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Old 12-16-2012, 09:38 PM
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Need advice on deterring my golden from chasing squirrels

Hey friends. Yesterday I adopted a 2 year old pure bred golden retriever, and so far she has been incredible. She seems to have no anxiety whatsoever and acts right at home. She's all smiles when she's in the house and completely at ease.

However it appears that her nature as a retriever is completely taking over when she sees a squirrel. She just goes absolutely berserk. She goes after it with every bit of force she can muster and barks persistently. I always have her on a leash when I'm walking her, so I'm almost afraid she's going to choke herself with all the pulling she does when she's after a squirrel - I can hear her gasping for air but it doesn't stop her. Not to mention sooner or later she's going to pull the leash out of my hand. I'm really worried that she might run out into the street or something when this happens. She just can't let it go until a couple minutes after the squirrel is completely out of sight.

I really don't want her developing the habit of going after squirrels (or any other animal for that matter). So far what I've done when this happens is do my best to keep her back, though she's 80 pounds and as strong as a dog can be. I tell her no a few times, get her to sit, and hold her there and pet her to calm her down. I doubt this is the best method of training her not to chase animals but it's all I've thought of so far.

Has anyone had similar experiences with their golden retrievers? She's 2 years old and has had a previous owner (who trainer her very well) but this is going to be a problem until I can change the way she reacts to squirrels. I will do anything I can to change this, so any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Last edited by AzorAhai; 12-16-2012 at 09:46 PM.
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Old 12-16-2012, 10:41 PM
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I would suggest putting a harness or gentle leader on her.

My Sydney does the same thing... there is almost nothing that will stop her. Teach her a 'leave it' and reinforce every time she walks by/near a squirrel - that may help desensitize her from it a bit.
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Old 12-17-2012, 09:47 AM
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I agree with the harness or Gentle Leader, it would at least give you more control when she sees a squirrel. My Maggie (RIP) had dislike for squirrels and would sit on our deck "guarding" the yard, when she saw one, she'd fly off the deck, skipping the last segement of steps, into the yard.
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Old 12-17-2012, 10:16 AM
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Gentle Leader. If she didn't chase squirrels, moles, any small mammal she wouldn't be a retriever right? My opinion is that as long as you can keep you, her, and others around her safe while she is doing it, then that is what she loves to do. Walking in a park is certainly a different situation than running and chasing in a safe confined yard. Good luck with the GL, it has worked great for mine.
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Old 12-17-2012, 10:28 AM
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I have done the same with Rose. Whenever I see a squirrel or I see her attention perk up I used to put her in a sit and told her to leave it. Now I can tell she has seen or smelled or felt (whatever it is in their sixth sense) a squirrel when she automatically goes into a sit and watches attentively. I say "leave it" and move in the same direction as I was previously going telling her "this way". If the squirrel is in the same direction as we go I reinforce "leave it".
I completely love the gentle leader. We are on the third day with it and it has made our walks a complete delight. My problem is not the squirrels; it's the dogs that pull at leisure in the neighborhood and the people with baby talk approaching her.
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Old 12-17-2012, 11:10 AM
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I would not put a Gentle leader on a dog that is prone to lunge or pulls hard unexpectedly, there is a very real risk of injury to the dog's neck, when the dog hits the end of the leash. That is a lot of forward motion to be coming to a sudden stop. A front clip harness is a far safer way to go, and it will make it easier to manage her, should she surprise you.


Congrats! Bless you for taking in this girl. She needs some time to settle in, although she may seem like she is 'right at home', being rehomed is stressful for a dog and she needs time to understand the change in her life. Start building your relationship at home, keep her on leash or a long line, even if you have a fenced yard, in case she should decide to 'run', for a least a couple of weeks. (I was involved with a rescue, and there were foster homes have lost dogs by not taking this precaution). The best way to inhibit chasing is teaching her to pay attention to you and obedience training, a solid foundation in the basics, sit, down, stay, recall and loose leash walking as well as 'leave it' will help to manage this issue long term. 'Prey drive' is instinctive for most dogs, some will display it more than others, teach her to use her 'drive' by teaching her to retrieve, a ball, or toy or whatever. It will help to satisfy the urge to chase and is great exercise as well.
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Old 12-17-2012, 02:49 PM
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First thing that I would mention is to make sure that you are not trying to pet the dog in order to calm her down. All you are doing is re-enforcing her excited state. I like the idea of having her sit and do something else in order to distract her from the squirrels.

Riley my 3 year old male loves to chase animals of all sizes. We started out by making sure that we could make him sit and stay while there was something around. Having an awesome treat when training around distractions is what worked for us.

Once we were confident we could break his focus we started working on letting him have some fun. There is a little league field that he learned that I held the key to him having fun. I would make him sit and be still before getting to run after a squirrel. (they were always to far away for him to catch) After he reached a certain point I would work on the recall. His love for a piece of hot dog is so much greater than chasing anything.

Soon Riley started to understand that he had to get permission to chase something. Now when he sees anything from a squirrel to a deer, he sits and looks up at me.

Like someone said your dog would not be a retriever if she did not want to chase something. I think the key is making sure that the dog knows who holds the keys to them having fun.
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Old 12-17-2012, 03:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charliethree View Post
I would not put a Gentle leader on a dog that is prone to lunge or pulls hard unexpectedly, there is a very real risk of injury to the dog's neck, when the dog hits the end of the leash. That is a lot of forward motion to be coming to a sudden stop. A front clip harness is a far safer way to go, and it will make it easier to manage her, should she surprise you.


Congrats! Bless you for taking in this girl. She needs some time to settle in, although she may seem like she is 'right at home', being rehomed is stressful for a dog and she needs time to understand the change in her life. Start building your relationship at home, keep her on leash or a long line, even if you have a fenced yard, in case she should decide to 'run', for a least a couple of weeks. (I was involved with a rescue, and there were foster homes have lost dogs by not taking this precaution). The best way to inhibit chasing is teaching her to pay attention to you and obedience training, a solid foundation in the basics, sit, down, stay, recall and loose leash walking as well as 'leave it' will help to manage this issue long term. 'Prey drive' is instinctive for most dogs, some will display it more than others, teach her to use her 'drive' by teaching her to retrieve, a ball, or toy or whatever. It will help to satisfy the urge to chase and is great exercise as well.
Very good point!
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Old 12-17-2012, 05:58 PM
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Thank you guys for all the great advice. Regarding playing fetch with her to satiate her drive to chase - so far the only place for us to this is in my fenced-in back yard, which is only big enough for her to run for about 5 seconds full speed before reaching either end (she is big though). I try to play fetch with her periodically, but after she retrieves the ball she doesn't want to give it back. It's not just that she won't release her grip on it - she moves her head away like she doesn't want to give it up. She will just lay down and keep it in her mouth most times. I think I just haven't been firm enough with her yet. I think I'm too concerned with making her as comfortable as possible to teach her the obedience she needs. I just never want to cross the line into territory that would be considered "too rough", especially during this period of transition for her.

Also, good point about not petting her after making her sit when she sees a squirrel. Usually she will get right back up if I don't hold her in place. I will start bringing treats with me to reinforce her to remain calm. What else can I do when this happens? Is holding her without petting her okay? Or should I just constantly keep pushing her bottom to the ground while repeating the word "sit" until she stays without me holding her.

Just from doing some research on gentle leaders, I have read that they are not necessary for training most dogs and are only used as a crutch for people who don't properly train their dogs. I have trained 2 puppies (though admittedly it's been a long time) but I've never trained a partially-trained 2 year old like the one I have now. I'm still learning what she knows what she needs work on.

I've never used pinch/choke collars before nor have I ever spoken with anyone who has, but I have always viewed them as being a bit cruel. But I also read that pinch-prong collars can be a good way to keep your dog walking at your side rather than pulling with every bit of their force.

The thing is that it's not just the squirrels. Most of the time when I'm walking her she's at the end of her leash pulling as hard as she can. She just has so much energy. I found out her previous owner jogged with her 5+ miles a day, something I'm not even close to being in shape for. I can walk her as far as she wants to go, but it's an incredibly tiring sort of walking when she is pulling me the whole way.

Thanks again for the help, I know Clover will appreciate it, and I sure do.
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Old 12-17-2012, 06:47 PM
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Clover sounds like a great dog, full of love and joy

Make your expectations realistic. You do not want a robot. She will chase things as long as they run. This is her instinct. If they are in your back yard she will eventually get bored of them.

On walks safety is paramount for yourself and also her. Try an easy walker harness. It is a harness that fits around the body with a ring at the FRONT. If she does pull she will be pulled towards you. It is quite amazing. It takes the stress out of walking. We also use it if friends come over.

Dogs do not need to go for 5 mile runs but they do need to be a part of the family for mental stimulation. Your walks and back yard sound great!

Keep up the good work. It sounds like you have a beautiful friendship already.
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