels and rabbits, I ceased to exist. If he couldn't chase them, he wouldn't take his eyes off of them.

My current Lab/GSD will listen to "Leave it" as long as I compromise and let him stare at them. If he starts chasing them off leash before I see them, there's a certain window of opportunity that he will stop when called, and certain times he has to give chase. It's up to the individual, the training, and the specific opportunity.
 

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I'm not a sophisticated dog trainer. All three of my Labs tried to chase squirrels for awhile (actually, with Jarrah it was kangaroos and blue tongue lizards . . . no squirrels in Western Australia). I just ignored them and keep walking. Dragging them on the leash if necessary. They eventually give up trying . . . takes a year or so . . .and some arm strength.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for all the tips! I incorporated some of the advice and we're working on it slowly. Right now, on lead, she has begun to stare intently rather than lunge (and once or twice, she just turned away -- what!), so that's a bit of progress. :)
 

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When she looks away, reward profusely, at least praise a lot!

My Lab mix will also stare intently, but he'll walk on a loose leash very nicely, while he stares ... so I accept the compromise ;-)
 
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