Originally Posted by Vtwin
I saw the distance affect at work yesterday with male GSD. He's very smart and very alpha. He was much more work to train then the female but as a rule does very well. Our regular walks take us through the woods and at one point we get to within a couple hundred feet of the dirt road we live on. There is also a rail line turned recreation path running along the road. This situation has always been a training opportunity as they, mostly he, can't resist chasing a car or a snowmobile or whatever might be passing by. Over time we have come to an understanding and he knows he is not supposed to cross the stone wall without my ok. He is even at a point where he has gained my trust and can run ahead over the hill out of my sight because he waits by the wall for me to catch up.
[View Full Quote]Yesterday just as I reached the top of the hill I could hear a car coming (very little traffic on the road). I saw Ranger right at the wall in his "ready to go" stance looking in the direction of the car. I told him stay and mind his own business and he relaxed his posture a bit, gave me a very quick glance over his shoulder and took off! I know it was because I was far enough away from him that he thought he could get away with it.
He ran down the rec trail chasing the car then took a serpentine route back to us through the field as if to prolong his return to his obviously ticked of handler.
He was put in a down stay for a few minutes then a heel for the mile walk back to the house. It's interesting that if I put him in a heel without the car chasing situation having happened I would have had to work a bit to keep him there. Since he had been disciplined for ignoring me and chasing the car I think he felt obligated to obey me because he never left my side after being told to heel once.
The female GSD, who I never have to worry about, made it a point to come sit right at my feet while Ranger was chasing the car as if to say "look at me. I'm a good girl".
If you don't mind, I'll give ya a couple of perspectives.
I think it's great that you've got him trained as well as you do....very few people do.
When he holds that "stay" by the wall, out of your site, when you arrive, jackpot reward him with something of high value....could be food..could be the release...a ball...but something that he really sees as high value. You don't have to do it each time, in fact, variably rewarding the dog will cause him to perform his behaviors even better. It's like someone playing a slot machine in Vegas. Constant rewards lose value. Ya put a dollar in a vending machine, get your soda and move on. Not excitement there. BUT when you win on a slot machine, even if you're still behind, it's a buzz and let's face it, once you win on a machine, you'll always go back to the slots, even if you return 6 months later. Same with dogs. Variable rewards are very powerful.
I'd be a bit careful on the chasing thing because that is a hardwired behavior, some dogs are more reactive to motion than others and he sounds like he's highly reactive. I'd just hate to see him get hurt. It's a tough thing to train them out of. ESPECIALLY because he is a herding dog.
Much as it might have been difficult to "praise" him when he came back after he did the serpentine thing, remember, any behavior that is positively reinforced or positively punished more than a few second after the fact, has very little impact. I'm pretty sure that what made him delay his return was that he knew your were pissed by body language, scent etc.
Good example. My girlfriend insisted that when she came home from work, her dog KNEW she had done wrong by knocking over the garbage pail in the kitchen. I said "No, she knows to link, "Garbarge pail knocked over = human pissed off"
After much discussion I said "OK. Take the dog outside. I'm going to knock the garbage pail over in the kitchen. I want you to then bring the dog in, let her loose into the kitchen and then you come in through the front door as always and I'll guarantee the dog will do the same routine"
Sure enough, the dog threw herself at the mercy of the jury with the same "Please don't beat me with a tire iron" look on her face.
It's all conditioning.
Smart animals but people tend to see their behavior anthropomorphically ,that is, they give it human qualities.
I don't know if it was a matter of you being far away enough that he knew he could get away with it as much as it was your control was watered down enough by distance that whatever the attraction was, it was stronger than your influence. So he took off.
And yep, I agree...you energy on the walk back was STRONG. He was surely reacting to that. It' shows ya how well they read energy.
As an aside, the "alpha" stuff has pretty much been blown up, even by the guy, David Mech, who coined it scientifically and connected it between wolf and dog behavior. He has actually been begging people to ignore what he published in the early 1970's
Good stuff. I could talk this all day long. Thanks for your story! I learn something from everyone's experiences.