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Rewarding the chase

Discussion in 'Dog Chat' started by O2.0, Dec 31, 2020.


  1. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    Here me out here because you're going to think I'm crazy at first.

    Today Penny took off after a squirrel before I could do anything about it.

    We were in a safe area with lots of trees. Squirrels go in to trees and dogs see them go in to trees which means the chase usually doesn't go far.
    Safe area + not too far to run = let's turn this in to premack.

    As soon as the squirrel ran up the tree I told Penny what a clever girl she was for seeing the squirrel and chasing it. Yep, I *rewarded* the chase. (And she ran back to me to get her treat reward.)

    This does several things. One, by rewarding her, Penny's attention is back on me instead of the squirrel, or at least equally divided between me and the squirrel.
    Two, it includes me in the chase reward. With repetition she will associate me as part of the pleasure of chasing. This is a good thing because it minimizes me ceasing to exist when the chase starts.
    Three, it helps me put chasing on cue. Behaviors that are on cue are much more easily controlled.

    So here's what happens. I start teaching Penny a 'what's that' and 'get it' cue. She learns that there are times I'm going to point out a squirrel and tell her to get it. I now have squirrel chasing on cue.
    Guess what happens next? She sees a squirrel and will look to me to see if I see it too (because I've made myself part of squirrel chasing). That gives me control over the chasing.

    Obviously I'm way oversimplifying a much more complex process but I did want to put it out there.
    Think of a shepherd teaching a collie to herd. You don't really teach the dog to herd, they work with the instincts that are already there, put them on cue, and thus control them.

    And that's the key, work *with* the instincts the dog already has. Penny is a drivey little meth puppy terrier and there's no way in hell I'm ever going to convince her that chasing rodents that move fast isn't the height of fun and exciting. But I can convince her to work *through* me to fulfill her drives.

    So often we end up trying to supress or even punish those instinctual drives and the dog ends up confused and losing any kind of interest in working with you 'cause let's face it - telling a dog not to do what they're bred to do is not particularly relationship building.

    It feels really counter intuitive when your dog blows you off to go see a squirrel up a tree, but by praising Penny for doing so, I'm starting the process of being able to control this behavior in the long run.

    Well, that's the plan at least! We all know how dogs love to follow our training plans! :Eggonface:Hilarious

    And just for fun here's the little monster with my snot rag (which is exactly what it sounds like it is :D )
     
  2. Freyja

    Freyja PetForums VIP

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    It is possible to reach them. I taught Willow to " find the squidgels " he would search the ground following the trails the squirrels had followed across the grass He would also walk along the row of trees looking into the branches as he knew the squidgels would jump from tree to tree which did result in him walking into trees on more than one occasion.
     
  3. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    Well, yes, of course dogs catch squirrels. Penny is probably mostly Feist which are specifically squirrel hunting dogs - who hunt and catch squirrels...

    That wasn't even close to the point of my post though?
     
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  4. Boxer123

    Boxer123 PetForums VIP

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    Penny is a clever girl bless her she is doing so well.
     
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  5. Linda Weasel

    Linda Weasel PetForums VIP

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    Tod chases squirrels. I look on it as adding a bit of extra exercise and excitement to his walk.

    He spots one, chases it, it runs up a tree. Game over and he comes back to me for a treat.

    He’ll never catch one unless he learns to carry and climb a ladder, and when he does I’m going to send him out cleaning windows.
     
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  6. Boxer123

    Boxer123 PetForums VIP

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    :D Full disclosure one ran out in front of loki once he was on the lead he slapped it around the head and stunned it for a few minutes.
     
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  7. Kaily

    Kaily PetForums Senior

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    Alfie unfortunately caught a squirrel in our local park. A man was walking by just at that moment and started filming Alfie killing it. He shouting at me to stop him. There was nothing I could do and it was kinda to let him finish it off. He said he was going to report me and put the video all over social media.

    I was already having a bad day as my Dad had collapsed that morning and had a cardiac arrest. I had only left the hospital to give the dogs a quick walk.

    When people pick a fight they should think what other things people might have going on.

    The whole thing was horrible. :(
     
  8. Boxer123

    Boxer123 PetForums VIP

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    Bless you your dogs do give you torrid times don’t they. Irony is that man probably went home and had a bacon sandwich or chicken dinner.
     
  9. Kaily

    Kaily PetForums Senior

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    Thanks Boxer. Yes I am one of those people that always seems to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Plus having a love of feisty little terriers doesn't help.

    Squirrels are culled in local parks anyway so reporting me was never going to do anything, but I really didn't fancy being plastered all over social media as an animal killer. :eek:
     
  10. Twiggy

    Twiggy PetForums VIP

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    Another great post.
     
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  11. Cleo38

    Cleo38 PetForums VIP

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    It's a good way to work with it & I agree about not being able to extinguish certain behaviours/drives but using them in a better way. I did this with Archer & his ball (but I had him form a puppy & it was easier). He has a very high prey drive but is also very focussed on me & playing with me rather than anything or anyone else.
    But using the animal as part of the game is not something I would ever do as I just don't think I'm skilled enough. With Roxy (who was a bugger for chasing the local wildlife) I could not get her to show the same enthusiasm for a ball or anything else as she had already experienced the extreme thrill of chasing. I tried for years but realised it was never going to happen. Instead it was management & she was not allowed to even look at whatever popped out. After her Fenton experience she never chased anything again .... until about a year ago when she went off after a squirrel, Archer & I were shocked. But she was elderly then so couldn't run far & it was as if to show me that she still had it in her!
    It will be interesting (!) to see how Kato is with the local wildlife as he is very aware of his environment so very different from Archer
     
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  12. JoanneF

    JoanneF PetForums VIP

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    I didn't want to ”like” your post but I empathise. What a horrible thing to say, that must have been awful.
     
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  13. Twiggy

    Twiggy PetForums VIP

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    I remember so well all the problems you had with Roxy and wildlife (particularly deer) so I'm sure Kato will be a doddle in comparison.....LOL
     
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  14. Freyja

    Freyja PetForums VIP

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    I never actually said anything about catching squirrels Willow never caught a squirrel but he learnt to chase and find them when he was given the command " find the squidgels"
     
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  15. Burrowzig

    Burrowzig PetForums VIP

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    So long as it was a grey squirrel, not red, it's fine for them to be killed by whatever means. They are classed as vermin, and are an introduced, alien species that has devastated our native red squirrel population and they also cause damage to trees and other wildlife - I've personally seen one raid a tawny owl nest box and kill the chicks. If one is captured and taken to a vet, it's illegal to put them back into the wild. Not that there's any enforcement.
    In the old copy of Mrs Beeton's recipe book I have, there's a pie recipe for them.

    And back to the original point of the post, I have 'rabbit' on cue, with a pointing arm for direction. Even if there are no rabbits, and usually there aren't, it ensures the dogs have a good run. Kite once caught a baby rabbit, but just held in her mouth for a few seconds then let it go and it hopped back into its burrow. Fly and Flossie have never caught any. Ziggy did catch and kill them on the farm we lived on at the time (tenants of a cottage) and the farmer was nothing other than pleased. I don't want my dogs to kill wildlife but as I normally walk them where the animals have plenty of thickets to dive into, or trees to hide in, there's no problem.
    Deer are another matter, but my training to stop on command when chasing a ball works when they put up a deer, too.
     
    #15 Burrowzig, Jan 1, 2021
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2021
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  16. Teddy-dog

    Teddy-dog PetForums VIP

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    Basil used to catch and kill squirrels quite regularly when he was younger. Sometimes he would go a while without doing it so you’d think he was safe but then he’d get a few in a row!
    Grey squirrels of course. We didn’t encourage it but, unless he was kept on the lead all the time, you couldn’t stop him (or we didn’t have the skill to stop him I should probably say!). He was always very quick about killing them so the squirrels didn’t suffer. Then he’d go off and bury them somewhere. He doesn’t do it anymore. Bonnie has always chased but never really caught anything apart from one rabbit we think was ill anyway! She didn’t kill it just dropped it and it hopped back into a bush before we could have a look at it.

    I don’t think Teddy has the killer instinct he just thinks chasing is fun. But it’s too much fun for him! I would love to be skilled enough to put it on a cue and that sounds fab what you’re going to do with Penny!! Teddy will chase and follow to a tree but I don’t think I’d have any chance to stop and reward him as, as soon as the squirrel has vanished, he normally bogs off looking For another one. Not that he gets the chance anymore but that’s why I’m careful with him! The whippets always chased and came back once it was over but got a treat. It was rare they properly disappeared but Teddy just doesn’t seem to care about me if he sees a squirrel and he knows I’m not at the end of the lead!
     
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  17. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    Oh gosh I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you!

    I wasn't trying to encourage anyone to go out there and get their dog to kill squirrels.
    I'm in the US, on private land. If Penny were to catch and kill a squirrel it's not an issue (nor is it likely unless she grows a much bigger head and jaw). None of our squirrel species are endangered or protected for one, and two, she's hunting in predator heavy land where if it's not her catching the squirrels it's the local bobcats, coyotes, owls, hawks, snakes, etc. etc.

    But really the point of my post wasn't even about squirrels. It was about the premack principle and using it to your advantage, be it chasing squirrels, herding, biting a toy and not letting go, sniffing out scent trails...

    If I have squirrel chasing on cue, one I can use it as a reward, and two I have more control over it. That was all.
    Maybe I should have titled the thread differently.

    There are just a lot of threads about dogs essentially following their instinctual drives and owners struggling with that.
    So often we look at those instinctual drives as a negative thing, and I find unfair to the dog, and not particularly useful either. I was just trying to share an alternative way of looking at those 'problem' behaviors.

    Instead of looking at crittering as a pain to be endured if you own X breed, appreciate the dog's natural drive and see how you can use it for your own purposes.
    If Penny knows that I may call her to me to go chase a squirrel, I no longer have to compete with her drive to hunt, instead that drive has now become the reward for compliance. Win win.
    A shepherd doesn't tell their collie not to herd, they tell their collie which sheep to herd when.
    A musher doesn't tell their husky not to run, they tell their husky where to run when.
    A S&R handler doesn't tell the bloodhound not to scent, they tell the bloodhound what to scent for where.
    In the same way, I'm not going to tell my terrier not to hunt because that will at best confuse her and may potentially damage our relationship if I chose to punish her for fulfilling her instinctual drives. Instead I will tell her what to hunt (squirrels) and when.

    I feel safe with squirrels because worst case scenario the chase will end with a dog staring up a tree not too far away. Rabbits could end with a smol dog hidden in some brush and I'd rather not go that route though she is also very interested in rabbits. Fortunately they're mostly about only at dawn and dusk so they're easier to avoid and/or plan for.

    Also, in your situation you have a very fun way of using your dogs' prey drive in that they get to chase and bite humans holding super-fun toys :D And you're not trying to get rid of or work against their drive in any way.
    I've been watching Denise Fenzi work with Dice around squirrels and sheep and a lot of what she does involves letting him come bite her or turn his hunting in to scenting which is part of her sport anyway. Penny doesn't have those options (nor do I have those skills) so premack it is for us.

    Thank you :)
     
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  18. Cleo38

    Cleo38 PetForums VIP

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    Hahahaha, all my posts moaning about Roxy buggering off chasing! Seems a lifetime ago now. I worked so hard on her that Archer & his complete disinterest in any animals was such a huge relief. But (I was talking about this earlier), she really taught me so much & I am glad had to experience it in some ways I think it made me alot more aware of my surroundings & my dog's body language.

    Kato had his first walk over the local reservoir today where he saw swans (loads of them have migrated in to the surrounding fields), a hare, ducks, geese& moor hens. He wasn't keen on a goose who looked at him ... so he barked at it, it flew off & he was chuffed to bits! He then came to me & barked at me as he wanted to do some training .... he has such attitude already :rolleyes:


    I love watching her videos with Dice! He seems like a challenge (In a good way) & I love watching how she works with him & explains what she's doing & why. I also like that they aren't always edited so you can see where he ignores her & she changes her tactic or waits him out She is such a great handler & I am always so impressed with her work.
     
    #18 Cleo38, Jan 1, 2021
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2021
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  19. LinznMilly

    LinznMilly Moderator
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    Surely he's just as "guilty" as he's trying to make you feel for filming it?
     
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  20. Kaily

    Kaily PetForums Senior

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    Sorry I did go of kilter a bit with a memory but I do know what you mean't. :)

    I have always let my Jacks chase squirrels cause as you say I was never going to be able to stop them. I do point them out too but only if they are far enough away as I don't want them to catch. Alfie is very stealth and gets low to the ground and slowly slowly creeps up on them. Often I have to chase the squirrel away myself!

    I praise my dogs whenever they come back from any situation, that way they keep coming back (most of the time) ;).

    Glad you and Penny are having lots of fun.
     
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