The technique outlined below works well to stop a dog from chasing unwanted game, commonly known as "crittering" and for stopping dog to dog aggression. If you're using it for the second purpose, just substitute a dog that your dog is aggressive towards for the prey animal. Where the references are made to "chasing game," "prey," or "prey animal," just substitute the appropriate language for a dog to dog aggression problem

As with all the other techniques the stimulation level that's used for this is the dog's working level, that is, where he first perceives the stimulation.

Many people use a "leave-it" command when they see their dog start to chase game. The problem with this is that many chases begin out of sight of the handler. If the handler doesn't see the chase start, he can't give the dog the command to stop. By the time the handler realizes that his dog is chasing game, the dog may be out of earshot and won't hear the leave-it command or the recall.

I use a form of behavior modification so that the dog doesn't even start the chase. He sees the prey animal, realizes that chasing it is uncomfortable and just goes back to work. No one, except the dog, even knows that a prey animal was present.

There are three components to a chase of an animal. The first and least distracting is the scent of the animal. The dog only knows this if it has had a chase and makes the association between the chase and the sight of the animal. The second is the sight of the prey animal. The third is the chase itself.

If a dog has had a successful chase, that is he has caught and killed a prey animal that he's chased it may be very difficult to break the dog of chasing that animal. I'd suggest that if your dog fits into this category you use the scent of the animal first in the behavior modification scheme. Since this is relatively rare, I'll cover it last.

First let's discuss the dog that has had a few chases but hasn't as yet made a kill while doing so. If you've done the recall work properly, you can call him away from the animal if he sees it or even if he is actively chasing it.

But we want the dog to do the work himself, not in obedience to a command, for reasons stated earlier.

To do this you'll need a cooperative prey animal. Some are easier to get than others. Elk and moose are obviously fairly difficult to get but there are ways around that. A cat works well and they are fairly easy to get. You can't use the cat that lives with the dog, it has to be one that he'll want to chase. You can trap a wild one or borrow one from a neighbor. I know people that have adopted a cat for a day and then have taken him back when they were done with the training, but I wouldn't advocate that. For a cat I recommend a leash and a harness unless you know that he'll walk well in just a collar.

The Process

Imagine yourself on a football field. You're going to need an assistant who will walk the cat (or other prey animal) back and forth on the "other" 0 -yard line. You and your dog, wearing a buckle collar and his Ecollar will go to the other 0 - yard line, 100 yards away. (Actually you can probably start on the 70 or 80 yard line but this will give extra insurance for those highly driven prey dogs.)

It's important that your assistant keep the cat moving. A cat that's holding still may not be of much interest to your dog. Keeping him moving at the same pace and at the same distance provides a constant distraction to your dog and makes the training go easier. If the cat stops and starts the distraction level changes and the training is harder.

You're going to hook a 6' leash up to the D-ring on the buckle collar and lead the dog back and forth across the field at your own 0-yard line, 100 yards from the cat. Don't give any commands just direct the dog gently with the leash. You don't want the dog focused on you and if you give him any commands that might happen. If the dog doesn't see the cat by himself, have your assistant make some small noise, a whistle perhaps, to draw the dog's attention to him and the cat. More than likely at this distance your dog will not show any interest in the cat. That's perfectly all right.

You're going to walk from sideline to sideline with the dog. Have your assistant make the noise a couple of times to draw the dog's attention. Don't have him call the dog's name, just draw the dog's attention.

If the dog shows no interest in the cat, next time you get to one of the sidelines, walk diagonally across the field; such that when you get to the other sideline you're at your 10-yard line. That is, you've moved ten yards closer to the cat. Walk back and forth a couple of times at that distance. Have your assistant make a noise to draw the dog's attention if he doesn't notice the cat, just as before.

If you make two passes at the 90-yard distance and the dog doesn't show any interest in the cat, close in another ten yards, just as before. Walk from the sideline diagonally across the field so that when you get to the other sideline, you wind up ten yards closer, at a distance of 80 yards from the cat.

At some point, as you get closer to the cat the dog will notice him. He'll give the cat "the stare" that always precedes a chase. He's sizing up the cat, wondering how much fun the chase will be, how fast he'll have to run, how long the chase will last, and other doggie thoughts. When you see "the stare" you're going to press the button on the Ecollar and step back, pulling the dog away from the cat. Make sure that you step back, keeping the distance between you and the dog a constant, rather than just pulling him away from the cat and closing the distance between the dog and you. If you just pull him towards you, you're reinforcing the recall, not teaching him not to critter.

As soon as he takes a few steps away from the cat in response to the leash pressure and looks away from the cat, release the button.

Walk back and forth a few times at that same distance. If the dog gives the cat "the stare" again, repeat as above. It's very important that you walk backwards to move the dog, rather than pull the dog towards you. Again, as he goes with the leash pressure and looks away from the cat, release the button.

Get closer to the cat as described above, by moving diagonally across the field. This turns up the distraction level very gently and slowly, allowing you to control it.

As you get closer the dog will again give the cat "the stare." Repeat as often as is necessary.

The leash should always be slack for this until you're actually pulling the dog away from the cat. You'll probably have to coax the dog to get him to walk, but don't give him any commands. This is between the dog and the cat, you have no part in this confrontation.

What you're after is getting the dog to think that giving the cat "the stare" brings discomfort. If your timing and leash manipulation with this is good you'll probably have to give the dog 5-7 stimulations as you close on the cat. With most dogs I've been able to get them to walk within 2' - 3' of the cat on the first time doing this. Some dogs have been able to step over the cat and ignore him after one session of this.

With some dogs it may take several sessions to get him to see the cat, and then ignore him for the rest of the session, without it taking any more stimulations to get this.

A lot of how successful this is depends on the dog's history in chasing prey animals. If he's had success it just takes more repetitions. It WILL work.

Lou Castle is currently a Sergeant for a medium size police agency in the Los Angeles area of California. He has been in law enforcement for 29 years. In addition to working as a patrol Officer, Lou has worked many specialized assignments such as a K-9 handler, Trainer and Instructor, as Traffic Officer, in Vice and Narcotics, SWAT, Detectives, as an investigator on SIT (a liability/shooting investigation team), Field Training Officer, Personnel and Training, and Department Rangemaster and Use of Force Instructor.

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