Molly, my 8 month old BC mix, has been coming to the barn with me 3-5 days a week since we got her at 12 weeks. She comes with my elderly ACD mix, who is good around the horses, she barked at and chased them when young, but SHE got kicked and that set her straight.
Molly has been great for these last five months...she sticks around, comes when I call her, is quiet in the barn, stays out from under the horse's feet, knows she's not allowed in rings or paddocks, etc....
Suddenly, just today, she started barking at horses who were turned out and, once, at a pony coming back from a trail ride. Argh!! She ended up being tied up because she was causing trouble.
I can't tell whether she's trying to herd them or play with them, but the behavior is unacceptable.
It came on so suddenly. What is the best approach to train her out of this, so she can continue coming to the barn and being loose with the other dogs? Other than letting her get kicked, of course .
Replace her volunteer job with a real job, have some lead rope that it's her job to go get when you arrive at the barn, arrange busy things for her to do. She just wants to work and her instincts are telling her that's her job. Any real working dog doesn't just go run the cows at random, they're given a time and command when it's time for them to work and they know to wait for it. Make her barn time more of a work time but YOU decide her tasks.
Make sure you have a bombproof "leave it" (or whatever you choose) before you use the shock collar, if you do. It works best when it is a reinforcement of a command and not the only enforcer.
I would not use a shock collar on this dog, she's extremely sensitive, any kind of negative or punitive training approach would have her really overreacting.
Since this behavior is brand new, I'm hoping I'll have a chance to correct it before it becomes engrained. I think I'll have to spend some extra time at the barn, when I'm not riding or messing with the horse, so I can focus 100% on the dog.
The older ACD mix picked her own job, it is making sure that NO ONE, dog or human runs in the barn. That is an acceptable job, since that's a rule anyway . Molly was thinking her job was to go out into the hayfield and chase any rodents out of it...either there aren't enough rodents in winter or she's bored with that job. I'll have to think up another one for her, one that is not herding horses. She understands that she isn't allowed in the paddocks, I have to expand that to mean, no running around outside the paddocks and barking at horses either.
I've got a fairly sensitive Lab puppy, and I've been using it to teach her to keep away from the outdoor cat food and horse poop, and to stay out of the pasture. It's working really really well! It has a tone button, and two levels of spray (short and a little longer). You actually don't even have to get the scented spray, you can get unscented, but the package I bought came with the citronella. It's gotten Luna's attention, but it hasn't panicked her.
What I did was to go out with the dogs and 'do chores' while keeping an eye or them, and I just let her roam. When she started to take a bite of a poop pile, it 'bit' her. She spooked at it and backed off, and then I called her and we played for a minute. She went nosing around again when I was 'busy' and ignoring her (so she thought) and we went through that scenario again. The third round, she went sniffing around went to a pile, looked, thought, and left it. She got a click and treat and big praise party for that decision!
I bet you could set up a chasing/harassing scenario and train her out of it pretty quickly, or at least damp it down. It IS in her genes after all to take charge of moving things. She knows she's supposed to do something, she just doesn't quite know what
(eta, I don't begrudge the odd poop-nibble from a dog usually, but she will gorge to the puking/diarrhea point. Waking up at 2 am from the smell emanating her crate in the kitchen is not fun. And this dog will NOT make a noise to tell you she needs to go... :/ )
I agree not to shock, but most training collars have a "pager" or vibrate mode. The dogs hate it because it vibrates their ears. That is what we used for our sensative collie.
I agree that the best thing would be a job for her - some breeds need a job or they will make one. You can try a long lead and yank on it if she gets to the end or chases, but that is hard to time right.
Molly does like to herd. She takes great pleasure in putting my friends goats back in their pen after they have "escaped" (person let the goats out so ACD mix and BC mix could put them back ). Both dogs also like to chase the Canada Geese off the local golf course.
The closest sheepherding trainer, with sheep that can be worked by beginner dogs, is about an hour and change away. Maybe it would be worth it to drive our there every few weeks, so Molly can have a herding lesson: 1) to get her herding ya yas out under controlled conditions and 2) to get the idea that herding is done when asked to, not randomly on whatever stock is standing around not needing to be moved anywhere.
ACD mix, when she was young, tried to herd a neighbor's horse and chickens and got kicked in the butt for her trouble (she has arthritis on that side now, probably not coincidental), she never tried to herd a horse again, but will still try to herd cattle, goats and geese. I'd rather not let Molly learn the hard way like that!
Maybe some formal herding training, along with more focused attention training (I do this elsewhere, but am usually busy with the horse at the barn) and a "job" at the barn will fix the BC mix.
What about ducks she can work with? They're really pretty easy to keep and domestic breeds don't need water to swim in. They're a first step for a lot of herding dogs and it would give her that fix. Plus it's just so fun to work a herding dog.
thanks for that link on the spray collar-I use a squirt gun on my dogs as needed and that collar would blow their minds that they can't get out of range!
Shock collar. I know you'd rather not, but they have various settings (at least the collars with which I'm familiar) as well as an audible tone; the lower levels of shocks are really not bad at all, and I've tested the collar on my own arm for validation. You really can barely feel the lowest setting; it's less than what you'd get if you touched metal after walking across carpet.
I live in the suburbs, but my folks live on a 100-acre farm, and we never visit without bringing the shock collar along... only took one time of watching my dog go after a deer that I swore she would learn to obey commands off-leash whether she liked it or not, no matter what the situation. It only took a couple lessons with "Sparky" to set her straight.
*friend of bar.ka
"Evidently, I am an unrepentant b*tch, possible trouble maker, and all around super villian"
The shock collar worked well teaching one of our dogs to leave the chickens alone. She's normally a very timid dog so all it took was a couple times. She's also gets her act together very quickly upon hearing the warning beep. I know some people don't like shock collars but when it comes to your dog s safety and the safety of other animals I think its worth a try. It's perfectly cause and effect.