Yay for new walking blues... need a little help
#1
So while we were in Myrtle Beach, I took Ember on a 2 mile walk around a lake at our favorite old haunt. She enjoyed it and walked very well - it's the farthest she's ever gone since I had her (I was actually trying to do it for exercise so we didn't do a lot of sniffing either).

She confirmed one thing I thought I had been seeing, and I don't like it.

Dogs her size and bigger are interesting and can be walked around without a whole lot of fuss - she wants to inspect and shows mild frustration but shakes it off and prances beside me for a few steps before defaulting back to sniffing mode. These encounters have the following attributes:
  • Tail high
  • Ears high
  • Locked on stare
  • Stiff, forward body
  • Tail wags (sometimes stiff and sometimes loose, depending on how the other dog is acting).
  • General bee-line for the dog with a very easy break-up or circle around if I guide her
  • Small sounds of pent-up energy/frustration (whimper, high pitched growl, maybe a bark if she's really worked up).
  • Immediate shake off after passing the dog (I mean, as we pass the dog, she's already shaking it off), looks at me immediately
As I don't like most of these signs we avoid making contact on leash (which is pretty much all the time). However, I am very certain that an issue would only arise if the other dog reacted negatively to the greeting if I were to allow it. Ember's greeting manners are lacking and her stare upsets a lot of dogs, so I simply don't allow it.

Anything smaller than her gets a completely different action, and at first I thought it was herding instinct. However, I have recently taken a motivation course and learned a lot about prey drive and the hunt sequence, and now I'm about 90% sure it's hunting instead. I saw it pretty clearly at the lake today as she had 3 opportunities to display the behavior and did. Here are the attributes:
  • Tail high
  • Ears down
  • Hackles up
  • Head dropped even with spine
  • Locked on stare
  • Direct ever-faster approach
  • Doesn't make a sound until she realizes she can't get closer (end of leash, me stepping between her and the other dog)
  • Then that sound is a low growl
  • Paws clawing on the sidewalk as I move her away
  • No immediate shake-off - instead, her head darts around as she tries to find something else to chase down
  • Stronger frustration at being kept away, louder and louder sounds and harder attempts to push past me
This is the behavior squirrels get, though the ears are different. Her head will dip but her ears will stay up.

Also, this is very new behavior in relation to dogs, only really seen in the past few weeks. I thought it was herding as the head dip is low enough to give her that high-stepping herding prance/run, but her tail doesn't go into "work mode" - it stays straight over her back (it curls, remember).

Notable during this time is that I had really wanted to allow squirrel chasing as premack for training. It's one of the few joys I see her get out of life and I have witnessed her "catch" a squirrel and just kind of shove it along to keep it moving, so I'm not overly worried about wildlife. Also when using premack I am looking only for squirrels who are already at the base of a tree or up it a foot or so - not all squirrels. Also, when she does get one up a tree, she is very happy looking - ears high, tail high, bouncing from foot to foot and loose body as she runs around trying to see the squirrel as it climbs up.

What is concerning me is this does NOT happen with small dogs. I don't know if it's because I don't let her anywhere near them (so I don't see the looseness as that part of the chain has not been reached). But I really don't like it and it is getting worse.

For now I will stop using squirrel chasing as premack until we have better self control. I have purchased a "21 day to better walks" course from Absolute Dogs that is supposed to handle hunting as well as aggression.

The help I'm seeking is immediate fixes that can help us get past these and knowledge on if I am seeing hunting behavior for sure.
[Image: e5Qmm5.png]


Gotcha Day: November 14, 2015
Vet-Listed Birthday: May 2, 2014
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#2
You almost perfectly described Micah's fear reaction to other dogs. He definitely has a "I better get them before they get me" thing going on and it is all mixed in with prey drive as you described. His herding behaviors are night and day to this. So far, the only thing that has worked for Micah is for me to really insist on a "watch me" from before he is ever aware of the other dog, which of course does not work at all when the other dog is running loose and trying to engage/enrage Micah.
Gotta love 'em.
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#3
So it could possibly still be fear related and not "oh that looks like a squirrel must get it"? We are in a management class right now, I will start there too. I was really afraid I had accidently created a "all small things that move must be chased/hunted" by using squirrels as premack for training.
[Image: e5Qmm5.png]


Gotcha Day: November 14, 2015
Vet-Listed Birthday: May 2, 2014
Reply
#4
It is definitely a fear reaction in Micah. Remember, if you are seeing posture that is designed to make them look bigger i.e. tail high, hackles up, puffing out their chest, it's fear. The chasing little things posture usually has a more level tail and they might whine in excitement and dance in place, their coat should be as slicked back as it goes.
Gotta love 'em.
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