Playing & Training for Reliability in Predatory Behaviors, part 2

As a continuation to last week’s post, here are some specific ways by which you cannot only give your dog a “legal” outlet for predatory behaviors and up your chances that you will be able to stop your dog from chasing after wildlife, cars, etc.

As I stated last week, predatory behaviors, which in plain English means food- acquisition behaviors, are naturally ingrained in dogs. As with any natural or pre-installed behaviors it is fair to say that if you can’t beat them – join them. We will never extinguish genetically pre-disposed behaviors, so our best chance is to work with them to achieve our goals.



In essence, when we engage our dog in any of the predatory behaviors, and here they are again for your recollection:
Search (find prey, mainly by sense of smell)
Stalk (sneak up as unnoticed as possible)
Rush (move suddenly towards prey)
Chase (run after the fleeing prey)
Bite/hold/shake/kill the prey
Dissect and eat the prey

Or better yet, engage the dog in a few of these we can then teach a lot of self-control and use the behaviors above as reinforcers.

Perhaps you have a dog that is crazy about balls and retrieving. Not just throwing the ball for your dog over and over again, instead have your dog hold still for literally a few seconds just before throwing the ball and then release him to go after it. And yes, having him bring it back to you is always nice so that you can continue playing – but not part of what I am after here.

As your dog gets the hang of what you are asking of him – stillness before exploding after the ball (prey) you will begin to extend the time he must hold still before you dismiss him to go after the ball. Work systematically. Build the behavior slowly, making sure your dog can hold it and waits for you to release him.

Once he is nailing this, sometimes you’ll want to ask for more time of stillness and you will also throw some real easy ones with no still time before release.

That is step #1.

As your dog has learned for your release cue and is anticipating being released, pretend you are going to throw the ball for him but just before doing so, use the same verbal cue you have used for the stillness and be ready for your dog to slow down or even stop and turn to look at you. When he does, even if it is nearly a fraction of a second reinforce him by throwing the ball and release him again with enthusiasm.

You will continue to practice this sequence over and over again. Important though that you also just throw the ball for him without asking him to wait, stop, etc. otherwise you might ruin the retrieve in your dog. If you work with a tug, which I so highly recommend, install the “stop” the same way as above, by having your dog wait in stillness (sitting is optional) before you engage in the game again – the reinforcer. If your dog is very much into the tug you can throw the tug a few steps away from you and send your dog to retrieve to bring back to you for more fun. Once this routine is in place, throw the tug farther this time, but ask the dog to STOP as he anticipates you sending him and then release him to get the tug.

With consistency, fun in mind and clear directions, you will slowly build the behavior so that you will now ask your dog to stop when he is already going after the tug/ball.

This is much, much harder than we think so do not be greedy in asking for too much too soon. Work for success: your dog being responsive to your verbal cue close to you and not already in motion.

The farther away the dog is from you, the harder for you effectively have him stop and better yet, come back to you for a release.

Last, let me give you an idea of how I work with Deuce and Rio with either the tug, ball or whippet (a long line with a toy attached at the end of it) so you can have an appreciation of the variety of behaviors we can work on, level of difficulty (really!) and brilliance of the dogs.

Either tug or ball:
Begin the game with the dog only if under self-control (for me sitting is optional, sometimes I take a down or ask for another behavior from them all reflecting self-control.

Play for a few seconds 15 sec approx.
Throw tug away or kick ball
Say: Get it!

Give my verbal cue of STOP, which means that: do not continue moving/chasing…
Release dog with…..

Get It! After they had stopped on their tracks (what a beautiful thing! :))

At times, as my dog is running back to me with a toy or ball to begin the fun again, I might just turn around and either run or pretend I am running away and have the dog chase me and catch up to me. When they do we begin playing again.

I also take turns throwing the tug or ball dismissing my dog to go get it, but then, I call the dog all the way back to me. If you think of it, this is such good practice in the event you come across wildlife that you don’t want your dog chasing. You call, they come and at that point you can leash them or keep them safe otherwise.

Once they come to me I let them go after the toy. The answer is no – in case you are wondering if chasing after wildlife is ever an option for them.

I find this kind of training super fun, challenging for all involved and the best way I can think of in having a fair chance of stopping our dogs from chasing wildlife. Keep in mind that just doing this kind of training once in a while or moving “forward” without building on previous successful steps first will not amount to much. As in life… you reap what you sow…no shortcuts or magic formulas!