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Discussion Starter #1
After several months of trying to teach focus around squirrels, Annie is now on a pinch collar for daytime walks. My goal is to have a dog who I can walk without getting angry/embarrassed, who DOESN'T scream like I am killing her on her walks as she sees squirrels she can't chase - and to no longer have to use the pinch collar. Outlining my training plan here in case anyone has additional suggestions - and also to document it to get myself to stick to it.

So far - the pinch collar has stopped her thrashing on leash, so i'm less worried about us getting hurt, but has done nothing to stop the vocalizing.

Here's my training plan right now
  1. Clicker and pinch collar and sandwich meat on EVERY daytime walk.
  2. Click and treating voluntary focus, and focus on command, especially around squirrels.
  3. Limiting daytime walks to 5 min or less - She can handle the 1st squirrel, and the 5th without losing her mind, but after that? Not so much. So setting her up to succeed with shorter walks.
  4. When possible (and it often isn't), turning away if she's over stimulated
  5. Avoiding the one street where someone feeds squirrels (which cuts our possible walks in half)
  6. Playing the look at that game with her ball (second-most obsessed thing after squirrels), and requiring focus on me before I'll throw her ball (not just a sit).
Number 3 is on the list after we went for a 15 min walk this morning, and she was great for the first half of the walk, and by the time we were heading back, she went nuts the whole way back.
 

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Nice plan! I especially like the "short and sweet" approach. I look forward to hearing about your progress.

Remind me again, how old is Annie?

I find training walks absolutely exhausting and admittedly avoid them more than I should. Keeping up with all the variables is just such a drain.

But this has inspired me to be brave and try a short one today, rather than letting my husband do it. Will dedicate it to you and Annie!
 

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Discussion Starter #6
This is how she reacts to outdoor squirrels
... Steady focus, then whimpering, then barking. I now keep all blinds closed and have the bottom half of my windows covered, which means she doesn't rile herself up all day.

She is 13 months, and had done this since about 10 months.

I can't get her to stop focusing by distraction with a toy, but good point, maybe it would help prevent fixation. Will try that.
IMG_20191231_130832.jpg
 

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Good luck! I think your plan is awesome! Does Annie like bully sticks? I got one for Sisko to use as a training treat outside to keep him more focused on me and to be calm around other dogs and people and so far it's working. Annie is very cute!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
GAH!!!!!

Took her for the planned 5 min walk this morning, and she did pretty well - immediately ran and hit her pinch collar when we got out the door, but as there were 5 squirrels in sight, including one on the front steps, I can't really blame her. She recovered and focused and we had a nice 5 min walk. Came inside, and she bugged me, bugged me, bugged me, then finally gave up. I thought she was upset because she didn't get her usual half hour walk.

Nope.

Just realized that, for the first time in about 5-6 months, she peed inside, on her bed. Apparently 5 min wasn't a long enough bathroom break. GAH!!!!! ?
 

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Oh no!! Annie's poor bed. ? We had a similar poop incident a few months ago.

Do you have a toilet spot you can use pre-walk? It doesn't always work, but it's super nice when it does and I don't have to carry a bag full of poop on our walks. We return to it again before coming in the house, just in case.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
She normally pees in the front yard before we start walking. But... with the 5 squirrels, I think we both got distracted, and she never settled into the walk enough to consider it, as we usually walk 20-30 min in the morning.

Luckily Annie's bed is a toddler crib mattress, so has a sheet and a washable waterproof mattress cover!
 

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I have had a similar problem with Cleo and squirrels, and I'll tell you what our trainer suggested. I think it's working. It's the "premack principle.' A behavior the dog is likely to do can be used to reinforce a behavior the dog is less likely to do. In other words, Cleo is more likely to chase squirrels and less likely to sit when there are squirrels in front of her. I'm not explaining it thoroughly, but in action it works like this:
I started this in our fenced yard, on leash, and graduated to trying it on walks. Start with keeping the leash short, she'll strain to go after the squirrels. Cue her to sit. The moment she sits even for a millisecond, give her the okay to chase. In the yard i let go of the leash so she could chase the squirrel--but she wouldn't be fast enough to catch it. Then I started trying it on walks. At the places where we usually see squirrels, i'm extra alert so the hope is i see them around the same time she does--when she goes into "alert" mode. I tell her to sit--i know this is counterintuitive, what are the odds that she will? But again, even if she sits for a millisecond, i then say "Okay"--and make sure you have a good grip on the leash--so she lunges for the squirrel. But she can't get it, the leash stops her, the squirrel gets away. Ideally we should be a little more than 6 feet away when we do this, as long as the leash, so she gets almost close enough but sees that it won't work. I'm supposed to get her to sit for longer, over time. Enough repetitions of that, and she's supposed to eventually be much calmer in the presence of squirrels. I have noticed, she will sit for a little longer each time i try this. And sometimes, she doesn't lunge--often the squirrel is already too far away at that point. (Also, i use a leash and harness, not a pinch collar, b/c the collar won't allow her to go "all out" when she lunges.) Apparently it's the permission to chase the squirrels that is the reinforcer, not the chase itself. I have a bad cold and may not be explaining clearly, but I hope this will help!
 

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I have had a similar problem with Cleo and squirrels, and I'll tell you what our trainer suggested. I think it's working. It's the "premack principle.' A behavior the dog is likely to do can be used to reinforce a behavior the dog is less likely to do. In other words, Cleo is more likely to chase squirrels and less likely to sit when there are squirrels in front of her. I'm not explaining it thoroughly, but in action it works like this:
I started this in our fenced yard, on leash, and graduated to trying it on walks. Start with keeping the leash short, she'll strain to go after the squirrels. Cue her to sit. The moment she sits even for a millisecond, give her the okay to chase. In the yard i let go of the leash so she could chase the squirrel--but she wouldn't be fast enough to catch it. Then I started trying it on walks. At the places where we usually see squirrels, i'm extra alert so the hope is i see them around the same time she does--when she goes into "alert" mode. I tell her to sit--i know this is counterintuitive, what are the odds that she will? But again, even if she sits for a millisecond, i then say "Okay"--and make sure you have a good grip on the leash--so she lunges for the squirrel. But she can't get it, the leash stops her, the squirrel gets away. Ideally we should be a little more than 6 feet away when we do this, as long as the leash, so she gets almost close enough but sees that it won't work. I'm supposed to get her to sit for longer, over time. Enough repetitions of that, and she's supposed to eventually be much calmer in the presence of squirrels. I have noticed, she will sit for a little longer each time i try this. And sometimes, she doesn't lunge--often the squirrel is already too far away at that point. (Also, i use a leash and harness, not a pinch collar, b/c the collar won't allow her to go "all out" when she lunges.) Apparently it's the permission to chase the squirrels that is the reinforcer, not the chase itself. I have a bad cold and may not be explaining clearly, but I hope this will help!
This actually makes good sense to me, though I cringe at the thought of encouraging Peggy to lunge against her harness. Just the thought makes my shoulder ache. o_O

I think I've (kind of?) been using permission as a reward for dropping high value items. She drops it and then I give it back to her and we have a party.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I have had a similar problem with Cleo and squirrels, and I'll tell you what our trainer suggested. I think it's working. It's the "premack principle.' A behavior the dog is likely to do can be used to reinforce a behavior the dog is less likely to do. In other words, Cleo is more likely to chase squirrels and less likely to sit when there are squirrels in front of her. I'm not explaining it thoroughly, but in action it works like this:
I started this in our fenced yard, on leash, and graduated to trying it on walks. Start with keeping the leash short, she'll strain to go after the squirrels. Cue her to sit. The moment she sits even for a millisecond, give her the okay to chase. In the yard i let go of the leash so she could chase the squirrel--but she wouldn't be fast enough to catch it. Then I started trying it on walks. At the places where we usually see squirrels, i'm extra alert so the hope is i see them around the same time she does--when she goes into "alert" mode. I tell her to sit--i know this is counterintuitive, what are the odds that she will? But again, even if she sits for a millisecond, i then say "Okay"--and make sure you have a good grip on the leash--so she lunges for the squirrel. But she can't get it, the leash stops her, the squirrel gets away. Ideally we should be a little more than 6 feet away when we do this, as long as the leash, so she gets almost close enough but sees that it won't work. I'm supposed to get her to sit for longer, over time. Enough repetitions of that, and she's supposed to eventually be much calmer in the presence of squirrels. I have noticed, she will sit for a little longer each time i try this. And sometimes, she doesn't lunge--often the squirrel is already too far away at that point. (Also, i use a leash and harness, not a pinch collar, b/c the collar won't allow her to go "all out" when she lunges.) Apparently it's the permission to chase the squirrels that is the reinforcer, not the chase itself. I have a bad cold and may not be explaining clearly, but I hope this will help!
I'm glad it's working for you! I tried something similar a few months ago (long before trying a pinch collar) and it didn't work for us. It seemed to make her more and more wound up and unable to settle after the "chase" (all brains disappeared) and louder and louder when I attempted to get her to focus. I was having a really hard time rewarding her, as usually she's reacting to squirrels a block away or across the street. Probably poor implementation on my part, but premack seems to be really tricky to do correctly. It might have helped if I had a yard to work in, so I could actually drop the leash. My step 6 (practicing concentration, then getting a ball) is my attempt to help train her that patience/focus gets the reward of the chase. Will see how we do.
 

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This actually makes good sense to me, though I cringe at the thought of encouraging Peggy to lunge against her harness. Just the thought makes my shoulder ache. o_O

I think I've (kind of?) been using permission as a reward for dropping high value items. She drops it and then I give it back to her and we have a party.
Peggy, i hold the leash tight against my abdomen with my elbows bent, so i'm in a stronger position, and i'm not standing with my arm stretched out when she yanks. It still could happen, but I had a shoulder separation once (not from the dog!), so i try to be very careful!
 

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I'm glad it's working for you! I tried something similar a few months ago (long before trying a pinch collar) and it didn't work for us. It seemed to make her more and more wound up and unable to settle after the "chase" (all brains disappeared) and louder and louder when I attempted to get her to focus. I was having a really hard time rewarding her, as usually she's reacting to squirrels a block away or across the street. Probably poor implementation on my part, but premack seems to be really tricky to do correctly. It might have helped if I had a yard to work in, so I could actually drop the leash. My step 6 (practicing concentration, then getting a ball) is my attempt to help train her that patience/focus gets the reward of the chase. Will see how we do.
It is tricky, and i'm sure i'm not doing it perfectly right! It really did help me to start in the yard. It sounds like you have developed a logical approach for your poodle--good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter #17
We are now back to working on this after a 2 week break because she was on exercise restriction. She's as bad as ever now that we've started walking again, very excited, and SO MUCH ENERGY.

During that two week break, I took away her favourite ball to keep her from playing with it. I took it out today and brought it with us. Guess what?! It was more exciting than the squirrels!

So unfortunately for her, the ball is going to remain on lock down for the near future, and only come out on daytime walks while we continue to work on this.
 

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We are now back to working on this after a 2 week break because she was on exercise restriction. She's as bad as ever now that we've started walking again, very excited, and SO MUCH ENERGY.

During that two week break, I took away her favourite ball to keep her from playing with it. I took it out today and brought it with us. Guess what?! It was more exciting than the squirrels!

So unfortunately for her, the ball is going to remain on lock down for the near future, and only come out on daytime walks while we continue to work on this.
Oh, no??!

I'm glad her ball is more exciting than the squirrels and it's working??!
 

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During that two week break, I took away her favourite ball to keep her from playing with it. I took it out today and brought it with us. Guess what?! It was more exciting than the squirrels!

So unfortunately for her, the ball is going to remain on lock down for the near future, and only come out on daytime walks while we continue to work on this.
YAY! Glad this helped. Hopefully you can find a way to use it to teach her to behave the way you want on walks and then release it from lock down :)
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Todays walk was rainy and squirrel free! We could focus on leash manners instead of squirrel distraction, and I didn't use the pinch. The ball and treats were distraction enough from sniffing/looking for squirrels/cats/skunks. We even managed to see someone pass in front of us with a small dog with full focus on me. Good girl Annie! If only every day was rainy :p
 
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