rabbit training

So, this morning the cat caught a rabbit but then let it go. This afternoon I found it again. It had myxo so its eyes were all swollen closed. I dealt it a swift blow to the head a couple of times and that was that (very interesting that I get incredibly emotional if I run over an animal but if I have to kill a mouse or a rabbit I don’t really mind). Anyway, we came home after swimming the dogs and I decided that having the body of a rabbit was too good of an opportunity to waste with Lu. After all, here is a thing that she really, desperately wants.

First we did some focus work around the rabbit in the yard. She was on a long line but I wasn’t holding it. This was pretty easy. So I said “Ok, get it”, and she got it and wanted to shovel it down her face, but I got her to leave it. More focus work and various exercises, including saying “Ok, go see” and then as she was running towards it, calling her back to me, having a big reward play with some food and then releasing her to go get it and letting her pick it up. I recalled her over the top of it once even. She did so, so well. The only time she had trouble was if she had it in her mouth and I called her – she’d come, but she’d bring the rabbit, stop in front of me and then want to eat the rabbit, rather than focusing on me at that point.

Will it stop her chasing live rabbits? No. Did it add a little bit more self control to the whole picture? Maybe.

things I learnt today

  1. Loki is very good at recalls
  2. Things Loki can recall off: birds, rabbits, foxes, eating poo.
  3. Things Loki finds difficult to recall off of: the bush.


Took the dogs for a little walk this morning and found a new little free-running bit (helpful, since we’re moving in 2 weeks). It was very nice and grassy. Lu and Mal were both on lead with me (Mal has been taking Loki on naughty little adventures so he’s lost his off-lead privileges for a little while) and Loki was off. Generally he runs fairly far ahead but I can still see him and he stops to alert me/show me if there’s something interesting ahead. When we were heading back (via the main track) a fox ran across the track and Loki started trundling toward it (and by trundle, I mean he was running but it wasn’t a Lu-style hunting sprint, more of a “hey, what was that!?” kind of curiosity. I casually called him and he turned right away and came. Then, not 10 seconds later, a rabbit ran across the path up ahead and he saw it and his response was to TURN AROUND to come back to me!!! Woah.

And Lu handled all that pretty well, too…

But… when we got off the track and into the bush, he was gone.

Gone gone gone.

Off the hill and far away.

Which made Lu all angry cos obviously he was going to go hunt ALL THE THINGS without her and made Mal all squeaky because HE wanted to be running somewhere too and made me all angry because WTF, where did my puppy go?

So we did a couple of recalls – he was very far away but came quickly, but as soon as I said “OK!” he was off again. Down the hill, far away.

So I said ‘stuff you!’ turned the two big dogs around and marched up the hill back to the track. Eventually he came.

Looks like he and I will be taking some one-on-one adventures off trail into the bush, practising lots of FUN recalls (it’s hard to be really fun and engaging with Mal on my belt and Lu’s lead in my hand attached to her halti which I can’t pull around because she hates it), and me doing lots of hiding, turning around and going the other way, etc. I don’t mind a degree of independence but WOAH, he was completely off this morning.






So, y’know…

I started watching Garrett’s free videos this morning while eating breakfast. And I got through the first one and didn’t get very far into the 2nd one when I had to actually go to work. But it’s going to be about ‘It’s yer choice”  and that whole gamut.

And then I went to the Pony Club to run the dogs this morning and as I drove along I thought: Ok, I’ll put Lu’s bells on her because the other day there was kangaroo poo around there so there must be roos hanging out, and I’ll just keep an eye open, but we didn’t see any with Loki… As I pulled up to park, there were 3 just sitting there right near the entrance. Great. So we went down to a different, less animal-y dog park instead (and I haven’t been going to my normal park because if anyone arrives she barks at them and runs at them barking and although she’s completely friendly and harmless, she’s doing her guard bark and frankly, it’s embarrassing and worrying) where there were less animals but more dogs.

Walking in, there was a goldie and a German Shepherd playing near the river there. Great! Mal was attacked by a shepherd as a younger dog and now he hates them (understandably! I think he’s absolutely terrified of being eaten again). And goldies are too friendly for him, so being bounded up to by an over-exuberant golden-retriever with a shepherd hot on its heels wouldn’t have been ideal. So we steered clear.

Everything was fine and then Lu saw those damn moorhen birds that I’ve been training Loki not to chase and of course she takes off, chases it, does a big circle and comes back to me. Loki followed her the whole way, so that’s awesome (read sarcasm).

And as I got back in the car, I thought about Garrett and recallers and how her whole premise is that the dog is choosing to do what you want it to do and therefore thinks its a great idea and I thought how the hell am I ever going to get Lu to not chase, or to come back when I call her? Honestly, what is going to be better for her, in her mind, than chasing things? Oh, here, have a kibble and let’s play a game and maybe you’d like this tug toy? No, really. Like, oh, let’s like, do some spins and stuff and then you’ll be really excited to stay with me!



And so I know, I need to finish watching the video but I don’t see how Lumen choosing to not eat some food is going to make her choose to not chase those amazingly awesome kangaroos she can smell. How is anything going to beat that? I can see that like maybe you can do it so if she looks back at you then she’s made the choice to ‘check in’ so she gets to go chase something, but she’s not a moron, as soon as she’s not on lead, there’s no way she’s going to wait around for my ok.

And I understand that maybe it’s going to be about the dog wanting to work to get things it wants but then comes in the question of what if your dog doesn’t want anything except the thing he’s really not allowed to have?

Anyway. I don’t know if she has limited spaces for the course when it opens up, or if the rest of the videos will shed some more light on it, but I’d really like to have relaxing walks with my dogs- all of them- wherever we want to go, even if it’s at dusk or whatever. I’m ok with having her on lead, but it’d be really nice if she didn’t have to be, all the time.

I know people have had success with their course even with their super hunty dogs so there must be some sense to it, I’m just feeling a bit down about Lu again at the moment. I think I described her in another post as insufferable. And that’s about right – she’s just making it very difficult to go anywhere, between the hunting and the barking at people right now.

recalls (or: how do I get Lumen to not chase kangaroos and rabbits?)

Not quite a roo...

Not quite a roo…

Yesterday, I finally found out what happens if Lumen actually sees a kangaroo or rabbit. So far she’d only found smells of fresh trails but I don’t think she’d actually had her sights on an animal…

Until, 100 meters ahead, a wallaby hopped across out path and into the bush. Well, Lu was off like a rocket, up the hill and into the bush. Luckily I think it had enough of a head-start that maybe she gave up on it quickly… I think it would be wishful thinking to assume that she’d gone ‘far enough’ and heeded my recall.

I know, I shouldn’t call her if she’s going to ignore me, but at the same time I don’t want her just blindly sprinting into the bush until such time as she deems fit to return.

So I’m a little anxious about all this, because although she does come back- she always does, and she doesn’t take that long… she does ignore me for a while there. And I know, it’s probably too much to ask of a 9 month old pup to ignore the sight of a roo hopping away up ahead, but how on earth do you train for that? It’s not like it happens regularly enough and I honestly don’t like the idea of keeping her on lead ‘just incase’…

Just keep practising recalls, all the time? Maybe, and especially recalls off games of chase with other dogs, and with Mallei? And also particularly off interesting smells of fresh animal trails- I think I need to amp up the reward for this one: heaps of food, and maybe a throw of a ball before releasing her to go back to the smells. I can’t even really use Premack because either a) it happens so infrequently that she’ll actually see an animal- it’s not like we have squirrels everywhere, or b) she’s already off like a shot before I can get her attention. That being said, if she does go, then come back, I always tell her “ok!” after the reward for coming, and head in the direction she was chasing- like an invitation to keep going.

I think I need to amp up my rewards some, for those really tricky recalls. But again I’m a bit stuck, like when she chased the roo, that was bad, but she came back, after a while, which was good- I don’t know if I should have a party with her when she comes back because she DID come back, or am I rewarding her for coming back in her own time??? How on earth did I train Mal so that even when Lu takes off after a roo, he doesn’t? Or, if he does, I can call him and he’ll turn around there an then and come back?? He doesn’t have the super-high prey drive that she does, so I’m sure that helps… And he’s had 9 years of experience, but even so…

Any advice, tips or tricks, dog people?