Operation IRIT (intensive rabbit ignoring training)

So, operation IRIT is in full swing. See, cos it sounds like ‘irrit’ as in ‘irritate’ because it’s so annoying. Get it!?




As i posted last week, Lu was starting to get really bad with chasing things while off-leash. Even if there was nothing to chase she was really just running off on me and not coming back.

So I asked Silvia Trkman what she does, obviously there’s rabbits and deer in Slovenia. So she gave me some ideas.

Our new mantra is we do not hunt. Anything that looks like hunting is redirected. When Lu get super alert and ‘pointy’, her attention gets redirected to me.

We’ve been going out to the lake where there’s heaps of rabbits and swamp-birds and whenever she makes the conscious decision to focus in on me instead of the rabbits, we have a huge play and lots of treats. Sometimes I’ll focus her myself with a quiet ‘uh uh’, or ‘Lumen…’, but, considering when we went to the lake a few months ago and she saw a rabbit, she was on her hind legs, crying at the end of the lead, flipping out to try and get to the rabbits… now, she can calmly take her focus off them and play with me. Look, if they run, she’s still wanting to run after them (of course), though now she might start to and stop, freeze, stare, and then turn back to me. I’m trying to make focusing on me more fun and more high-value than chasing rabbits. It’s such a hugely laughable concept for her to have to understand and I don’t know if she’ll ever not chase animals, but my thought is that if she has these basics, she might stop and turn back like Mal does, rather than just running off blindly.

The ultimate goal is being able to walk around with rabbits and ignore them, 2nd to that is walk around and refocus on me when rabbits are spotted, 3rd to that is walk around, possibly chase, but come back straight away.

I’ll just keep repeating: we do not hunt, we do not hunt, we do not hunt.


8 thoughts on “Operation IRIT (intensive rabbit ignoring training)

  1. We have a similar issue with squirrels (very uncommon to see a rabbit around here, at least a wild one.) Razor is the fan in this case. And he’s 6.5, so I’ve had a lot of experience dealing with that same end of the lead screaming in excitement issue. About three years ago I began to premack his response by actually allowing for the chasing (in a very secure area) if he would offer me the behaviors I asked for first. So… he initially could calmly sit down, rather than burst to the end of the leash. Later he could down, look at me, etc. It’s been really nice. He still sometimes reacts to squirrels that surprise him in other areas, but mostly he understands that some squirrels can be chased and barked at, others are off limits. Boy, it took a while to get there tho. So keep it up… She’s just a kid, maybe some day soon she won’t even care about them!

    • Em says:

      Well amazingly we don’t do the screaming bit anymore, though she does launch to the end of the lead if she sees one running, it’s not nearly as FULL ON as it was, which is nice…
      So did you -ask- for the behaviour and then give him an “Ok!” to go chase…? And then later did he offer the behaviour voluntarily?
      I just worry that it’ll blur the lines too much if it’s ‘sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t’ but if it’s been working for you, I really like the concept, like I’m not the ‘fun stealer’ who never lets her go chase… I can already see an improvement with her but I just don’t know if I’m going to outweigh the chase especially if she’s off-lead and they’re running- I’d like to have the option of releasing her- but I need to have her attention, first. 😉

    • Em says:

      I’ve read about premack and think I understand it in principal .. I just have trouble getting my head around how it would work in reality. 🙂

  2. So, Im back! haha. This is what I did. I knew the squirrels were there, in this grove of trees that I used to avoid at ALL costs because he went so mental when we even got near. Then I learned to channel that into controlled behaviors. I would ask for them… a sit, or down… just once and wait for him to give me something I liked, then release. We always had a hard time with start line stays (still do, actually!) and with the squirrels I would get this lovely wait. Beautiful controlled behavior. And somehow the releasing to chase took away that frantic behavior! He still will chase, but he comes back so much quicker. And doesn’t obsess like before. And some of that might be his age. But I think much of the glamour of being able to race off after the critters has faded due to having to offer a behavior first. Just my experience, but I often suggest it to my clients. It’s really amazing.

    • Em says:

      No don’t stop! All advice and comments are appreciated. It never helps to get more than one opinion that’s for sure!
      And I completely agree and I’m SO aware that it’s natural for her to want to chase. And I’ve always made a point to reward the coming back bit if she does as I cringe when someone’s dog runs off and they call it and it comes, then it gets yelled at (for running off). I know she’s not naughty at all, she’s just doing this fun thing and she’s so prey driven that I’m totally not surprised, I’d just like to have some say/control over when/if she does chase (like you said) so that’s exactly what I’m working on with her, is being able to break that focus from the rabbits and redirect her back to me.
      So I’ve found a few places at the lake where there are guarenteed to be rabbits and I tell you what, she’s doing amazingly well- we went there last night and there were 5 that were hopping about and she stopped, froze, stared at them, and with a quiet word from me, turned back. Well, did we have a big play then! But maybe I could try also (sometimes) asking for/waiting for the behaviour I want (turn back to me) and then running toward the rabbits WITH her – that way we’re in it together, it’s still fun, it’s still controlled (I can’t really let her off-leash there and I don’t necessarily want her to go all crazy until she gets that yes, she can, but there’s a limit) and like you said, it might take away some of the ‘taboo’ of being able to chase as well, because of having to offer that behaviour, too.
      She really is great for a 10 month old baby, I just like to hit problems on the head before they become BIG problems. So I think I’ll keep doing these things, and maybe sometimes release her to ‘chase’ (probably with me on the lead) unless we’re out in the bush and I manage to get her attention before she chases and she makes the right decision (redirect attention), then maybe I’ll release to let her chase – assuming it’s a rabbit, not a roo! 😉
      Sorry if this was really rambly, I have a sore back and it’s muddling up my brain!

  3. One more thing, then I’ll give it a rest, I swear. 😉

    I think as humans, we have to get past this thought that our dogs are somehow “naughty, or headstrong” when they give in to very natural urges. We don’t get mad at them if they seek to get some water to drink (natural) we probably need to understand that chasing things is very ingrained in many dogs. Some don’t care about prey… But those who do aren’t bad dogs, just natural. If we can have some say/control over those natural urges, we both grow as a team. I’m not saying YOU think this way, only that I come across it a lot and the anger or frustration the owners feel about the dog’s behavior isn’t helpful at all. Finding a way to be really neutral (as well as safe) when working with these behaviors is really key.

  4. Sweet! I hope you do get a chance to do this “in the wild” because the satisfaction of having your OFF LEASH dog WAIT for a release from you to chase something is golden! (sorry about your back… boy do I get that, I had surgery years ago and it still haunts me)

    It’s great too that you are getting to work on this while she’s young. I didn’t know I had a squirrel issue with Razor until he was 1.5 and we moved to this house in the country where we didn’t have a fence, and there were ground squirrels ALL OVER THE PLACE and he went nuts with them. He’s never caught one… wonder what would happen?

    You work with small children yes? You can try this with them too. Find a kid that REALLY wants to do something OTHER than what is asked of him. (let’s say he wants to play with trucks, instead of read) See if you can’t get him to do something you want, and release him to something he wants and watch the “joy” of doing the naughty thing disappear. It works! (as long as it’s safe… of course)>

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s