Helping Sissy Stop Chasing Four Wheelers

By: David Codr

Published Date: July 21, 2013

Merl n Sissy

Sissy (Pictured here on the right, with her pal Merl) is a 1 YO mini Shepherd Australian who lives on a horse ranch. Her owner called me to help stop Sissy from attempting to heard and bite the wheels of their 4 wheeler.

Ive helped a number of dogs who had developed bad herding issues, but those all involved a dog herding people, other dogs or animals. In this case, the dog was attempting to heard a vehicle by circling and nipping the wheels of her owner’s 4 wheeler.

Obviously this can be a dangerous situation as Sissy stands all of 14 inches and was dashing and darting around the vehicle while it was in motion.

Normally when i sit down with a client, I find out the dog has no rules, boundaries or responsibilities in its daily life. Not this case! Sissy’s owner had done an amazing job of training her. In addition to the basic commands (verbal and hand signals) she had also put Sissy through agility training which she excelled at.

While her owner was able to get Sissy to perform the agility drills at a level reserved for experienced older dogs, she was at her wits end when it came to Sissy chasing and biting at the 4 wheeler.

Since Sissy lives with an older dog of the same breed, i started out by tethering Sissy’s collar to another dog (Merl) using a leash coupler. Usually this is added to walk two dogs on one leash, but I wanted to use Merl’s experience to help Sissy.

Often times, younger dogs will copy or mimic the activities of older dogs they live with. Since Merl didn’t chase the 4 wheeler, I was hoping that tethering her to him could teach her.

After setting up the collars, I had their owner fire put he 4 wheeler and race past us. At first, Sissy tried to run after the vehicle, but since Merl is bigger and wasn’t interested, Sissy stopped. Sissy attempted to run after the gated the first few times it passed, but Merl wouldn’t budge and even corrected her a few times. Eventually Sissy laid down next to Merl and started to pay less and less attention each time the 4 wheeler passed.

I advised her owner to practice this technique a few times daily under controlled supervised situations. But since its not safe or practical to tether the dogs together for longer periods of time, I decided to try a different approach.

I put Sissy on a leash and asked her owner to drive up and down the road in front of us. At first i tried to only use the leash to correct Sissy, but she was so intensely focused on the 4 wheeler, i wasn’t having the impact I needed.

I pulled out some tasty meat based training treats and held it out to Sissy each time the 4 wheeler passed. I would let her lick and chew on it but not take it. As soon as the 4 wheeler passed, i rereleased the treat into her mouth and repeated the “stay” command.

After a few repetitions, Sissy was paying less and less attention to the 4 wheeler. At first she would follow it with her whole head, then only her eyes, then only her ears moved as it passed. Each time, i released the treat after the 4 wheeler passed.

Once she started to completely ignore the 4 wheeler, i started to move farther away from her. At first only a few feet, but after about a dozen repetitions, Sissy was remaining in a down position looking at me when the 4 wheeler passed while i stood 10 feet away.

We repeated the exercise in a different location with the same response. It will take time and practice but by rewarding Sissy for ignoring the 4 wheeler, she will stop looking at it as a nemesis and learn that keeping a distance or ignoring it earns her a tasty reward.

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