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Easily Crossed Threshold


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I've had Tracker for over 4 years now, and worked with him on recall for the first two years quite a lot. Where I would get stuck, and still do, is his extreme propensity for crossing threshold mentally, where he simply cannot hear me. Pretty much anything can get him aroused, even something as simple as going on a particular walk we've been on a gazillion times (we do that once or twice a week), but that a huge amount of other dogs go on as well. Generally they're not present, because of the time that we go, but of course he smells them. But even after 30 minutes he's mentally so revved up he won't touch his beloved tasty lamb lung treats. At home we walk along our rural road, and there it's much better; granted he's on leash then, but he'll reliably whip around when I call his name and come to me (he's on a long leash). I've never figured out to get his threshold higher. Higher value treats--nothing doing. He can't even hear me. I've tried to find situations that are somewhere between at home and on the aforementioned walk so I could gradually work towards a higher threshold, but these situations are hard to find, because almost anything will arouse him FAST.

 

Training him off leash in our big enclosed pasture sans animals never worked , either, because once he knows I got treats in my pockets he won't leave my side, or, if I have him lie down, he knows what's asked of him after one repetition and goes on autopilot. I don't know how I could build on this in higher distraction situations because I don't want to let him off leash where it isn't safe, so how can I practice this? And I'm sure he knows whether he's on leash or not.

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You may never be able to get over this since it sounds like sniff in is too big a reward for him. While I do believe that some greyhounds are fine off leash, it doesn't sound like yours is in this situation. Is there a problem with him being on leash?

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Sounds like he is not a good candidate for off-leash except in a not-too-gigantic, not-too-crowded, fenced area.

 

That said, you can work on getting him more tuned-in to you. One thing that is helpful is to start as soon as you step out your house/car door. "Watch me" and treat 10-15 times in a row. Then walk 5 yards or so and do it some more. 5 yards and do it some more. Repeat repeat repeat. Once he's fixated on something else, you're toast -- you have to get to him *before* that point and teach him that you are always fun and interesting and worth keeping an ear out for.

 

If he's too jazzed up as soon as you step out the door, do your priming BEFORE you step out the door -- for example, when you first clip the leash on.

 

Can take some time to teach this -- weeks if not months. Don't give up too soon :) .

Star aka Starz Ovation (Ronco x Oneco Maggie*, litter #48538), Coco aka Low Key (Kiowa Mon Manny x Party Hardy, litter # 59881), and mom in Illinois
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I don't know if you've ever tried a squawker (rabbit distress call) or anything like that.

The only problem with that is that it would lose its value as an emergency call if you had to use it all the time. I am guessing that Tracker is just the same as my boy Johnny, he also has a very good nose (for a sight hound) and he too gets easily distracted by the smell of foxes in particular. I too am trying to come up with solutions.

 

As you say, it doesn't seem to matter how yummy the treat is, once they are locked onto a scent there is no breaking their concentration and it is very frustrating. Johnny isn't running away, but he sure isn't in any hurry to come back. I have found that to some extent he is better when we walk with other dogs, I suppose there is more of a pack mentality then rather than when it's just me and him, but it's not guaranteed.....I have just come back from a walk with his friends Niles and Chrissie and he still went "off on one" even though Niles got it into his head that he was going to have a crazy running session, I was sure that would get Johnny's attention but it didn't.

 

I have just found that Johnny loves a squeaky ball, so yesterday I took him to one of the places where he is most difficult and played fetch with him and considering he only learned to do this two days ago it was enough to distract him ....but I'm not holding my breath with this method either ....but it might be worth a try if Tracker is at all interested in toys or balls.

 

I have only had Johnny 5 months so I am hoping that as our relationship develops he will get better, but I am sure it is going to require much hard work and thought on my part.

 

One final thought is that a woman I know who has a German Wirehaired Pointer with a similar propensity to "zone out" uses, and swears by a citronella collar that is operated by remote control, so when he gets lost in sniffing it literally interrupts and she is able to get his attention back. I am possibly considering this as a last resort as I don't think I have had Johnny long enough yet to have to resort to gadgets.

 

I know that if the worst comes to the worst then he will only be able to be off leash in places where I know he's safe, but that time hasn't come yet.

<p>"One day I hope to be the person my dog thinks I am"Sadi's Pet Pages Sadi's Greyhound Data PageMulder1/9/95-21/3/04 Scully1/9/95-16/2/05Sadi 7/4/99 - 23/6/13 CroftviewRGT

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I like Batmom's idea to do a lot of watch me's, I'll definitely try that.

 

I don't want to use a squawker, since I'd like to keep that for emergencies only, like scullysmom said.

 

I'm not even remotely considering walking him off leash, but I'm worried about emergencies like some idiot didn't close the gate or the leash carabiner breaks or some such nightmare.

 

Vibration/citronella collar: that's an interesting idea. I'll look into it. And no worries, I'd NEVER use a shock collar.

 

Unfortunately Tracker has ZERO interest in squeaky toys. I watch youtube videos of dogs that do anything (incl. walking tightropes, I'm not kidding) for a 10 second frisbee toss reward, and I just marvel. But then, I wouldn't want one of those dogs anyway...

 

And he's definitely better in a group situation. But I don't have the option here. He's only with other dogs when with the dogwalker.

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I have an "easily over threshold" dog too. His issues are more with dog-dog interactions, but I completely sympathize. :( I'm a big proponent of training. And while I don't believe there are dogs that are "untrainable," I do think some are just inherently not appropriate for certain activities. I wanted Truman to be the type that I could take to greyhound get-togethers, and therapy dog stuff, and crowded dog events. He's just not. His thresholds are too low, and once he loses focus, it's impossible to get him back. When his environment is controlled, he's very sweet, happy, and well-balanced. But without that structure, mentally, he just falls apart.

 

I'm not saying to totally give up on training, but after four years, it might be time to accept that Tracker wasn't meant to be an off-leash dog.

Edited by a_daerr
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The reason I suggested a citronella collar rather than a vibration one is that you said that your problem is mainly related to him picking up scent....I don't know for sure but I do wonder if a citronella spray would not only act as a mild "shock" type of distraction,but might disrupt the actual scent? :dunno:

 

Btw. I was astounded that Johnny was actually interested in a squeaky ball, Sadi never showed any interest in toys of any kind and he seemed to be the same, until last week he came across a little terrier with one and was very interested....in the ball not the dog :lol

 

I was also amazed that he managed to learn to chase and return the ball in about five minutes.....but as I said I don't think it will be the answer, but it might be another way I can try to improve our bond.

 

I would just say never give up, I don't intend to with Johnny but in the mean time he will be kept safe where necessary :)

Edited by scullysmum

<p>"One day I hope to be the person my dog thinks I am"Sadi's Pet Pages Sadi's Greyhound Data PageMulder1/9/95-21/3/04 Scully1/9/95-16/2/05Sadi 7/4/99 - 23/6/13 CroftviewRGT

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The reason I suggested a citronella collar rather than a vibration one is that you said that your problem is mainly related to him picking up scent....I don't know for sure but I do wonder if a citronella spray would not only act as a mild "shock" type of distraction,but might disrupt the actual scent? :dunno:

 

Btw. I was astounded that Johnny was actually interested in a squeaky ball, Sadi never showed any interest in toys of any kind and he seemed to be the same, until last week he came across a little terrier with one and was very interested....in the ball not the dog :lol

 

I was also amazed that he managed to learn to chase and return the ball in about five minutes.....but as I said I don't think it will be the answer, but it might be another way I can try to improve our bond.

 

I would just say never give up, I don't intend to with Johnny but in the mean time he will be kept safe where necessary :)

 

I understand your reasoning behind the citronella idea. It's a possibility. The thing is, when we go on these particularly "smelly" walks, he'll busy himself sniffing intensely for ca 15 minutes and we hardly move; but even once he gets going and starts walking w/o stops he still won't take treats. He's clearly elsewhere. It seems to be everything: smells, sights, breezes, things that might be behind that bush, I don't know. His hyper-ness never stops the entire walk. So I don't think citronella would do it, at least not entirely, because it's not exclusively about scent.

 

Like I said, it's only on those particular walks or on any walk he's never been on before. The walks at home are calm. I'm actually wondering whether a vibration collar could be used in a way that isn't about teaching him to say "no" to smells/distractions. Since he's already over threshold when he smells/sees something interesting, how about teaching him in a no new scent/distraction environment at home that the vibrator means treat? And then work my way gradually up to "smellier" environments? For a long time, this would mean vibrating/treating ONLY in situations when he's below threshold, to really get this down. No point in vibrating him when he's already on something and I know he won't respond. Has anyone tried this? Am I on the right path here? Btw, I tried clicker training with him, but sorry to say, he never got the connection between click and treat. Even after 4 weeks of daily attempts to "load" the clicker, there was a consistent "non-response" rate of ca 50%, and we're just talking connection click/treat, not any kind of shaping.

Edited by christinepi
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Okay,I see what you are getting at, Johnny is hyper alert in new or less familiar environments, not completely switched off all the time, but not tuned in enough to even contemplate letting him off leash.

 

All I can say is that I think that a combination of approaches like Batmom's "watch me" and the collar and anything else that might help him tune in.....I am really in the same position as you except that I haven't had Johnny as long and he does seem to take a while to catch on...it's not that he's not intelligent, he's just very focused and it's mostly not on me :lol

 

Keep us posted....and I will do the same :)

<p>"One day I hope to be the person my dog thinks I am"Sadi's Pet Pages Sadi's Greyhound Data PageMulder1/9/95-21/3/04 Scully1/9/95-16/2/05Sadi 7/4/99 - 23/6/13 CroftviewRGT

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I would definitely use the vibration collar as something positive. I would personally use it instead of the come command and when he came to me he'd get a treat or a rub down. Something positive. So, it's similar how you would use it.

I wasn't suggesting that a collar of any kind should be use as an " aversive" , merely as a way of getting his attention so that he can be rewarded...it's hard to reward a dog who isn't paying any attention to you!

<p>"One day I hope to be the person my dog thinks I am"Sadi's Pet Pages Sadi's Greyhound Data PageMulder1/9/95-21/3/04 Scully1/9/95-16/2/05Sadi 7/4/99 - 23/6/13 CroftviewRGT

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I wasn't suggesting that a collar of any kind should be use as an " aversive" , merely as a way of getting his attention so that he can be rewarded...it's hard to reward a dog who isn't paying any attention to you!

I didn't think you were. The collar can be used in a few ways. Aversive, positive, but also kind neutral. if you're using it kind of neutral, the dog may not understand it as well and I would imagine it can end being a little aversive if the dog is confused.

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