Is this scene familiar to you? Wish you could control your dogs chasing? Try the following training tips and see how you get on. I was given this information from the dog behaviourist at the RSPCA bath when I rescued my dog Lemmy as he is very partial to chasing squirrels, cats and any thing else that moves.
To control chasing
Teach the dog to wait before being sent to run after a toy that you throw
Have the dog on a lead and throw a favourite toy in front of you. Say ‘wait’
Wait until the dog has stopped trying to run after the toy then let him go by saying ‘fetch’ or ‘go get it’ or whatever cue you want to mean ‘run after something’
Keep repeating this until the dog waits patiently as you throw the toy. Then do this off lead a few times to ensure the dog understands the cues and also train this in different locations so the dog can generalise.
Put the chase under control
Have the dog waiting by your side as before, but this time you need 2 identical toys and a helper. Ask the dog to wait and then throw the 2 toys in opposite directions. Indicate which toy you want the dog to run after by pointing or waving your arm and saying ‘fetch that one’ (or whatever), If the dog goes after the wrong toy your helper needs to get to it first. The dog is not to get the toy! They need to learn that unless you have said they can, they do not get the toy. You also need a cue that means ‘you made the wrong choice so you won’t get success’ – something like ‘no good’ or ‘wrong choice’ Keep repeating this in lots of different places (including where you normally walk your dog) until the dog reliably goes after the toy you indicate.
Encourage the dog to chase as much as possible, under control.
When it is safe to do so (not near a road, nothing he could actually catch etc.) encourage your dog to chase things by indicating and saying ‘get that one’ - for example, if you see a squirrel near the safety of a tree encourage your dog to chase it,
What happens eventually is that your dog will wait to be told what to chase, rather than run off after things on their own. When they see a squirrel, they will look to you to see what to do, rather than just chase them. This gives you the chance to get them on lead etc. if it not appropriate for them to chase at that time.
Sometimes let the dog just run after something you throw – don’t ask them to wait. Just say ‘get it’ (or whatever) as you throw it.
Teach a ‘leave it’
‘Leave it’ will mean ‘turn away from that thing and look at me instead’. It means ‘you never ever get that thing so don’t even bother trying’. As it means ‘you never touch that thing’ you will need a separate cue for items the dog already has in his mouth. (Something like ‘swap’ or ‘give’) This needs to be trained with things the dog can’t ever have so don’t use dog toys etc. You can use household items, or furry toys that look like squirrels etc. Train with things that the dog finds hard to resist – tissues, or model cats if the dog is obsessed by cats for example.
When you first begin to teach this you need to start with things that the dog doesn’t really care about – piece of paper, plastic plate, whatever, and gradually build up to exciting things. You can’t introduce exciting things too soon, or the training won’t progress. It is a good idea to write as list of objects that you plan to use, so you can keep track. Begin this training somewhere not very exciting – the kitchen, for example. Have the dog on a lead and throw your boring object ahead of the dog. Stand still so that she can’t get to it and when she looks away from it (even for a second) click and give the dog a treat. Turn away from the object as you reward so the dog turns her back to it a bit.
Keep repeating this with the same object until the dog looks to you as soon as you throw it, then you can add the cue ‘leave it’ just before the dog looks at you.
Then you need to repeat the whole thing with a different object Keep repeating the training, in the same location, using lots of different objects, starting with boring things and ending with the most existing thing you can think of, that your dog usually wants desperately, but she can still turn back to you when you say ‘leave it’
ALWAYS reward the ‘leave it’
Then you need to teach the whole thing again off lead. Still in the same location, go back to your first boring object (this is why it is good to have a list!) but this time you need a helper, or you need to be able to get to the object before the dog. If you have just spent 3 weeks or so teaching the dog that ‘leave it’ means you don’t have it, and then the minute she is off lead she just gets it, you have just undone all of that training.
Keep working through your list, off lead, in the kitchen until the dog can leave (turn back to you) anything – a roast chicken or the cat!
Then you need to put the dog back on the lead and teach the whole thing again in the garden. Work through all of the objects, first on lead then off lead.
Then train it in the place you usually walk the dog – take your objects in a bag – first on lead and then off lead. At this point, the dog should turn back to you whenever you say ‘leave it’, wherever you are and whatever the thing is that you are asking them to leave
You can then do this with moving objects, if your dog is a chaser. Set up situations with a friend if the dog chases bikes or joggers, etc.
Initially keep the dog on a lead or behind a fence so they cannot get to the moving object
the dog will be able to turn or come back to you in any situation from any object/thing.
When the dog can understand what is required of him, you can use ‘wrong choice’ when they start to chase something, as they will then automatically give up and return to you (as the cue now means ‘you will not get what you are after’. Leave it is good for when they first look at things but haven’t actually started chasing, as again, they turn back to you for a reward.
ALWAYS reward when they leave something or give up chasing. Those behaviours are highly reinforcing for dogs so they need something rewarding to ‘compensate’ for not doing them.
Good Luck and keep at it,