Chasing Birds!

Discussion in 'Dog Behavior Problems' started by leema, Mar 4, 2008.

  1. leema New Member

    This morning I discovered a rather dangerous behaviour.

    Clover hasn't had all that many outings and I always test the water before I let her off lead. ;) I let her drag the lead around for a while then decided she WAS going to come back to me, even when she's running around like a lunatic, she would come back, full pelt, at her name. I was impressed! So I let her off.

    We were doing this and it was good and fun. Then she spotted a magpie (bird) pecking at the ground. She BOLTED towards it, the bird started to fly off, close to the ground. Clover followed it across the park, over the road, then gave up when the bird flew UP instead of along the ground. Then she remembered me, and ran back full bore.

    I was gobsmacked! I have seen that she is interested in birds, but I didn't think she was THAT keen. What plan of attack would you suggest?

    I am going to try to get her very into toys at the park. I mean, they move just like birds (almost) so they might be an alternative channel for her behaviour... ?

  2. Jean Cote Administrator

    Do you mean to try and train her? One thing you could tie a rope to a toy and drag it around to get her to chase it. But then you would probably need a friend to do that so that you can train her to ignore it.

    I've had a similar experience with my husky, I was training her in a school yard at around 9PM during the summer and all of a sudden she bolts down to the fence. Little did I know that there was like 3 rabbits running for their lives now. LOL. Good thing it was fenced in but that scared the heck out of me, since it was dark and I couldn't see anything.

    I think the best way is to train around other dogs. Birds usually fly away as soon as they see a dog around, so you don't have the opportunity to train.
  3. leema New Member

    Clover's fine around other dogs. She pretty much ignores them unless they come right up to her. It's just birds are so exciting.

    At home, we are practicing stays while a ball is thrown, so that might help, too. I just don't think that a moving toy is as exciting as A REAL BIRD!!
    The closest I can think of is getting a bird in a cage and rewarding lack-of-attention towards the bird.
  4. Jean Cote Administrator

    I think he might have chased the bird simply because dogs have huge chase instincts. I guess a few thousand of years of hunting will do that to ya!!! :dogsmile:
  5. leema New Member

    Yes, but it's not okay for her to. It's dangerous. Hence why I want to curb her prey drive, at least for birds.
  6. Jean Cote Administrator

    Oh I agree :) I'm just saying that it is hard to reconstruct a situation where his chase instinct will be triggered.

    That is why I was thinking of a dog running around him might trigger it, or a rope tied to a toy. :)

    Sorry I can't be of more help ... :(
  7. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    Hmm...you could get a hunting decoy(fake birds) or simply find a toy bird. Where I live, stuffed birds(dog toys) are very easy to find, and if you know of a hunting equipment store in your area they will have hunting decoys relatively low priced. You can get one of these and work on getting her to ignore the decoy, and improving her recall in the presence of the fake bird. With the help of a friend, the bird can "run" or even...well, kind of fly. Lol. Zeke and I have had some trouble with this. He can catch birds in mid-flight because he jumps very high and is very quick. o-o I've curbed his simply by giving a sharp "Ah-ah!" when he began to exhibit the pre-attack behaviors, then getting his attention on a game of fetch. This way he was rewarded for ignoring the birds, and learned that his toys were acceptable to play with rather than the poor birds. I don't know what his motive was other than to play with those feathery flying things, because he didn't kill them. o-0 Anyway...hope this helps!
  8. leema New Member

    Thanks for the ideas. :) I don't know any hunting stores but I haven't been looking either. ;)
  9. emmasmamma Guest

    Kinda off the wall here, :dogwacko: but if you dont have a friend to pull a toy on a rope, perhaps training to ignore a remote controlled vehicle. Maybe even attatch a stuffed animal to it? That way you could stay close to Clover and still move an object to train with.
  10. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    xD Wow, that is a good idea! I can just see little Clover bounding after a remote-control truck with a stuffed duck strapped to the top of it....:doglaugh: But really, that is a great idea. That would be very easy to do.
  11. l_l_a New Member

    hi Leema

    it's very natural behavior, all dogs have prey drive, some a lot more than others. my dog has a high prey drive, loves to chase things, especially little furry critters and birds but really anything that moves, so I sympathize with you.

    One option (probably the easiest) is to use management rather than training. in other words, just physically preventing the dog from chasing birds by having her on a leash or long line ahead of time. I do this if we are near traffic because even if the dog is trained to abort a chase, in some situations there may not even be time to give a command because dogs can cover distance very quickly....thus in unsafe areas I think just having the dog on leash or long line to stop chasing is easier/safer since you don't have to be paying attention or have spent gobs of time training in advance, the leash just stops the dog immediately.



    But some options for using training to deal with the behavior:

    1. train a solid "leave it" so that you can give this command when she first sees a bird but before she bolts at it. This would however require that you have already seen the bird so you can give her the command in time to "cut off" the chase before she has started. (once the dog is already running full speed they often "go deaf" and can't even physically hear you). so if you see the dog fixating on a bird or stalking it tell her to leave it and then put her back on leash until the bird is gone.

    2. Train the dog to call off the middle of a chase when she's ALREADY chasing something. I taught my dog to call off from chasing "prairie-dogs" while he's in the middle of running after them. This is because sometimes you can't call the dog in time to cut off the chase and before you know it they're already running full speed after something. (BTW prairie-dogs are not actually dogs, they are chipmunk-like rodents that live in burrows and are very prevalent in fields and open spaces in Colorado.) This takes a lot of training again because dogs naturally "go deaf" when they are in full prey drive, they naturally have tunnel vision at that point so it takes a lot of practice to overcome that but it's possible.

    3. Train the dog to not even think about chasing that specific type of animal or bird in the first place so that you don't have to tell her to leave it alone she just does it on her own. For some dogs this is relatively easy but for others it's next to impossible, it just depends on the individual dog and the environment. so far I've only been able to do this on my dog with ducks and geese up to a certain critical distance (any closer and the distraction is so high I would have to actively tell him to leave it).


    Dogs - some more than others - naturally need to chase things, so it's important to also provide the dog with daily acceptable outlets for their chase instincts like balls and toys to make up for not allowing them to chase these other things.
  12. l_l_a New Member

    oh yeah, my dog has done the same thing - one time he was chasing a duck in an open field, it was flying close to the ground so he chased it for a loooog distance he was running around with his head looking up at the sky (you can imagine this would be a recipe for disaster) and then fell into the lake because he wasn't looking where he was going!!! I then realized OK we NEED to do more training to better control his prey drive! well so far we've not had a repeat incident (yet..!) but it could be as much circumstantial/management as due to training! :)

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