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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Vehicle Chasers. Part II

From the mailbag 
A friend of mine was driving down her street and there was a guy walking his 3 dogs.  One of the dogs got loose and was hit by the car.  The owner took the dog to the ER.  
After returning from the ER, the dog owner told my friend that the dog will be getting her leg amputated.  He said the dog runs after cars all the time; the vet said this probably won't change that behavior.  This was a very sad incident for everyone involved.  
This serves as another reminder to always have our dogs under our control - but is there a way to train a dog not to do this?  Or chase bikes, motorcycles, etc? 

Note: Pet parents might consider hiring a highly skilled behaviorist to help modify vehicle chasing behavior. Especially if 
A. The pet has been hit by a vehicle before 
B. The pet  is stronger than the pet parent 
C. The is a concern that the pet will get hit 
D. If there is any danger of the pet getting hurt
E. If there is any danger of redirecting
What a sad situation for all involved. Unfortunately, the vet is correct.  Getting hit by a car won't always stop a dog from chasing cars. It might even make the chasing worse. Some dogs will charge at things that frighten them.  And pet parents should not underestimate the athletic ability of a three legged dog. 
We approach car, bike, motorcycle chasing the same way we approach squirrel chasing. First with management, then foundation, then actual work with moving vehicles - starting below threshold and increasing distractions a tiny bit at a time. 
Walk only one dog at a time 
Walk in areas where you are least likely to see cars, bikes, motorcycles, etc.. i.e. open fields, woods, etc.. 
Walk dogs in a secure harness and collar 
Clip the leash to your body and hold the leash 
No human distractions (i.e. cell phones)
For more on management, see the squirrel posts 
Stress reduction 
Impulse control 
Teach easy behaviors with no distractions; slowly add in distractions 
Teach more difficult behaviors with no distractions; slowly add in distractions 
Work on sudden environmental change 
Work with moving objects that aren't as upsetting as cars, bikes, etc.. 
For more on foundation, see the squirrel posts 
Start working with cars, bikes, motorcycles, skateboards, etc.. 
Start with something easy like a stationary car (or other vehicle) 
Then get a helper and have him/her drive the car slowly in an empty parking lot while you work on desensitization and counter conditioning or the relaxation protocol, or "Control Unleashed" games 
For more on working with moving vehicles, see the squirrel posts 

Nervous pet parents
After such a scary experience, it can quite natural for the pet parent to tighten the leash or gasp when a car is near - which will make the dog even more upset about cars. - Just one more reason to stay way from vehicles for a while.
For more on how humans can affect their dogs' emotions, see Carefully Taught 
How to Hold The Leash When You Are Scared
For other posts on vehicle chasers, click here 
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