Anti-hunting-training based on positive reinforcement
(author: Pia C. Gröning Ó 2002)
knowledge in working with positive reinforcement
and a long lead
does hunting mean?
is a strong and important instinct in your dog. This instinct serves for food
procurement and consequently for survival.
soon as something is moving, the attention you had from your dog is lost and its
hunting instinct are released, like setting off an alarm.
can divide hunting into three parts:
searching for a track
track (the most important part)
killing the prey
does my dog need to hunt?
been fundamentally established that hunting is self reinforced. The
reasons for hunting are different from dog to dog:
not enough activity/boredom on walk
learned, for example due to living on it’s own (ex stray dogs)
a form of overreacting (an action which arises from conflict)
can I react accordingly to what triggers my dog?
By taking countermeasures:
more activity like Agility, Dog dancing, Obedience, Trailing, Tracking, Biking
etc. Making the walk more exciting by adding small tricks, games and more
advanced exercises, which are more demanding and make the dog think, for example
Clicker training or hunting games etc.
Channelling the instincts through hunting games and exercises which are
similar to hunting; controlling in form of continuous practise; diverting
attention onto birds, mice or nose work exclusively since that is a part of
the trigger which causes overreaction. Example: to avoid confrontation with an
approaching pack of dogs, your dog simulates a hunt. à
Solution: fetch the dog and make your way around the pack, keeping at a good
construction of training:
dog has to keep within a special circle around you. Advantage: The dog is
located within the area where you can have influence on preventing the hunting.
circle is determined by the length of the lead (nylon rope, waterproof, easy,
robust spring hook, can preferably be found in a store for outdoors and hiking,
and should be at least 10m long). The
lead is fastened in a harness and left dragging along the ground. It’s
important that you can stop your dog by stepping on the lead. Stopping is
the ONLY function of the lead, i.e. not to jerk your dog!!! You
will need to use the lead on every walk. If you only use the lead in areas full
of game, the lead then becomes a signal for game.
The lead will later on be reduced bit by bit until only a small piece of the
lead is left hanging, or removed if it becomes un-needed.
chosen word or sound is going to be a case of classic conditioning. If this word or sound (for
Eika: “uiuiui”) is heard, something really good has to follow. (For Eika:
digging for mice or searching for a titbit). What grabs your dog’s interest?
You will have to find out by observing.
dogs glance at their owner a second before they take off to follow a track (=
not responsive anymore). You have to pay very close attention to be able to
catch this second; during which you give your dog a signal, use the
“Super-word” or click.
effective (at least for Eika) is the signal “go back”, in combination with
turning around and start moving in another direction (orientation reflex).
is desirable that the dog regularly glance at his owner. I have noticed that a
German Shepard, for example, does this intuitively, but most hunting dogs have
to learn it.
are three possible ways to improve upon the eye contact:
introducing a signal for eye
contact and demanding it in every situation
catching every moment of eye
contact (with clicker)
sudden changes of direction,
hiding, turning back, etc
a) Is especially suitable for dogs who do not voluntarily give you eye contact.
After some training the dog is going to give you brief eye contacts and you have
to catch these (with clicker)! You can use these opportunities to give commands,
b) Requires a lot of attention from the owner (continuously observing the dog
and having the clicker ready)! My dog Eika walked for as long as 500m in the
beginning, before she stopped and made eye contact with me. So there were not
many opportunities to click!
c) Very effective! Your dog may not look back very often in the beginning, and
therefore leaves the circle and your area of influence. à Only use this method in
areas with little or no distraction! But if you repeat this exercise often
enough your will gain eye contact more and more frequently and you can reinforce
your dog showing interest in digging? Then, do let him. You have to take into
account that if your dog cannot utilise his hunting instinct, he is going to be
frustrated. Frustration means stress! Why you have to avoid him becoming
a stressed dog is not a theme of this article…
your dog doesn’t get enthusiastic about “harmless” hunting (i.e. digging)
you should try to find other outlets such as games, retrieving, tracking, etc.
you haven’t been consequent in requiring an action (from the dog) after giving
a command, your dog might have learnt to disobey (i.e. you have called
your dog in situations where he’s been unlikely to come back). It is your turn
to teach the dog that he has to follow your command after a given signal.
is going to learn it automatically thanks to the long lead.
is only one hint for you to understand your dog’s reactions.
you and/or your dog so called Crossovers (changing from aversive methods to
positive reinforcement training)? Then you have to pay close attention to the
signals. Have the signals been positively reinforced? If not, there are two
possible ways to do this:
and a new build up.
giving a signal for a command, such as a stay exercise, you have to start to
are better off building up/shaping a new signal for a command that no longer
works very well. You shape a completely new exercise and give it a new signal.
My experience tells me that the new build up of an exercise will work better in
the future. Eika knows the signals “come” and “go back”. I have used
reconditioning on the old “come” command and shaped the new “go back”
signal with a clicker.
as many times, Eika became stiff and took aim for a rabbit. I was standing about
30 m away from her and gave her the signal “come” à no reaction. I then tried
the new signal “go back” à she turned around and ran towards me. (Click
& Jackpot!). The
desensitisation of “go back” has also worked better than that of “come”.
It is important to be aware of the level of desensitisation in every signal. You
can not use “sit” to keep the dog within the radius if you’ve only trained
it in your house (area with little distraction).
desensitisation happens step by step. One way that is really effective is to
make a chart of the progress. You start in an area with very little distraction,
for most dogs this would be their home (flat or house). If the exercise works
well at home you can go to step two and perhaps use your garden. In the
beginning the exercise is not going to work out as well as it did at home, but
you will shortly see progress. You are now going to raise the level of
distraction, so the next step can be a park and after that a meadow, then a
field and so on. If your dog is easily distracted by other dogs, a place where
you meet many dogs, such as a park, will be one of the last steps. The final
step for a hunting dog is most often a forest or other areas with plenty of game.
If the dog starts to follow a track it will be very difficult to call him back.
have to enforce the “go back” or “come” commands.
you call your dog back in various situations? Great, you can click on the
following link to read more about exercises for desensitisation of the
“come” and “go back” commands.
What distracts your dog most is at the same time the highest reward!
you successfully call your dog back while he’s hunting for a duck? The highest
reward for your dog is the actual hunting (if there is no danger).
can use the hunting as a reward!
your dog only makes him partly satisfied!
you let your dog run loose in an open field, you will get a frustrated and only
partly satisfied dog. If it seems like your dog has found a track you can
practise calling him back because here that would be easy, since it’s a small
risk that your dog finds a good track at this location. You have to use your
the dog leaves the circle (due to any reason) and goes off hunting, you should
stay quiet, do not call the dog and do not get angry when he comes back! For a
successful training, such a situation is neither beneficial nor harmful.
The hunting issue have preoccupied me for a long time,
because of Eika. The text is not complete and I am going to revise it often.
Even a well-known behavioural scientist like Günther
Bloch (a German author)
maintains that hunting instincts cannot be kept under full control using
positive reinforcement. Who knows? Most hunters don’t have their hunting dogs
under a 100% control, even by using force.
if you want to use punishment, you should be aware that you probably have to use
a shock collar. Jerking, or similar treatment, is not going to work.
you should NOT use a shock collar, you can read more about here.
Thanks to my own experiences
I know that you can have a great companion in your hunting dog, which can be
called back in various situations – but maybe not in all.
But is that really a great goal?
Source: This text is the
result of many discussions.
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