Interrupting Chase Behavior - Old Style Training and New
Updated: Sep 20
Chase behavior can be a mix of muscle memory and habit. Because chasing livestock is exciting it can become a habit in a hurry. Adolescent dogs sometimes go through development periods when they experiment with chasing their livestock. If is very important to their successful futures as trustworthy guardian dogs to manage/stop this behavior. The video above shows two different methods to do this.
Correction based training is designed to stop behavior. There are a couple of problems with this type of training. One is that it doesn't tell the dog what you want him to do instead, and, dogs often learn not to do the behavior in your presence but not to stop doing it in general. They also learn to avoid the person doing the correction, so if you want your dogs to listen to you there is a better training choice to be had.
In the video clip above both training choices are shown. In the first parts of the video I demonstrate verbally correcting my adolescent pup. At the time it was the only training option I knew. I had a solid relationship with Cameo. She handled the corrections well, in that she continued to be willing to be near me even though sometimes I wasn't fun. Over time she learned to dial it back around the sheep and as an adult she's an incredible guardian dog.
In the last video clip this pair of five month old pups are being taught proper manners with livestock through the use of 20' lightweight cords. This prevents the pups from moving quickly so there is no muscle memory of chasing livestock. When the pup's behavior is interrupted by hitting the end of the cord they are rewarded for making eye contact with their owner. Because they have turned to look at their owner they are moving more slowly. Interrupting their springy behavior in this way works as an emotional reset; the dogs can start over, and over, and over, until they are calm and steady around the livestock. Redirecting the pups in this way isn't stressful for them, and in fact it is an opportunity for reward from their owner.
What is especially cool about this last video clip is that the training is being done by the brand new owner of these pups. She had had them a couple of weeks at this point. She has limited experience with LGDs but she has studied the training bogs on my web site and came to train here at the ranch twice. In the video she is managing these impressionable young dogs beautifully.