Willie & Sushi, Part II

Thanks to all of you who commented on the saga of Willie and Sushi. (And for those of you who haven’t read the last post, my biggest training/behavior challenge at the moment is Willie’s obsessive herding/stalking of my cat Sushi. I have started a new paradigm, which is to quietly and politely ask him to sit every time he looks at Sushi as if herding. Sounds simple, but so far it’s the only “incompatible behavior” that seems to take him out of obsessive stalking mode.)

Good news, although I hesitate to say that and doom myself with premature optimism. Does Willie ignore Sushi now? Oh no, oh my no. I truly don’t believe that I will ever be able to completely turn around his interest and fascination bordering on obsessive/compulsive behavior around Sushi as a small, herdable animal. However, here’s what’s good:

* By Day 6, Willie is quicker to pull himself away from Sushi and go get a toy. I can’t say that he initiates looking toward her less (wish I could do nothing but take data on this!), but it feels much easier to change his focus. I still often have to ask him to sit 2 or 3 times in a row as he looks toward Sushi, (he’ll sit, then get up and go back to stalking Sushi) but it seems as though he is more likely than before to cut it off and go do something else. I’m considering “Sit/Stay” but not sure it’s the best way to go. Will keep you posted on that.

* I see fewer tongue flicks and less signs of stress on Willie’s face. This feels huge to me. Before when he was stalking Sushi he would often tongue flick and his face had that tense, drawn look you see on stressed dogs and people. (This was new and was what propelled me into finding another way to handle the problem. Broke my heart to see it.) Now when I say “Sit” he is more likely to either keep his mouth closed, or open it as if relaxed once sitting.

* Sushi’s behavior has changed significantly. She is much more likely to come closer to Willie and me if I am in the same room with him. Last night she walked to within a foot of Willie (which she has not done in the past few months) and lay down. Willie was lying down at my feet, and although I couldn’t see his face, his head neither rose nor fell (as if stalking), and I saw no signs of his body tensing. I suspect he was not completely comfortable, because in about a minute he got up and lay down a few feet away. But he never rose up, head fixated laser-like onto Sushi as he been doing lately every time he saw Sushi, even from a long way away.

* Three times in the past two days I have seen Willie sit on his own when he looked toward Sushi. This is huge, needless to say, and resulted in jack pots of legendary proportions (although quiet ones, because if I had gotten too excited Wilie would have gotten overstimulated, and yep, started on the cat again….So I said, quietly, “What a gooooood, goooooood, goooooood boy you are!” Because I’ve conditioned the word ‘good,’ (just like you’d load a clicker), just that word has a profound effect on Will. As I spoke his tail wagged and his mouth opened as he turned his face to me.) Keep in mind the reason this is so good is that sitting seems to take Willie completely out of “herding dog” mode (not true of one of the blog reader’s dogs, see the comments from last blog–another reminder that every dog needs a custom plan!)
* Most importantly, in some ways, I feel ten times more relaxed. I don’t know what will happen in the future, but it’s easy to say “sit” every time he looks at Sushi (as well as continuing our extensive management in which Sushi and Willie are often separated in time and space.) Having a new plan rather than worrying about it every day without knowing what to do is such a relief, isn’t it?

* The only negative so far is that Will’s Sit cue is degrading. It was at about 99.99% compliance, and now it’s not close to that. I realized a few days ago that the only time I was asking him to sit (and dozens of times a day) was when he was looking at Sushi. That seems easy to fix, I’m just adding in sit now in other contexts, going out of my way to ask for it before I through the ball etc (when I usually would have asked for Lie Down).

Again, I’ll keep you posted. (And if you are interested, do read the first post from 12/1 to catch up on this issue… and note that Willie is not following, chasing or simply harassing the cat. He is/was going into a hard-wired, “strong-eyed” BC stalking behavior that appears to be somewhat involuntary and can be impossible to turn off in certain circumstances. There are lots of interesting comments about this from 12/1, I encourage you to read them if you have time.)

Meanwhile, back on the farm: We had our first real snow yesterday. Me and my car had quite the adventure sliding sideways up a hill to yoga (where I’m learning some postures to help with my Sushi allergy!) I haven’t gotten any photos yet, but it’s cold and white and feels very very much like December now. I’m about to go home and decorate cookies for Lassie’s 16th birthday party this Sunday. Looks like she’ll have quite a crowd of admirers, as, of course, she deserves. I’ll post pictures on Monday of the big event.

Here’s a sun rise photo I took with my little camera on Sunday morning from the front porch. May Lassie, and all our old dogs, see another year’s worth of them. . .

Comments

  1. Kim says

    sounds like good news to me…but more importantly YOU are feeling more relaxed! maybe the yoga is helping…
    i learn so many small facial clues from your blog, i work with animals, in fact i took care of Tulip a few years ago…in CCU….had a chance to visit with you briefly during a visit…but the subtle expressions that you describe help me read my patients, animals i have no knowledge of their behavior…for the most part my patients are sick and very complaint, but, there are those that become anxious being in a cage, or maybe have some dog aggression…
    anyway, thanks for your blog and i look forward to seeing pictures of Lassie’s birthday! WOW, a definite milestone!
    oh, happy day Lassie!!

  2. says

    So, so instructive. Thank you. I see some of these characteristics manifest themselves in different ways in two of our dogs. I’m going to start to apply the rigour you describe here in their particular triggering situations.

    Could you add a subscription capability to your blog? It’s so great to get an email when a new post is added, instead of having to check RSS feeds all the time. I use Feedblitz. It’s simple and cheap.

    Good luck with Sushi. I went on a vigorous Chinese herbs protocol supported by acupuncture to deal with my deep-seated and worsening food allergies. Today, they’re 90% eliminated.

  3. Anna says

    Hi,
    I have been really interested in your progress with Willie and Sushi. I am so pleased that you are having some great success.
    As you said in your last post it is hard to find a solution when it is so close to you! I am having a very similar problem. I have a Hungarian Vizsla who has an extreme pointing instinct on cats! She could spend 2hours just staring usually without moving a muscle. She also searches for them in the street and if found she is very hard to budge.

    This is very stressful for both me and her. For me if I need her to move most of the time I have to pick her up and take her out of sight – not what I want to do but sometimes I am in a real rush. Also if she has seen a cat (we live with one) in a particular spot she will fixate on that spot even if that cat isn’t there! So late night wees are getting harder and harder because the cat is usually out and about.

    If Ziggi can’t see the cat but it is in the room she will not be able to relax at all and will just sit and shake. She also shakes if the cat comes and rubs against her (I guess this is a sign that he feels confident she won’t hurt him!)

    Any tips? Can you think of an incompatible behaviour? She will comply with ‘leave’ but becomes stressed when it is cued.

    Thanks
    Anna

  4. says

    I am impressed and am definitely putting this technique away in my memory bank (not always a trustworthy place to put things but nonetheless)…

  5. says

    Reading the posts on your blog with interest, as always.
    I had a thought about Willi’s sit starting to fall apart, and it makes sense, if you look at all the info on operant conditioning. At clicker expo, Karen Pryor had us engage in a human game that involved behavior chains, and it was interesting to see how things started to merge. The specific behaviors sort of got muddled.
    Anyhow, one of my friends had a similar problem with her lab. The poor cat had taken to hiding 24/7 never to come out from under the couch again, it seemed. I had her teach a good “leave it”, and then she used it when the lab went into cat mode. In this case, it worked like a charm, and the dog ended up with a great leave it.
    Seems like Leslie McDevitt covers some of the same basic types of issues in Control Unleashed. Mine is packed up right now, since we have been trying unsuccessfuly to sell our house, but maybe someone has a copy handy.

  6. Ellen Pepin says

    Wow! It sounds like you are having good success with Willie and his stalking behavior. This gives me a little more hope that I can help my collie, Tess, who chases cars.

    I can’t believe that Lassie is a whole year older. That is quite a milestone. Have a good time at the party and don’t forget to take a lot of pictures. They will be yours to enjoy forever.

  7. says

    I look forward to the pictures of Lassie’s birthday! Happy sweet 16! My girl, Anna, is almost 13, and I’ve had her since she was about 4 months old. It is bittersweet to see the wild puppies come into their grace in their older years.

  8. says

    Yes, please add a subscription capability to your blog! Here is what I tried to express earlier but did not find the right words in english….
    Ute

  9. Jane J Johnston says

    Hi,

    This is a very interesting breakdown.
    My Corgi, also herding breed, sometimes tries to herd the cat, usually not so, I have just said “That’ll do” if I want it stopped. Funny thing though, Padfoot sometimes eggs her on. They are friends so I think there is a bit of give and take.

    I wonder how it would go to clicker train your cat to do something that would make herding a bit harder, such as getting on a perch? I have found clicker training to work well with cats, esp. food oriented ones.
    (On an allergy aside, I have heard good things re: Allerpet C. I have nothing to do with the company. The cat must tolerate being toweled off but you don’t have to bathe it.)

    –Jane J

  10. says

    After reading your book on leash aggressiveness, I tried exactly this with great results. I have Giant Schnauzers who became leash aggressive after we moved to an apartment and didn’t want to interrupt their situation assessment by having them look at me. Both were lunging, barking, and scaring the crap out of everyone only on leash, and usually ONLY near the pee area. I started taking them outside separately, and asking each to sit whenever we see another human or dog. Treats upset both of their stomachs, so it took a little while longer, but my female snaps to the ground now whenever she sees someone (but still whines out of excitement). I still have to ask the big one, but what a difference. We have a long way to go, but it’s at least manageable now! Thanks for your book, and for covering behavior challenges in your own dogs!

  11. says

    Happy birthday Lassie!

    I love that Willie is adding yet another tool for your training tickle trunk to share. I love those “Ah- ha” moments.

    I remember way back in my first puppy class how relieving it was to know that if one thing doesn’t work…. go back to the drawing board to come up with something else.

    Bob Bailey replied to one of Susan Garrett’s blog’s and part of his blog about training, was this gem “To change an animal

  12. Beth says

    Just curious, Have you tried claiming the cat as yours and thus ending the fixation? I have had a variety of breeds of dogs thru the years but my most challenging by far has been my westie. He came to me very spoiled and possessive of his space, toys, food, feet etc. to the point of guarding and snapping. I did tons of research, read all your books and have successfully applied your blocking technique and then an immediate change of focus. I started with a long line so he didn’t realize he was connected to me — I couldn’t touch him or he’d bite me. I’d distract him with a sound or sharp snap of my fingers and then as soon as he looked up at me, I’d get between him and the object, purposefully shoo’ing him away from whatever it was thus claiming it, offer a ‘good boy’ and off we’d go to another room where I would praise the hell out of him. Spell broken. I did have to ‘trade up’ for some things if he actually had a hold of them but now he knows ‘drop’. Took me about 3 months of long line work, trading, distraction with positive reinforcement and an occasional can of pennies showing up out of thin air to work out the kinks. I now have an absolutely wonderful, balanced, relaxed little dog that gets along with 2 cats and doesn’t need a leash outside for the most part. Both things any westie book will tell you are impossible. I can get his attention when I need to. That is invaluable. Thank you, Patricia, for making a difference in my work with my dogs!!

  13. Kat says

    Happy Birthday Lassie; here’s wishing you many happy returns of the day.

    And thank you Trisha for this update. It’s good to know you’re all beginning to relax. It would be interesting to know how much the stress of each party involved was reinforcing the stress of the others and whether finding a behavior that was incompatible with Willie’s cat herding allowed you to relax some which in turn allowed him to respond more confidently and thus Sushi to feel more relaxed, etc., etc. I know with my own dog how hard it is to hide my stress or frustration from him and how much that impacts his behavior. For example he had a completely reliable Paws Up for being toweled off before getting into the car after a romp in the wet and mud. One day it disappeared. Nothing I tried worked and I was racking my brain to figure out the cue he was looking for that I’d apparently stopped giving and getting more and more frustrated as nothing worked. It was especially frustrating as Paws Up still worked for everywhere except the car and I couldn’t see anything I was doing differently in asking for it. Once I decided that I could live with having to drape a towel over him and lift his front paws onto the bumper if that’s what it took and quit getting stressed about trying to reestablish the behavior the behavior began to return on its own. Today he’s about 70% reliable and improving.

  14. says

    I just read through the Willie-Sushi saga and had to immediately write to applaud you for “going public” with this problem. Just last night, I was watching a TV show about John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, who came up with a Pyramid of Success (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqVLY8YfbEo&NR=1). One of his maxims is perfect for you and this situation:

    “What a leader learns after he/she’s learned it all counts the most.”

    My BC also has a fairly strong eye and herding instinct. I’ve worked hard with him on what and what isn’t appropriate since he was a pup. We’ve had huge success with squirrels (I’m still astonished….he notices, expresses interest but it passes with my command to “leave it” and keep focused on our walk). However, some dogs who approach at a distance send him into a BC style crouch and he engages his eyes. Small dogs especially elicit this behavior. Like you, I’m offering him an alternate behavior that’s acceptable (you = sit, me = get up, move and keep walking).

    IMHO, using the dog’s desire to please us and teaching an alternate behavior is what might turn this around. Good luck and don’t ever give up!

  15. Portia says

    Good stuff. One of my dogs tries to discipline our cats – or redirects energy towards them when he’s agitated. I started by redirecting him to a toy – and he’s about 50% at this point (toy vs. chase the cat)

    I also send hm out of the room when he starts to “stalk” (not in the herding sense, more predatory) the cats under the couch. His favorite thing is to be next to me, so by kicking him out of the room, he learns that stalking cats and being with me are incompatible. Before returning, he must sit in the doorway and wait for an invitation – again so far he’s at about 50%. But it’s only been a couple of weeks and we don’t have a lot of “home” time to practice, so I’m pretty happy with the results so far.

  16. says

    Keep up the good work! You should feel proud of yourself for not only possibly figuring out a very difficult dilemma, but for also not giving up on such a frustrating, maybe even scary behavior. Don’t forget to reward yourself (I like oreos) for working so hard.

    Thanks for keeping us in the loop, I was curious to see how it was going. It is always a joy to read your blog, you are such a skilled writer.

  17. says

    The spontaneous sits are… woo hoo!!! That’s awesome news. Its interesting that Sushi has changed his behavior in response to the building calmness as well. Maybe now you just have to carry Sushi with you in a bag and whip him out when you want a sit:)

  18. Liz F. says

    To Lassie, from Helix:
    I asked my primate friend to wish you a Happy Birthday here for two reasons. First, my dog friend, Nala, is too young to know what birthdays are (and I think she acts like its her birthday everyday) so she cannot comment for the household. Second, I was transfixed when I saw you tugging with your dog friend on the machine that puts the primates on a sit/stay with its moving images. I never pay any attention to that machine, but when I saw you I acted like I had never seen such a lovely dog. I even tried to smell the machine, was disappointed to find no dog smells and had to play with Nala instead (Nala was also intrigued by this machine, but only when the creatures that go ‘baaaaa’ appeared.)
    My primate wanted me to wish you the canine equivalent of a long, warm bubble bath in an old clawfoot tub, but I thought, geez, primate, maybe a good roll in the snow (or better yet, fox poop) would be better than any bath.

    Hope Lassie had the most special day.

  19. Trisha says

    To Helix, from Lassie: Tall two-leg female turned to me from the clickety-clacky thing and and made nice noises from you. I would like to lick your face sometime if you are polite to beautiful old dogs like me. Tall two-eg seems to like to lie in a warm puddle in the cold, hard shiny thing. I like to lick the bubbly things that fall out of the puddle, and lie on the towel she puts on the floor and get it all hairy so that when she gets out she is warmer than before. I do not roll in the fox poop like the other dogs, but there is little better than sheep poop to eat. I am glad tall two-leg did not invite our guests to walk in the pasture, because then there is more poop for me.

    To Pam: I LOVE that quote! Thanks for sending it. It’ll be up above my desk soon. And thanks for your (and everyone’s) encouragement.

    To Kate: I think it’s absolutely true that in the last month or so, when Sushi started spending lots more time in the house and the methods I had used before didn’t seem to be working well enough, that all 3 of us were becoming more and more tense. No question about it. I also think part of the tension from me is that in the last month Willie went from relentlessly wanting to stalk the cat to becoming borderline obsessive about it. I’ve had plenty of clients whose dogs stared at the wall for hours waiting for a reflection to appear–some of them refusing food, losing weight and/or becoming aggression if someone tries to get them to stop. Willie had begun running from window to window, looking for Sushi when she was outside, even if he couldn’t see her, and lying in front of a door that she was behind. Not good. I’ve worked through so many serious issues with Willie, that the idea of another super serious one, obe that can’t be managed and occurs at all times in one’s home, was starting to get to me.

    Beth: Interesting idea about “claiming” Sushi as mine. Sounds like you were using Body Blocks to break the ‘connection.’ I tried that this weekend, quietly, with no verbal signals at all, and got a few tongue flicks, but I’ll continue to think about it and experiment. And congrats on your work with your Westie, great job!

    And thanks for the creative idea about clicker training Sushi. Regretably, there is nothing she does or doesn’t do that seems to make any difference. She has a huge cat tree that she used to love lying on the top of, a good 7 feet high. Willie would just lie on the floor and stare directly at her. He’ll stare/stalk if she’s moving, or if she’s not moving. What I wish I could’ve trained her to do is to punch him with her fist the first time he stalk/followed her. I thought she would (she greeted 100 lb Tulip the day she met her by punching her in the face. I’m not sure who was more surprised and amused, me or Tulip! They were fast friends ever after.) When Willie stops stalking Sushi will come up and face rub against his forelegs (as she always has the other dogs, she seems very affiliative around dogs.)

    And to Anna with the obsessed Vizla. Oh my, I feel your pain! This is the kind of extremity that we are dealing with here! It is truly tough. I can’t answer your question though without knowing more about the dog and what might be an incompatible behavior, what she loves, etc. What have you tried so far? Have any of the things I’ve tried with Willie or that you’ve read in the comments seemed like they might help with her?

  20. Michelle says

    Patricia,

    I am a huge fan of your books and used a couple of them extensively with our dogs on the advice of a private trainer, but hesitated to leave my advice since compared to you I’m no expert. However I think I may have a training method that will work for you.

    We have had tremendous success with training our dogs that the only way they are allowed to look at our pet birds is from inside a crate. When we get a new dog we crate them when the bird is out. After we get to know them, we have the bird out with them. However I watch the eyes of the dog extremely carefully. The minute they start staring or fixating on the bird I say “crate” and in they go. It only takes a few days of this for the dog to get the idea.

    The only way they get to stay out of the crate is when they are ignoring the bird. Pretty soon if they want to watch the bird they will put themselves inside the crate. My chow mix used to run straight from the master bedroom into the family room crate when he heard a bird out to watch bird tv. Amazing how smart they are!

    Once they are trained that they aren’t allowed to look directly at the bird, if the bird starts bugging them they will generally leave the room. Once I’m confident they know that they can’t interact with the bird I allow them a quick glance, with soft eyes, for instance when they are checking out where the bird is to be sure they have a quick escape route if the bird approaches them.

    My last bird is now 19 years old. He is pretty obnoxious to our 10 yr old lab mix and our 5 yr old husky mix. He also was obnoxious to our (now passed away) at 16 chow mix. I think if you can condition your dog that to look at the cat means putting himself in the crate he will be more relaxed as he can watch all he wants from in there (I don’t even have to close the door once they are trained to put themselves in to watch) and if he wants to move about the house then ignoring the cat is the order of the day.

    Best regards,
    Michelle

  21. Chatelaine says

    Happy Birthday Lassie, we share a birthday Month :)

    I’m glad to hear sitting his helping Willie. I’ve been using the same technique to calm Kaya our 6year old GSD. She’s a gem inside the home with people, kids, our belongings everything, since she’s an only dog. But when we’re out and she sees/smells/hears another dog we’ve got our dog-dog agression. The only thing I can do to stay in charge is have her sit and ‘watch me’ for treats and praise for being a good quiet and sitting still girl. I own Feisty Fido and I love reading your blog! It makes me feel good to know that we all work at it every day!

  22. Anna says

    Hi Patricia,

    Thanks for answering my comment. Ziggi (vizsla) loves food, food and more food. She extremely rarely will play with toys (2-3 times a month!).

    I think I may have got my own answer just by you asking what I have tried before. Ziggi loves clicker training and doing simple shaping exercises will take her mind off the cat (with very high reinforcement). So I can start to teach her – see the cat do anything but point at it! Just need to work out how to stop her seeing the cat when I don’t have a chance to do training.

    Thanks again. As you say it is very hard to see the solution when it is your dog. Do you think this may work. Clicker training is her favourite thing in the world

    Thanks
    Anna

  23. says

    Do you think that your interaction with Willie (I hesitate to say control, even though it sort of makes more sense in what the context of what I’m asking) in the presence of Sushi has contributed to reducing HER stress level? I know that my parents’ cat is much more willing to torment, I mean interact with the dogs when I’m actively training with them over there, even over and above when they’re sleeping or working on chew bones. I think in some way, the presence of me AND the fact that I’m interacting with the dog or dogs seems to be a sign to her that I will be right there and ready to jump on any bad manners from the dogs, but I haven’t really put a whole lot of thought into it. (If it helps, my dogs are a herding breed and a utility/small farm breed (spitz). The collie grew up around very dog savvy cats, but the spitz (who is much more prey driven) did NOT; our cat is 19 and didn’t have dogs in her life until she was 10.)

  24. JJ says

    On: One exercise messes up another.

    I’m responding to your comment about how using “sit” in this way has started to mess up “sit” in other contexts. I experienced the same thing recently. When I got Duke at 3 years of age, he didn’t know anything – not even sit. I worked at it for a very, very long time and after, what over a year?, he seemed to finally get it.

    Now, 3 years later, at 6 years of age, Duke has recently had 2 operations on his knee and is undergoing physical therapy. One of the physical therapy exercises I am suppose to do at home is a set of 5 “sit-stands” in a row. (I say “sit”, followed by a “stand” a couple seconds later.) And we do that set at least twice a day. Previously, Duke would sit and stay until I told him it was “OK” to get up. Now he has started to sit and get up right away in all contexts. He has started to think that sit and stand are one trick to always do one right after the other. Argh!

    I’ve been working on it several ways so that Duke doesn’t loose his real sit. I just find it interesting how we can use one learned behavior to help tweak another behavior and then end up losing the desired original learned behavior.

  25. says

    I have a Border Collie who obsessively stalks our cat. She’s done it almost her entire life. We worried about it and got onto her for a long time until we saw a few things. The first was Cliffhanger (the cat) didn’t seem at all bothered by Kirby (the dog). Cliffhanger would just stroll around the house like she didn’t know she had a 40lb kaboose. Cliffhanger also started rubbing her head on Kirby’s nose and muzzle, and Kirby looked like she was in heaven. One time, Cliffhanger got tired of Kirby being in her face and swatted her a good one across Kirby’s nose. Kirby yelped and, sulking, hid in another room for an hour! There has never been an incident between the two in the 10 years we’ve had Kirby. Cliffhanger is 6 years Kirby’s senior.

  26. Mel says

    Thanks for your posts on working with Willie. I have a Sheltie, Jasper, who is extremely focused on herding both my cat and my Lab rescue, Daisy. I think I now have a way to control his herding instincts with the cat (thanks to you!), but how do I get him to stop herding Daisy when we go to the dog park. He nips at her bak legs and grabs a hold of the side of her cheek and holds on. I know it must hurt her, but she tolerates it until she can’t take it anymore. I’ve made Jasper sit and wait. I’ve tried “watch me”, but it only works temporarily. I’ve started leashing him just so she can have some peace.

    My last Sheltie was never this focused on herding. He is so focused that sometimes he doesn’t hear me at all. Jasper will happily chase and play with other dogs (he loves to play), but if one dog is being picked on he will join in and start his herding behaviors.

    How do I start to address these behaviors?

  27. says

    This is an interesting post. I’ve always found “incompatible behaviors” very difficult to work in “reactive” dogs, like my GSD mix. I’m reading a book called Control Unleashed which teaches the dog that has a trigger, like another dog or in your case, a cat…to put the trigger on cue. In other words, you teach the dog to “Look at the cat!” and then look back at me and click and treat. The reactive dog learns to put his triggers on cue to look back at you and get a reward and relax. My reactive GSD-mix, who’s really quite smart and loves to train, got reactive to some goats at my trainers home. we took 2 or 3 mintues out of training to play the “LOOK at the goats!” game. he got it in a few clicks and started looking back on his own w/o growling at the goats. soon, after he got over his fear (or his reaction to the goats) he tried to elicit the game on his own just to get the praise or treat. so we simply redirected and said “ok, you’re over the goats now… lets move on” and continued our training. the goats he knew were there but they were no longer a distraction. he’s such a busy dog and loves to work, but is hyper alert to his surroundings and that can be a downfall if it illicits fear reaction whether it’s growling or avoidance (sniffs the ground instead of doing his job to go search/find something for example). so i’m learning to key into his triggers, even the teeny tiny ones, like goats that were over 800 feet away and not attainable to him, that it’s important to “get him over his environmental fears” and to take the 2-3 minutes he needs to deal with it and then turn him back onto working.

    I know Willie’s herding drive is different though than a reaactive dog. but it’s interesting to see that some of that game theory is happening when he cues himself to look at the cat and sit. the idea of the game is to take the power out of the trigger. like “look at that…go sniff it” then come back to me because I’ll be so much better than that silly trigger you’re so interested in.

    I know someone in the dog blog world who is working her labradors not to chase wild life this way, and it is working wonderfully. every time they see a herd of elk, they look right back at their handler for their reward. no body tension, no stalking. nothing. it’s really quite amazing to take the power out of the trigger. and i’ve done it on my own a few times with my GSD while training him.

    since working this way with him instead of “correcting him verbally or a leash tug for growling” it’s improved my relationship with him 100′s of times over.

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