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Old 06-18-2008, 10:37 AM
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Default Help with car chasing problem!

Hello all,

I'm new to the forum, and I need help with a car chasing problem, that is getting to be out of hand.

I have an 8 month-old Old English Sheepdog puppy, a neutered male named Harry. He is a fantastic dog, great temperament with my 2 young kids. He's doing quite well with basic obedience, knows sit/down/stay/place/heel very well, and is very good off-leash (provided there aren't many distractions~ working on adding that in now.)

The problem is with cars. In a nutshell:
  • When we're out for a walk, he swtiches from a mellow, balanced dog into a salivating, over-driven, maniac. Pulls at the leash, barks, loses all focus on me, just goes crazy. Think Incredible Hulk, only worse.
  • One trainer we've used was curious whether this was driven by fear/anxiety, or a high prey/herding drive. The trainer felt it was likely a high prey/herding drive, since Harry would eat when all worked up. (Thought being is that he wouldn't eat if he was scared.)
  • This same behavior occurs when he's in the back of my SUV. He'll be very excited to get in the car, as he knows that means he gets to go to the woods for his walk (we go every morning for at least an hour.) But once he's in the back of the SUV, Incredible Hulk takes over again, salivating, constant barking, jumping up and down. I think he's anticipating seeing cars along the way.
  • This is to the point that it is very difficult to take him in the car or take him for a walk in town. It's impossible for my wife (or likely anyone else) to take him out.

I've had two trainers so far (both very good IMO), and we've tried a few things:
  • Leash and collar corrections with a prong collar~ does really no good at all, since he gets so worked up he doesn't even notice the corrections.
  • Desensitization exercises, which is the mainstay of what I'm doing with him now. I'll take him up to a field that is separated from a major road by a chain-link fence. There I'll put him through his paces- sits, stays, downs, heels, etc- while the cars are zooming by on the other side of the fence. He can do this OK after about 10 minutes. Then we'll do some heeling on the other side of the fence. Somedays this works, some other times not.
  • I've also taken him up to a freeway overpass, and hold him in an extended down (up to 20-30 minutes or so), to try to desensitize him the sound and sights and smells of the cars.
Despite all of this, he gets worse and worse with every passing week.

Looking back on things, I can't recall that he ever had a bad experience around cars that would have frightened him. We started with socialization in the car and on the streets since we first got him (he came home at age 9 weeks) so I don't think it's a socialization issue.

I could try to post up some YouTube videos of his behavior if you think that it would help.

Thanks!

DrTWT
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  #2  
Old 06-18-2008, 10:56 AM
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Dekka Dekka is offline
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What does your breeder say? Have they had pups with this kind of issue before?

Have you had a vet look at your dog? There could be a chemical imbalance, if things are getting worse even with work you are doing.
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Old 06-18-2008, 11:02 AM
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Hmmm, haven't checked with the breeder, but that's a good idea and easy enough to do so I'll look into it.

He's seen the vet a bunch of times over the past few months (for neutering and for follow up for anal gland problem that's since resolved) and I've discussed it with her each time. His exams and bloodwork have all been normal. Also, he's completely fine at all other times, so I don't think there's a systemic health issue involved.

Thanks for your thoughts!
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Old 06-18-2008, 11:10 AM
borzoimom borzoimom is offline
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Being a herding breed more than likely he is just trying to " control" his environment, and when he cant, gets unglued. I would go "with a natural" behavior verses correction with a prong collar. What I mean is- since natural instinct in the pup is to herd-= USE it.. By walking then when he gets pulling or anxious, doing a sharp about turn allows two things- one to focus on you- and number two- lets him do a "herd" around you to keep up with you- not the object at hand.
As far as the car- its also a herding trait. What I found that works best is a airline crate ( ie the plastic ones) with the sides blocked with a blanket so he cant see whats around him. Turn on the radio. Just sit in the car- running with the blanket on him ( make sure he can get proper ventalation). Start that way before trying to move. Also- do not always make your trips in the car to the park. ie- drive around the block and come back home.
Additionally- when cars are parked- practice walking towards them ( after all they aren't moving)- do the abrupt about turn with praise. You are actually teaching keeping his focus on you. ( without the over load of stimulas of a moving vehicle.).
There are other things I can add but start with these things first. Drill them daily. Focus on praise verses correction- remember- the dog could be worse because he is anticipating the correction- making him more nervous- more uncontrolable- you are making a downward spiral verses up spiral. ie- he thinks- " I get around that stuff- I get in trouble". This would also explain why its getting worse- he is learning- get near that stuff in trouble again.. etc.
A up spiral is- walk towards- do a reverse- praise on compliance ignoring the negative. As soon as he walks along normally praise.. Turn again with praise.You are changing the 'game' from a negative to a positive..
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Old 06-18-2008, 11:12 AM
borzoimom borzoimom is offline
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and never let him get out of a car when excited.. even if it takes a few extra minutes- he only gets out of the car when he calms down no matter how long it takes.
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Old 06-18-2008, 12:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by borzoimom View Post
the dog could be worse because he is anticipating the correction- making him more nervous- more uncontrolable- you are making a downward spiral verses up spiral. ie- he thinks- " I get around that stuff- I get in trouble". This would also explain why its getting worse- he is learning- get near that stuff in trouble again.. etc.

Aha~ this I think may be a key issue. I stopped using the prong awhile ago since the corrections weren't making a difference, and I also had a gut feeling that corrections of any type weren't really the answer to this. Your post clarifies this for me.

For some reason, he doesn't care less about parked cars, and interestingly, he doesn't care at all about cars that pass down our street. Get him a block away, and watch out...

We do a lot of reverses and such while walking, which tend to work for a while, but after "x" amount of time (could be 15 seconds or 15 minutes) his switch flips, and any further attempts at working on this issue seem to be futile. I think working from a distance may help some.

Thanks so much for your most helpful ideas!

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Old 06-18-2008, 12:42 PM
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lizzybeth727 lizzybeth727 is offline
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I agree with the above advice, but I'm going to try not to give any more advice myself beause you've had two trainers watch him in person and work with you..... I don't think there's anything I can say that they didn't probably think of. If you're still not satisfied, maybe go back and ask them for more advice (most trainers also have a satisfaction guarantee - if you're not satisfied they will do whatever they can, within reason, to help you out.... it's good for business - they don't want clients saying "I took him to Trainer Bob and even he couldn't help us.").

The only thing I will say, though, is to try to watch him very closely, and figure out what kind of clues you can get that tell you that his "switch" is about to flip, and take him out of the situation BEFORE that happens. Your goal should be to have successful outings, not matter how short that is.... even if you don't get out of the car. The more he practices this behavior, the harder it will be to extinguish it.
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Old 06-18-2008, 12:44 PM
borzoimom borzoimom is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrTWT View Post
Aha~ this I think may be a key issue. I stopped using the prong awhile ago since the corrections weren't making a difference, and I also had a gut feeling that corrections of any type weren't really the answer to this. Your post clarifies this for me.

For some reason, he doesn't care less about parked cars, and interestingly, he doesn't care at all about cars that pass down our street. Get him a block away, and watch out...

We do a lot of reverses and such while walking, which tend to work for a while, but after "x" amount of time (could be 15 seconds or 15 minutes) his switch flips, and any further attempts at working on this issue seem to be futile. I think working from a distance may help some.

Thanks so much for your most helpful ideas!

The older they get sometimes correction can make this down spiral as they learn " when I am near this- I get in trouble". The same thing happens like when someone gets a puppy. Then older dog tries to play and people intervene like " dont do that.." then they wonder why the older dog starts to resent the puppy.. Same principle. ..
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Old 06-18-2008, 03:37 PM
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Thanks to everyone for their help.

Click here to watch a YouTube video of the loading up sequence.

He's eager to get in the car, since he knows it usually means we're going for a run.

He's fine for a moment, but then focuses on the door and he starts to lose it.

His agitation increases as the door closes, and then continues once we're on our way.

I think the whole issue with him in the car is a by-product of his problem with chasing cars, since the car-chasing started first and seemed to naturally lead into the riding-in-the-car issues.


All of your suggestions are greatly appreciated!

Last edited by DrTWT; 06-18-2008 at 03:50 PM.
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  #10  
Old 06-18-2008, 03:44 PM
RedyreRottweilers
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After the OP has worked with 2 trainers, and had little resulting improvement, I seriously doubt a few about turns and some cookies are going to make a dent in this obsessive uncontrollable behavior.

OP, what I might do is start at the beginning.

Put the dog in the car, in a crate, close the door, and wait until he settles to let him out. Make sure he is not in a situation where he might get overheated.

Once he can be in the car, in the crate, and be quiet, I might then start very short trips, with his view blocked. I would be prepared to stop the car and get out, and wait for him to settle, if he starts up.

If this were my dog, until I got a handle on the behavior, I would avoid situations where this behavior occurs, as it is likely to be a very self rewarding behavior.

With some herding breeds these obsessive behaviors can be nearly impossible to deal with. You might speak to your vet about any medical therapies that might be available to help alleviate it as well.
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