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This is a relatively new thing for Cleo, just in the past couple weeks. (She just turned 9 months old.) We have squirrels occasionally traversing our tall fence, and she doesn't seem to mind them much, but when we're out walking and she spots one on the ground, even across a street from us, she suddenly goes into high alert, yelping and attempting to leap toward it. I try to be alert, but she nearly always spots one before I do. Today she nearly yanked my arm out of the socket when she saw one run across a street--and if I hadn't been holding on she would have run into the street to follow it. The other day, she slipped out our front door when i was bringing in a package and took off after a squirrel, crossed the street, and then waited for me by our neighbor's gate (she plays with their dog, so she was hoping for a play date). At least she stopped there rather than continuing to search for the squirrel. I was able to get her leash on. Otherwise it could have been a disaster.

This is more of a reaction than she has to anything else, even other dogs or rabbits (which she loves to chase around our yard). In fact we had gotten to the point where she could walk by other dogs (and people) who were across the street without so much pulling. Sometimes she'll sit and watch them, and i talk to her and give her a couple treats, and then we keep going. I tried the same with the squirrel sighting--giving her a treat so that she is rewarded for staying by me, although she's so activated she nearly takes my finger off taking the food. I'm hoping this squirrel thing is a phase!? Any advice on how to handle it?
 

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They are such tempting little critters! With their chattering, bobbing tails, slinky body movements, and ability to hang out just out of reach.

I'll be watching this thread for tips! We don't have many squirrels around here, but I think if you can train your dog to ignore squirrels, you can train them to ignore just about anything!
 

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They are such tempting little critters! With their chattering, bobbing tails, slinky body movements, and ability to hang out just out of reach.

I'll be watching this thread for tips! We don't have many squirrels around here, but I think if you can train your dog to ignore squirrels, you can train them to ignore just about anything!
Me, too! It seems that the prey drive that led to my spoo earning a barn hunt RATCH in 15 months may be tied to his interest in squirrels. It was about 8 months of age when they started to be a distraction on neighborhood walks. In the fall, the sight of half a dozen squirrels scrambling around the base of an oak tree in search of acorns is too much for him. He dies the vertical leap and yelps.

Initially I tried a similar strategy, pause, wait for a sit, reward. This resulted in tedious walks. And we didn’t seem to be making progress. I’ve decided that I need to make the most of my free hours for dog walking and pack the dogs into the car to visit a squirrel free zone.

I’ve worked a lot at impulse control, and we’re fairly successful in other environments. His first response when released to the back yard (after waiting indoors as I open the door and only release after I have eye contact) is to scan the backyard for squirrels. My other dog’s first response is to investigate the locations where voles can be found. They are quite a pair!
 

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Huh... that's about when Annie's squirrel obsession started too... Must be a poodle thing. She kept whining today while I groomed her - She was staring out the window, trying to duck her head around me when I walked in front of her and I dared block her view of squirrel TV (she can't see them without being up on the table).

Still haven't 100% mastered squirrels, though have had slow progress. I have a thread on here somewhere that talks about our squirrel issues... My biggest suggestion/improvement was blocking all access to viewing squirrels when we AREN'T walking - I put wax paper in my windows to block the lower half. That means she isn't sitting there, obsessing all day while I am gone.

Edit - or more precisely, sprawled on my bed, staring out the window (when she's not napping) all day when I am gone...
 

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Hi! I'm new here but this thread caught my attention because my spoo, Dutch, is highly interested in squirrels.

I willh humbly give my advice:
The Koehler Method

I bought the book on Amazon and it's for owners who want reliable off leash obedience with their dogs. The key is training your dog to obey you despite the distractions.

As some have mentioned above, treats don't work. The impulse is too strong for tid bits.

I would highly recommend Bill Koehler's method and encourage you to actually read his book before making any decisions.
 

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I have found the answer to catching the reaction before it becomes overwhelming is to watch the dog, rather than scan the horizon. You need to catch the first flick of attention and intervene then - a word, change of direction, a good reward. Not easy, so in the meantime a leash shock absorber might be a good safety device to include in your walks. The ultimate reward for leaving squirrels (ignoring them altogether may be to big an ask) is to get to chase them, so I would try to work on it in a place where it would be safe to do so. Mine stopped being quite so keen when they discovered by experience how impossible they were to actually catch!

I wouldn't use Koehler choke chain methods, especially on a poodle, although the focus on proofing behaviours in distracting conditions is of course an essential part of any training.
 

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I think there needs to be an understanding between a "choke" collar and a "prong" collar.

I do not use a prong collar. There is simply no need for that tool for my dog.

I also would not use choke chain on a toy or small mini but with a 40-80lb standard...most definitely!

I do use a chain "choke" collar. The word choke is misleading. Basically it's a collar that tightens as the dog pulls. I've seen this version of leash used in most vet, shelter and rescue settings but in nylon.

Flat or round nylon collars isn't recommend for training because they can choke, give skin burns and easily slip off the dogs neck. Like when a nylon leash burns your hand as it gets yanked.

When Dutch and I go for walks his collar is loose around his neck because he heels properly. There is no choking involved nor do I yank or jerk on him. That's improper use of his collar.

Like any tool whether it be a hammer, gun or knife, it's how you use it. Choke collars are a very useful and common training tool that should be handled in reasonable fashion and with the welfare of the dog in mind.
 

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So interesting that this seems to be a common teenage poodle behavior! When Cleo was 11 weeks old, when we were at the breeder to pick her up, she caught a kangaroo mouse. It was in her mouth alive--the breeder got it away from her and released it out of the yard, So i assumed she had a prey drive, but we hadn't seen much of it. She mostly follows scent trails and chases rabbits in our yard... But maybe she had been more focused on other dogs and joggers and bikers on our walks until now! We have few squirrels in our yard because they avoid her--they stay on top of the fence. She's interested in them, but she doesn't freak out when she sees them up there.

She has seemed more interested in birds--she stands up and barks at them through the window, but now she is getting calmer around them. We have a feeder, and I want to make sure she will let them alone. The other day, i noticed she was just watching them calmly on the patio while they were at the feeder. The birds would have flown if they felt threatened, but they weren't.

I'm not sure where i'd go to walk around here where we would be sure not to see squirrels--i think in our area such a place doesn't exist! I will try to keep a closer eye at her and see if i can stop it early when she is getting activated.
 

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Many poodles have a strong prey drive. I can still see in my mind's eye one of my standard poodles who chased a squirrel to a tree and then hung on to the tip of the squirrel's tail to keep it from getting away. She did eventually release the critter. Squirrels seem to love teasing dogs, but some of them are careless!
 

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I think there needs to be an understanding between a "choke" collar and a "prong" collar.

I do not use a prong collar. There is simply no need for that tool for my dog.
The person you're addressing, Fjm, is extremely accomplished in training and behavior modification, and I am certain is familiar with Koehler, whose methods have been eclipsed for the most part.

I'm glad you are happy with your situation and that it works for you. You may be surprised to learn there are differences in opinion as to use of the prong vs choke. One does not yank or 'pop' with a prong; that's not correct; the dog creates his/her own feedback with it. I don't use them, just sharing from a current discussion here.
 

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MustLoveDogs, we don't really see squirrels on walks, but one or two recently moved into the neighbor's huge pine which is trying to branch into my balcony. Ol isn't frantic about them for some reason.

On walks, we pretty much just have to avoid (in winter) those cute 'special' black and white kitties Oliver is just so anxious to meet ???.
 

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The emergence of prey drive in adolescence might point to the importance of strong training for distractions with young puppies (sheepish grin). My spoo was so smart and ‘well behaved’ as a youngster that I didn’t anticipate this change In him.
 

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Not to worry. After several unsuccessful 'hunts' they learn to ignore Squirrels. The more Squirrels they see, the quicker they socialize to them. They learn pretty quick to just ignore them.
This is such a good point. It's easy to fall into the "No...... No...... No!" trap, especially with a young dog who is interested in EVERYTHING. But, with Peggy at least, that seems to heighten their interest. Forbidden fruit! It can also create anxiety around the object in question, especially if there's a lot of tension on the leash.

Very tricky to strike the right balance between letting them explore and keeping them (and whatever has captured their attention) safe.
 

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I wasn't meaning any offense. Not that anyone does this here on this forum but I hate to see dogs with flat collars straining so hard that eyes are bulging and gasping for air.

I feel so bad for the animal and dog owners in general. I wish every owner would train their dog because I think it would do so much to improve the quality of life for dogs and allow for our dogs more access to places on society.

I live in Texas and Dutch is only allowed in home improvement stores, pet stores and on the patio of a few restaurants.
 

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I'm with FJM on the Kohler method. It's a punishment/negative reinforcement based training method from the early 1970's. For example, if a dog dug a hole in your yard, Kohler would have you fill the hole with water and stick the dog's head into the water. If the dog barks too much, just hit it with a leather belt until it stops barking. It's an old book written for a different time. Read it as a history lesson. Then read Don't Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor, Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson, and one of my personal favorites, Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt. You don't have to cause your dog pain to train it. Modern trainers use positive reinforcement.

The reason modern trainers focus on positive reinforcement is because it is the fastest way to train. If I had a transporter beam and sent you to a foreign country where you don't speak the language and don't know the culture, how would you like to be treated? In the first house, you sit on a chair and put your hands on the chair rail. And someone slaps you in the ear. Do you have any information on what is acceptable? No. You are left with trial and error, and the price for every error is a slap in the ear. After getting repeatedly hit in the ear, you learn that you have to sit in a chair with your hands on your knees. You finally learned the right thing, but it hurt, and it took a long time.

Or, I could use that same transporter beam. Your host greets you with a smile and gestures toward a chair. She sits in the chair and puts her hands on her knees. Stands, and then repeats it. Every time she sits down, she deliberately puts her hands on her knees, first using large gestures, and then smaller ones. Then, she smiles at you. You approach the chair, sit down, and put your hands on your knees. She smiles and laughs, and says kind sounding words.

Both times, you learned it's appropriate to sit on a chair with your hands on your knees. One method left you feeling confused and worried. The other calm and welcomed, and you learned the right thing to do in under a minute. Our dogs live their whole lives transporter beamed into a human world. They don't know our language or our culture; they have no idea what we want. Positive reinforcement leads dogs from one right behavior to the next right behavior. And we can fix squirrel chasing using positive reinforcement.

Right now, when your dog sees a squirrel, she goes berserk and tries to chase it, yanking your arm. This is not working. Let's find something that works. Answer this question: When my dog sees a squirrel, I want my dog to do _. Fill in the blank.

Think about training your dog to do an incompatible behavior. A dog that is sitting cannot also be chasing. A dog that is lying down cannot lunge. A dog that is staring at you is not obsessing after a squirrel. A dog that is snuffling in the grass for treats is ignoring a squirrel.

Pick a behavior you do want and fill in that blank. Then train for that behavior. That's how positive reinforcement trainers "fix" problem behaviors.

For example, if you want to train your dog to snuffle the grass for treats instead of chasing squirrels, start in the house with a game called, "Treat party!" Drop 10 pea sized pieces of chicken on the kitchen floor, and call out, "Treat party!" in a happy voice. Wait for the dog to vacuum them up. Repeat, calling out, "Treat party!" Have several random treat parties in the house. When your dog is in another room, set up a treat party and call, "Treat party!" When your dog runs at full speed from a different room for a treat party, move treat parties to the yard. Call out, "Treat party!" and toss treats in the grass. By now, your dog knows that "treat party" means really good stuff is on the ground. And look, there is good stuff in the grass, oh boy! If you play this game over and over both inside and outside, the cue, "Treat party!" will automatically send your dog's head and nose downward. It'll be a reflex. Looking downward and sniffing is incompatible with lunging after a squirrel. The second you spot a squirrel, call, "treat party!" And scatter high value treats in the grass for the dog to snorkel. Use this on your walks when there aren't any squirrels, that way your dog won't connect the dots. Instead, it'll just be another happy moment in your happy poodle's life.

Think about an incompatible behavior you want instead. Fill in that blank with a yes behavior, and train toward the yes behavior. No punishment required.
 

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Gracie went through a squirrel obsessed phase at about 6 months, she would chatter and chase them even inside along the sliding glass doors. Then it just stopped, maybe after a month or so. Perhaps it is as CB suggested, they just learn they can’t get them.
 
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S'funny... we all know that our Poodles are right up there in the intelligence department yet we rarely think to rely on that in training. In fact, it's maybe better to understand it from their point of view. It's not training, it's learning.
And, in many cases, they can learn all by themselves.
 
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