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Thread: Training dogs with strong prey drive

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2012
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    Summer Hill, NSW
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    Default Training dogs with strong prey drive

    My dog is a 2.5 year old Labrador-cross dog. I am not sure about his breed but he has webbed paws and looks like a black Labrador/Kelpie. He was adopted when he was a couple of months old.

    He goes nuts whenever he sees stray cats and other wild animals. He will try to shake off the harness and make a run for the animal. Today, we came across a dead possum and he went crazy. Although today's incident was still quite manageable, I have encountered situations where my dog actually stripped himself from the collar and harness to chase after the animal he set his eyes on.

    Another issue is my dog is aggressive towards my cats and I have to keep him in his crate or in my room at all times. They used to be OK but he started being aggressive to them since last November.

    Dog Trainers

    I have hired 2 dog trainers in Sydney to help me and both of them were not around to witness events like this and offered solutions that didn't work.

    One of trainers (DogTech) believed that it was a dominance issue because I am not the "pack leader". His solution was to follow his ideas:

    • Hand sits: pushing down my dog's ass to make him sit to prove that I'm stronger than him and to reduce dominance.
    • Keep my dog outside if possible.
    • Chain him for a 1 hour per day.
    • I eat before he does. Make him see his food while I am eating my food.
    • I walk out the door before he does.
    • Walk like a grandmother's pace to make my dog walk slowly because he thinks it is harder for my dog. He does not believe in running with dogs. He said walking slowly is like crawling on the ground and the dog gets better exercise.
    • Keep the leash short and walk him on the left.
    • Keep dog off beds and sofas.
    • Stop petting my dog temporarily.
    • No rough play.
    • Keep toys after play session.
    • No smacking or raising of voice.
    • Reprimand dog with "ah ah" instead of saying "No" because dogs don't understand English and "ah ah" is a sound they can learn to associate with no.


    If I do it long enough and consistently enough, my dog will obey my every word, no matter what. He said my dog is aggressive towards my cats because he sees it as his job to discipline the cats and I need to be the leader to show him that he does not have to do that.

    Of all his ideas, I have been doing all of the above except for keeping my dog outside because there are possums that visit our garden and he could escape from the backyard. Not to mention it is cold at night and there could be fleas and other pests. I did not like the idea of walking slowly. Didn't make sense to me and my dog. I don't care whether my dog eats first or I eat first. I prefer saying no because I have been doing it for years. I no longer do the hand sits but my dog responds to light taps on his butt as a signal to sit.

    The other trainer (dog logic) was not into the dog dominance theory and suggested that my dog be fed before my cats. They think my dog is food aggressive and not cat aggressive. The plan was to:

    • Seal the kitchen window to prevent my dog from attacking my cats when they are sitting there. Done.
    • Feed my dog 2 times per day instead of once per day to reduce his hunger and stress. Done.
    • Practice exchanging food with him to reduce food aggression.
    • My dog should eat before my cats to reduce food aggression. Done.


    The plan is to maintain this new schedule of feeding and regular "food exchange exercises" over a period of 1 year before my dog will stop this behaviour.

    Home Safety

    I have installed 2 pet gates at home in front of my bedroom door and the kitchen door. The gates are 1m high but my dog can jump over it without any problems. Alternatively, he can push it down if he really wants to. Therefore, it is not safe to keep him confined within the living room or my bedroom with the doors open. The pet gates are merely deterrents.

    As mentioned earlier, I have sealed the kitchen window. Sometimes my cats like to sit there and my dog has managed to jump up and slam one of my cats down to the floor.

    Leerburg Dog Training DVDs

    I purchased the following DVDs.

    • Remote Collar Training for the Pet Owner
    • Establishing Pack Structure with the Family Pet
    • Basic Dog Obedience


    I have not watched the dog obedience training DVD because the trainer recommends establishing pack structure before starting obedience training. The main thing in the trainer's pack structure training is crate training. I kept my dog in his crate for about 2 months, letting him out only for toilet breaks and our daily walks. Nowadays, my dog gets to run free in my bedroom at night.

    I would say the best training I have done so far was crate training. I see a lot of improvements in my dog's behaviour. My cats know he is in the crate and they are more relaxed. My dog seems to be okay spending most of the time in his crate and he sleeps in it even when the crate door is left open.

    The remote collar training DVD is also very good. I bought a PetSafe citronella spray collar but it didn't work well with my dog. According to the trainer, my dog is a "hard dog" and requires stronger corrections. My dog got used to the highest spray setting within days and totally ignores the sprays within a week. E-collars are illegal in NSW unless a vet endorses it. I am thinking of getting one to use privately but have not done so. I would like to consult a vet about it first.

    The Way Forward

    I am thinking of getting a good e-collar but I am concerned about breaking the NSW laws. I asked an Australian online store about this and they said it would be hard to find a NSW vet who would write a letter to endorse the use of an e-collar for my dog.

    I wouldn't mind paying a dog trainer money if he/she can show me how to stop my dog from going crazy whenever we walk past a stray cat or wild animal and stop attacking my cats WHEN my dog is doing it. Talk is cheap, I want to see how it is done when it is happening. I would be very impressed if they can reward my dog for stopping that behaviour as he is doing it.

    I have done everything in my power to prevent my dog from chasing and attacking my cats at home. However, it only takes my dog 3 seconds to jump over the pet gate and attack my cats if they are sleeping on the sofa. We just had an "accident" when I was camping over a weekend and my housemate was careless with the dog by not closing the doors.

    Do you guys know of any good dog trainers for my situation or ways to get a vet to endorse the use of an e-collar?

  2. #2
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    Aug 2011
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    My dog wasn't actually aggressive towards my cats as such (what do you mean by aggressive in this context?), but she did use to try chase them. All I did was some 'look at that' training with her. I had already started clicker training and that made it easy to implement this. I also used it to prevent her from approaching kids or jump on adults. I did use it a couple of times when there were kangaroos about, but did not do it often enough to really enforce it, so I will have to start from scratch with that one.

    The whole dominance thing sounds silly. I don't see how being the alpha male is going to prevent your dog from following his instinct to chase.

    I really think that those kind of generalised strategies don't address the actual issue. I have done some research on this, but apart from the 'look at that' training and a rock solid recall, the only other thing I could find was a method in which they used fetch with two balls to train the dog into coming when they were already chasing. Which I found interesting and it could possibly work if you put enough work into it. Of course I did not bookmark the article...

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Geelong, Vic
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    Default

    if you want to use an e-collar get a very good trainer to help you. If you are close to Pet Resorts Australia, contact them for advice. They are working dog people and know how to use a myriad of equipment and deal with dogs like yours.

    I do not like citronella collars. The point of the stimulation from an e-collar is it is timed, and lasts a set period. Citronella coats the dogs face, eyes and mouth, and the dog works through the scent because it's lingering. It's always there, so even when he IS doing something good he's copping an almighty irritation from the citronella. I would ban those things over e-collars any day I think they're horrid. Spray the liquid into your eyes and see what it feels like compared to a quick stim at the RIGHT level for your dog. They are not used to zap the life out of the dog by any means.

    Foundation work, yes, but all your trainers have given you frankly BS. Where is the plan to help the dog see small animals more towards the neutral end of the spectrum? You cannot do that with feeding routines you need to get directly to the problem. And before that you need to establish a relationship between yourself and the dog through work - so a system of clear relationship building and the dog learning when and what he needs to do to get a reward which is BETTER then going for the cat, and also the consequence of trying to get the cats.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
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    Southern NSW
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    This is not really something you can "show and tell" over the web.....I would always have to see he dog in action and see how responsive it is and if it can be re-directed.

    I have managed to re-train and desensitize/counter condition some dogs that have chased cats/chickens/ducks, whilst with me. But I would not guarantee some of these dogs while out by themselves. Others would be fine

    One of my own Rescue dogs is perfect, whilst off lead with me with chickens/small animals, but I would NEVER let her out by herself with those chickens. She needs to be managed, she will always be managed. But my other Rescue will now quite happily be around those chickens, even by himself and he was really bad too.

    I have re-trained quite a few dogs with cats in household, but again it is an individual thing. Some will succeed, some will not. In my eyes not a "do this and it will work". Dogs are so individual and sometimes it will not work

    Maybe there are some more pro-active trainers in your area, who will take the dog as an individual and give you one on one and not a script, like so many people do


    I always do start with good basic Obedience though...if people have good basic obedience it is a lot easier for trainers to work with them. A really good recall is the most important to get. If you have that you will be almost there. Make coming to you be automatic

    I can understand some of the things you have been told, but a dog chasing a cat is not about dominance....hell it is fun and look the cat runs....fun and very natural.

    I do not do all of those things that you have been told to do, but i do have leadership, I am not into the dominance/alpha thing and I am (and hubby) the ones our dogs listen to. But I never go through the door first. My dogs lounge on the couch with me. And if we have a Sunday sleep-in, their happiest time is when they are allowed on the bed for a cuddle, A bit cosy with four very large dogs. I do a lot of clicker training on dogs that like food and are easy to get their attention. BUT...I will use a check chain on a dog that does not do food or totally ignores me, mostly adult aggressive dogs. Because I am often time limited and do not have the time to be completely 100% positive reinforcement, because people put the time limit on the dog. But I use them only for a short time ( training aid only) and until i can get the dog to connect, by using friendly rewards such as petting, comfort and if possible food treats. I use my check-chains quite softly and I try to get to positive reward training as soon as possible without the check-chain....it has worked for me and I know I have timing and a fair attitude. I have used E-collars on stock chasing dogs (sheep killers), where the other option was PTS and we needed quick results. Personally I am still not keen on them, even though you often have great success. And I avoid them...I have only used them when the Council (Dog possibly to be PTS) has given time limits, I still think it affect the dog too greatly.

    I like to get into the dogs head....make them think it is their idea to do what you want them to do and to make it automatic for them. In the end they can almost not help themselves.

    And always remember there are no quick fixes..it takes time and effort.

    I really would go and search for a good behaviour trainer.......Some people here might be more local to you and know someone
    Last edited by newfsie; 05-07-2012 at 09:02 PM.
    Pets are forever

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by newfsie View Post
    I always do start with good basic Obedience though...if people have good basic obedience it is a lot easier for trainers to work with them. A really good recall is the most important to get. If you have that you will be almost there. Make coming to you be automatic
    A lot easier for a GOOD trainer to work with them. I used one of those trainers that mostly followed a script once and the fact that my dog already had pretty good basic obedience and was not needy nor showed any signs of challenging my leadership seemed to confuse him more than anything and he didn't seem to know where to go from there.

    But I agree on the recall. Most important thing in my opinion too. And it also is a good way to enforce the idea that they will get to do what they want to do if only they do what you want them to do first - and get a bonus reward. Which of course will not always play out that way, but a dog doesn't really think about this deeply enough to question it.

    That's what an RSPCA behavioural trainer taught me when I saw them because I wanted to try stop my dog from chasing and catching kangaroos. She even suggested trying to find a fenced area and letting the dog chase the roos up to the fence as a reward for coming when called first. The idea confused me back then, but now I get it. (Disclaimer: she did not condone dogs chasing roos)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Summer Hill, NSW
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beloz View Post
    My dog wasn't actually aggressive towards my cats as such (what do you mean by aggressive in this context?), but she did use to try chase them. All I did was some 'look at that' training with her. I had already started clicker training and that made it easy to implement this. I also used it to prevent her from approaching kids or jump on adults. I did use it a couple of times when there were kangaroos about, but did not do it often enough to really enforce it, so I will have to start from scratch with that one.

    The whole dominance thing sounds silly. I don't see how being the alpha male is going to prevent your dog from following his instinct to chase.

    I really think that those kind of generalised strategies don't address the actual issue. I have done some research on this, but apart from the 'look at that' training and a rock solid recall, the only other thing I could find was a method in which they used fetch with two balls to train the dog into coming when they were already chasing. Which I found interesting and it could possibly work if you put enough work into it. Of course I did not bookmark the article...
    My dog will do the following to my cats:

    - Bite
    - Pin them down
    - Swipe with his paw
    - Bark
    - Chase

    I have 3 cats and he is okay with 1 cat because she does not seem to be afraid of her. In fact, all the cats were not afraid of my dog in the beginning because he was a puppy when I introduced him to the cats. After he bit one of my cats last November, 2 of the cats developed some phobia of my dog and they would run if he is around.

    I have temporary control over my dog if he is on a leash. I use a water pistol and shoot him if he tries anything funny with the cats and he backs off. If he is off-leash at home and he gets his chance to attack the cats, he will do it. He seems to understand the power is in the leash.

  7. #7

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    Hi Vinnydoggy,

    My dog has a strong prey drive as well, especially with birds such as pigeons. Is your dog motivated by food at all? If so perhaps some reward-based training could work - burn his excess energy with a run, then sit him down in front of the cats and give him a smelly food like cheese or beef mince, whenever he looks at something other than them. He should start concentrating more on the food than on the cats. The more relaxed he acts around them, the more food and approval he will recieve. If he fixates on the cats get his attention (sharp noise, whistle, etc) so he looks at you again. Try to make him associate the cats with treats, affection, and a calm mood. Do not give him treats or affection if he is looking at the cats. Keep treats on you to reward him when you see him behaving nicely around the cats and not taking the opportunity to attack them. Over a few days you should be able to have him in the same room with them without chaos ensuing. Over time move him closer and closer until you are able to all relax in the same vicinity together.
    Last edited by Mosh; 05-08-2012 at 02:01 AM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beloz View Post
    A lot easier for a GOOD trainer to work with them. I used one of those trainers that mostly followed a script once and the fact that my dog already had pretty good basic obedience and was not needy nor showed any signs of challenging my leadership seemed to confuse him more than anything and he didn't seem to know where to go from there.
    Well I would be worried about that trainer LOL.........I think it is great when people have their dogs doing basic obedience, that means you can get down to the nitty gritty

    The thing that your RSPCA person did with the roos, is what i do with dogs that chase horses.....We have a round yard we use in a similar way (dogs in the round yard, our horses who are used to dogs outside of the yard). It is a really good way to train and it is what we do when we get dogs here ( like LUKEY) who have never seen stock and want to chase....it is a great idea and works well. But we like to have the dog really used to clicker training first

    It is very similar really to recall training...let them go to teach them to come.

    Basic long line work also works well.....Your dog might realise you do still have control at a distance.

    But in your case I would find a really good behaviour trainer..because it sounds like it has been a fairly set pattern already. Cats and dog have been together and doing it for a while
    Last edited by newfsie; 05-08-2012 at 05:58 AM.
    Pets are forever

  9. #9

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    I'm having terrible trouble with answering. If I type out a reasonable answer, I'm told I have to refresh the page and I don't know how to, so I lose the lot. I did read the list from the first chap and thought, plonker. That is prehistoric thinking. Plus, what a miserable life as a dog owner/lover!! Fancy having to do all that AND have to guard your dog from your cats!!! When I finish giggling, hugs to you all. I agree with Newfsie, often do. It's very hard to advise on the internet. I had over 100 rescues come through and nearly all were in a house, with cats coming and going and left as cat relaxed and friendly. I was told so many were cat killers. Most seemed to be happy to queue in the kitchen, next to the cats, for a handout, within the week. I never worried about the cats. I was always sweating bullets over the girls getting along.

  10. #10
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    Summer Hill, NSW
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mosh View Post
    Hi Vinnydoggy,

    My dog has a strong prey drive as well, especially with birds such as pigeons. Is your dog motivated by food at all? If so perhaps some reward-based training could work - burn his excess energy with a run, then sit him down in front of the cats and give him a smelly food like cheese or beef mince, whenever he looks at something other than them. He should start concentrating more on the food than on the cats. The more relaxed he acts around them, the more food and approval he will recieve. If he fixates on the cats get his attention (sharp noise, whistle, etc) so he looks at you again. Try to make him associate the cats with treats, affection, and a calm mood. Do not give him treats or affection if he is looking at the cats. Keep treats on you to reward him when you see him behaving nicely around the cats and not taking the opportunity to attack them. Over a few days you should be able to have him in the same room with them without chaos ensuing. Over time move him closer and closer until you are able to all relax in the same vicinity together.
    Yes, my dog chases pigeons too!

    As I am typing this, I have one cat behind my bottom on my chair and my dog is to the left of me. This is the cat he respects and leaves alone because if he doesn't she will smack him on his nose. I have to work on the other 2 cats. Planning to get a long line leash for training my dog.

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