Need Monster Teacher . . .

Discussion in 'Dog Training Forum' started by Renee750il, Jan 25, 2005.

  1. Renee750il

    Renee750il Felurian

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    Okay, Creature Teacher Emma, here's a real problem. You and I seem to have very much the same take on communicating with dogs, so you might just have some suggestions that will work for both Kharma and myself.

    Kharma is my youngest Fila Brasileiro. She's from working lines and it shows. She's a superb herd dog . . . BUT . . . she's also totally obsessive/compulsive about it. She can't be out off leash during daylight because she will go herd the cows. She can't seem to help herself and she can't/won't stop until she has them all in one place. She's good about the little calves; she doesn't necessarily herd a baby that's by itself, she'll bark until she gets the mother's attention (so she knows which cow it is) and then herds the cow to the calf. If there are several calves out in a bunch away from the herd she will run them back to the main herd, then put ALL the cows (and bulls) together in one place.

    Now, this is exactly what we want her to do - on command! And she has to stop on command as well, obviously. I need to do some serious work with her when the weather gets a little more predictable since it's something that I'll have to do on a regular basis to teach her.

    When Charley or I try to call or whistle her in she'll stop, look at us, look back at the cows, shudder, shake her head, and go finish the job - almost as if she's under a geas. She comes in when she's finished, terribly satisfied that she's accomplished what she set out to do (herding 65+ head all by herself is just terribly impressive!), but knowing that she's also disobeyed.

    She was a year old the 19th of January. Little Monster!
     
  2. CreatureTeacher

    CreatureTeacher New Member

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    Renee,

    As the mom of a working-line Border Collie, I feel your pain. The unfortunate fact is that your dog and mine have been screwed by the breeders, and by their own genes.

    Doog, my Border Collie, has arthritis at age 6 because she just can't stop. She's probably run farther in her 6 years than most dogs do their whole lives, and her poor joints just can't keep up with her. I have seen her chase balls, frisbees, crows, horses, deer, whatever until she literally collapses in exhaustion and pain. This was pretty baffling to me at first; I'd never seen anything like it before. Why would a dog do something like that until it caused them actual physical damage? Here I was, pumping her full of supplements and spending hundreds of dollars on acupuncture and massage to help her, and the first thing she'd do when she got home was to go chase things again!!

    Have you ever had an itch in your throat when a cold was coming on? This is how I imagine these compulsions feel to our dogs. It gets to the point sometimes when you would do pretty much anything to scratch that itch and relieve the discomfort. So pretend you find a way to scratch the itch, but it turns out that the more you scratch it, the worse it itches and the better scratching feels. Pretty soon, you may have rubbed a hole in the back of your throat. Now you and I would probably say to ourselves, "Okay, this may feel good, but I'm going to hurt myself if I keep doing it." Then we would probably stop, itch or no. But this line of thought is not one our dogs have access to. Instant gratification is an easy-to-understand concept. But if you think about it, delayed gratification is actually pretty abstract, and most dogs don't understand it much at all.

    Your sweet Fila and my Border Collie have a common itch, and they've both found ways to scratch it. They've developed a compulsory addiction to instant gratification, and in Doog's case it's damaging her body.

    Because of this, you will have to be very careful about when and how you give Kharma access to her "fix" lest she end up with aching joints and torn pads before her time. The hard part comes when you limit her in her addiction. A behavioral compulsion like this is not going to go away. Every cell in Kharma's body is perfectly evolved to do exactly what she's doing, and breeders have implanted in her mind the desire to do it well and often. Because this desire is integrated, it would be cruel to deny it to her completely. If she suddenly was denied access to her fix, she would most likely become destructive to herself and her environment in an effort to satisfy her obsession. But you can control her addiction.

    If you think about it, I think you'll agree that herding satisfies our respective poochies because it presents a challenge to both their bodies and their minds. They have to think and move quickly, and they accomplish a very definitive goal in the end. So we have to find another activity to satisfy those same interests.

    I use training to do this. I have taught Doog everything I can think of. She probably knows more than a hundred commands. She LOVES training, because it presents her with a mental and physical challenge and gives her a specific goal to reach. She gets a sense of accomplishment and doesn't hurt herself. She's healthy and happy, so that means I am, too.

    I realize that your youngster isn't yet causing herself bodily damage, but she will get to that point if you don't head her off at the pass. Basically, what you need to do is make yourself as much fun as the herd of cows. Then she won't hesitate to come back when you ask her to.

    Grab a couple of books: Caninestein by Betty Fisher, Beyond Fetch by D. Caroline Coile, and Fun and Games With Your Dog by Gerd Ludwig. If you want to make your life a lot easier, you could pick up The Complete Idiot's Guide to Positive Dog Training by Pamela Dennison. Do whatever you can to amuse Kharma's bright little brain. This will help in two ways. First, training with a real purpose in mind will strengthen the emotional bond between you and Kharma, making her more willing to return to you when you ask and more excited to do what you ask. Second, it will do just a little to scratch that itch in the times when she may not have access to the cows.

    I would also recommend you put her on a high protein raw meat diet. If she's not on one already, you will be amazed at the difference it makes in her attitude and her obsessive/compulsive tendencies. (Check out http://www.barfworld.com and http://www.njboxers.com/faqs.htm for information or write me at k9oandc@hotmail.com for help preparing the biologically appropriate raw food diet.) I trained a standard poodle once who had actually torn open a wall due to prey obsession over mice; the raw diet calmed him down to a point where he could accept therapy. Doog's been on the raw diet for several years now and she's made huge leaps in mental and physical health. (And if that's not enough to convince you: she doesn't pass gas anymore!!! No dog farts to contend with!)

    Does that all make sense? Let me know if you have any questions about anything. Good luck with your pup!
     
  3. Renee750il

    Renee750il Felurian

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    I really haven't been ignoring you - I've tried to post an answer three times but my connection drops me out every time I get almost done - AAAAAHHHH! A thousand curse words!

    I'm going to hurry and post this before I get dropped out again so you'll at least know I've been here! Thanks!
     
  4. Renee750il

    Renee750il Felurian

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    Now I'll try a real post!

    It probably wasn't really fair if me to hit you with a question like that about the Fila. They're strange creatures, to put it mildly - about as different from an Aussie, Border, or any other type of herder as you can get in many ways, the most dramatic being their total antipathy to any sort of hyperactivity. I'm really not exagerrating too much when I say they are very large cats in baggy dog suits, lol!

    Once Kharma has corralled all the cows in one place she's perfectly happy to come in - she just has this work ethic that won't allow her to stop until she's finished what she's started! Not ordinarily a bad trait, but there is always the chance that she'll try to run a cow that's trying to calve - the likeliest result being a dead calf at the very least and losing both the cow AND calf being a real possibility.

    Now, as for coming to me being more fun - Emma, she won't even stop for her favorite cookie - or a ride in the car! No stopping for Little Miss Kharma until everyone is where she thinks they should be . . . :rolleyes:

    I guess the real issue is how to teach her to only work when she's told. Bimmer and her predecessor, Buffy, just innately understood that when I said "Go to work" it meant just that. I could send them out - by themselves - to check the barn to make sure there weren't any cows in the stored hay, or check and see that no cattle were out of the fence. If there were, the dogs would bring them back on their own. I never had to go direct them. That ability to work without supervision is a typical working Fila trait. Bimmer's a GSD/wolf mix and what can I say, he's just super-tuned in to me. Most of the time he knows what I want before I even say it.

    I do think Kharma's getting a bit depressed. Her appetite's off and she's been a moping sort of pup for the last couple of days. I'm thinking I'm going to need to take her out with me some just for some mental stimulation. When I let her out in the evening, though, she runs and hunts with Bimmer and chases and wrestles with Shiva. She just doesn't get to do it during the day. Our neighbor has also had to start keeping his Lab pup contained because he's been acting strange: refusing to go home when he's called, won't get out of Herbie's truck after they've been somewhere, acting afraid around his home. It all started when some people moved into the mobile home next to him with a dog they keep chained in the yard all the time and three little Chihuahua type housedogs. We think they've done something to poor Chester . . . he's such a little sweetheart and Kharma loves to play with him.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2005
  5. CreatureTeacher

    CreatureTeacher New Member

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    Have you had your dogs checked for heartworm? Make sure your neighbor--the one with the lab pup--has hers checked too. Heartworm can cause behavior changes like those, and although this isn't really the "season", mid-winter was when my Dobie's infestation got bad. Better safe than sorry, right?

    If you suspect the new neighbors of mistreatment of their dogs or someone else's, call a local humane society, animal control, or SPCA. They'll come out and talk to the neighbors just to be sure. Again, better to do something, just in case.
     
  6. Renee750il

    Renee750il Felurian

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    They're okay on heartworm. Kharma's just finished her first complete estrus about six weeks ago. Buffy, her half-sister/aunt did the false pregnancy bit after her first complete estrus - along with mood changes very similar to Kharma's. It hit me tonight that it's very likely that's what her mood and behaviour change is about. She's even curling up in the corner at the foot of my side of the bed - like she's nesting. Her little teats are a bit swollen, just like Buffy's did. She's sleek as an otter, so there's no question about a real pregnancy. I know not being able to go out with the other two during the day has got to be bothering her too, though. She just hates to think Shiva might get into something interesting that she's missing! Kharma's the much more adventurous of the two Filas and considers Bimmer HERS! The idea that Shiva's getting to go hunting and all that other doggy stuff that I probably really don't want to know about with HER Bimmer . . .

    Funny thing, Shiva's gone to bed back in the bedroom tonight instead of sacking out on the sofa. Bimmer's in his usual mode, staying right by my feet until I go to bed. I think the girls drive him crazy sometimes . . . :)
     
  7. Saje

    Saje Island dweller

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    Thread hijacking to follow....

    That collie should have learned to herd ducks! Swimming is much easier on the joints and paws. LOL Can you see it?

    Renee, do you think that you could use some kind of clicker training on her? Maybe you could get that sound so ingrained in her head that it over-rode her instinct to fuss with the herd. I don't know how you'd do it exactly. Just a thought.
     
  8. Renee750il

    Renee750il Felurian

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    I doubt she could hear it across the pasture and over the cows bawling. It's a good thought. If there was some way to get something so ingrained in her noggin that it would override this need to finish what she's started it would be a good beginning. Ideally, I need to find some way to convince her not to even do it until I tell her to go to work. Bimmer just did that naturally - no training, and he taught Buffy and is teaching Shiva (although the show dog in her really dilutes her desire to herd at all, *sigh* When she has pups it will definitely be out of a solid working dog. If I could cross half of Kharma's herding desire into Shiva I'd have two ideal drovers.). Bimmer and Buffy pretty much spoiled me. I didn't even have to housetrain either one of them. Shiva is the first housetraining I've had to do in years. And as far as overall training goes, I've been talking to the dogs since I was four years old. I read and watch the techniques, but I've really never had to do much training, per se, since a snout-to-snout, or sometimes just a little chat has always accomplished what was desired.

    These Fila dogs - and I suspect some of the European guardian/drover 'cousin' breeds - have been very valued for their ability to work alone and make decisions and act without command or even supervision. The only thing that drives them more strongly is their love for their humans.

    I may have just answered part of my own question there - Kharma may need more special alone-time with me, apart from the other dogs, to strengthen that bond enough that it will give me more leverage to override her obsession. Right along the lines Emma was talking about when she said making coming to me more interesting than moving cows was the key . . . but use it to convince her not to go until I give her the word.

    Okay, I've rambled all 'round, but it's actually let me combine all of this good advice and come up with something. Keep it coming, guys!
     
  9. Renee750il

    Renee750il Felurian

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    Emma, if you ever get a chance to go to MolosserStock or an event featuring the working molossers - especially the Filas, I hope you'll grab it. I think you'll find it fascinating. It was almost unbelievable to me what a different world you live in with Filas, even after living with German Shepherds since the age of 12.

    Of course, you get all sorts of people when you're dealing with these kinds of dogs, but we gravitate to like minds. Some of the Fila people are lunatic and breed purely for size and ferocity; we don't associate with those people!

    http://www.molosserstock.com/
     
  10. CreatureTeacher

    CreatureTeacher New Member

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    Aw, poor Kharma. The false pregnancy rears its ugly head!

    And for the record, I love the name "Bimmer". Where did you get it?
     
  11. Saje

    Saje Island dweller

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    Ok. How about one of those dog whistles that apparently only they can hear. LOL Or a fog horn.

    Hee hee hee

    ok, you can have your thread back. :)
     
  12. Renee750il

    Renee750il Felurian

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    It took a while to find his name. He's mostly black, mostly German, blazingly fast, agile as a whip, accelerates like a rocket, is so dependable, and I brought him home in the 750il BMW - unless it's a strange emergency, trust me, that's the only time I'll be using the 750 to chauffeur one of the dogs! lol! I stopped on my way to pick him up from the farm of a wonderful woman where someone had dumped him and his three siblings out and picked up one of those heavy pads you put underneath a crate and a seat belt harness and left after my last night of work for an attorney in Knoxville, drove an hour and a half, finally found the farm, had dinner with the couple who owned the farm and their neighbors, then drove the two hours home with him. He snuggled right down in the seat, laid his little head across the console with his nose on my leg and never moved a muscle all the way home. What a little gentleman he was even then. So when I added in his beautiful demeanor and his ferocious streak (you should have seen the little fellow the first time someone came to the door!) it suddenly hit me, and Bimmer he is! He looks so respectable on the surface, but he and I both know there's some wolf under that German Shepherd's clothing.
     
  13. Renee750il

    Renee750il Felurian

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    Don't you mean one of those whistles that only Kharma can IGNORE! :p

    You should hear all the dogs at the trailer park start barking when I whistle mine in at night. I'm so mean . . . sometimes, when I know the person who poisoned Buffy is home and trying to sleep before working I go out and whistle even though mine are sound asleep on the sofa . . .
     
  14. Saje

    Saje Island dweller

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    LOL Good for you. :) does it get their dogs up? You don't want the dogs being punished though. I hate that guy
     
  15. Renee750il

    Renee750il Felurian

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    About the only dog it wakes up is his Mini Schnauzer - the one that always tries to bite Bimmer and Shiva and Kharma when it escapes. I can hear it howling from inside the mobile home. (evil chuckle) The other dogs (poor things) are left outside to fend for themselves. I always worry when I hear the coyotes too near. We warn the new people that move in with dogs, and tell them that ours are up at night so there's nothing to keep the coyotes at bay.

    Little Chester, the Lab, is inside at night and he knows my whistle so well he doesn't bark at all, so Herbie gets to snooze away.
     
  16. Saje

    Saje Island dweller

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    Poor dogs. I wish I could take them away from their bad owners.

    At least you try to warn them about the coyotes.

    I haven't seen coyotes out here (I'm sure there are somewhere) but I have seen bear tracks and that worries me. They should be hibernating now. SHOULD be.
     
  17. Renee750il

    Renee750il Felurian

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    If you have wolves there you may not have much of a coyote population. The wolves hate them and the coyotes are afraid of the wolves - justifiably.
     
  18. Saje

    Saje Island dweller

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    I don't know which we have here. I imagine wolves more than coyotes because I associate wolves with mountains but I don't know for sure. maybe I'll look into it.
     

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