Taming the Ferociraptor

Pheeewwww….things are starting to ease down a bit!

For anyone that hasn’t been following the saga, out of the blue Beanie (aka Ferociraptor) started attacking her brother. Behaviorist Heather Smith prescribed a NILIF regime for a couple of weeks. The dogs seem to be loving it (not sure if they’re supposed to), but it’s hard work for us! So far so good though. And certainly lots of added benefits from a behavior point of view.

Heather also showed us a game to teach the dogs self-control. Basically a frenzied game of tuggy then take the toy away and put the dog into a sit until it’s calm. Once calm the game can start again. The idea is the dog learns how to rapidly switch from a highly aroused state. Over time the game will become more and more exciting so the dog gradually learns to calm down from an increasing level of excitement.

This game is just what we needed to solve other problems too. We do canicross with the dogs. The idea is that they wear a pulling harness and run attached to us via a bungee line. Beanie and Biggles are both wonderful at it but the problem is they’re a bit too keen. They’ve gradually got more and more excited by it and are desperate to pull. It’d be fine if they were Huskies but their canine physio advised us to keep it in moderation as Beagles aren’t bred to pull. It’s good for them to do a little bit so we don’t want to stop it altogether. We’re working on putting pulling on command so we can control exactly how much pulling effort they put in. But the first step is to teach them to quickly switch out of hunt mode when required. The game will not only help with self-control, but the tuggy will work the opposite muscle groups to those used in canicross helping to keep their joints balanced and healthy.

The above video shows Beanie playing the tuggy game. We start out with the toy attached to a lunge line to increase the excitement – chase, catch, kill. Eventually we hope the game will get them to the level of excitement that we get on a hunt (they go into ‘hunt mode’ during canicross runs) and then we can practice calming down from that. There’s also a clip of Biggles demonstrating his balance ball work – some little routines on a gym ball to work their core and stabiliser muscles. It might look easy but watch Biggles legs shaking after just a few moments. It’s really working the core. He’s mostly balancing the ball himself – I’m just helping a little. Great conditioning to keep them safe in their doggy sports!

You’ll notice the horses in the background. Heather advised us not to let Beanie and Biggles play together off-lead for a couple of weeks. They’re clearly missing their chases. When Beanie went out into the garden the horses were galloping around the field having a fabulous time. She ran around the garden turning when they turned and moving in perfect harmony with them.

2 Replies to “Taming the Ferociraptor”

  1. Julia

    I started doing Noseworks training w/Jax & Dolly last fall & they’ve gotten progressively more excited by it all – the tug game is a great idea & we’re going to start today. Jax pulls so hard that when he’s not allowed to go forward, he bounces in place like a basketball. Funny, but not so good for his body! Not to mention my arm sockets. Glad to see that your work is paying off.

  2. Susan Post author

    Julia – the long term effect on their joints is a worry to me. A bit of pulling is fine but ours do far too much.

    I’m going to write another post on this subject later as we had a bit of a breakthrough today.

    Biggles has been a bit of a problem in this respect from a very young age (long before canicross). At one time every single walk he’d be baying, lunging and screaming after a scent. We’d spend over an hour on one spot waiting for him to calm down before moving forward – it didn’t work. He’d just get more and more frantic. Nothing we did would get through to him. Long walks in the mountain are a nightmare – he’d literally pull, lunge and bay all day long. Lure coursing had to stop because they’d (Beanie in particular) be beside themselves with excitement from the moment we arrived until we left – often several hours – even if we kept them in their crates. They’re about the calmest dogs I know until hunt mode kicks in.

    This game is fabulous but I don’t think it will work on it’s own for the ‘scenting/hunting’ excitement. But we have got an extension of the game that I’m really confident WILL work. And it’s a scenting game too. So watch this space as it might help you too.

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