A Dogo client has reached out to our helpline. Their 2-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer after going through pseudopregnancy developed an obsession with stones. The breed is known for its high activity level and hunting instinct. So whenever Gile and her parents would go for a walk, she would run and keep fetching the stones without being able to calm down. Therefore, a Dogo trainer, Skye Marion has prepared a training program to help Gile to unlearn this behavior.
Work on short training sessions throughout the day dedicated to each task. During this time do not give her access to stones or freedom off the leash while walking. Walk with a muzzle. From Dogo App teach the “Search” game. Give an exciting and enthusiastic cue like “party time” and scatter treats in front of the dog. This game helps the dog to relax and focus on the treats when distractions are intense. Nose work is a great way to get your dog mentally tired.
Work on “Leave it” command – it can be found in the Dogo App. It would be great if you get to the point where the dog will ignore treats, balls, etc. Try to link this cue with a focus on you.
Work on consistent heeling (“Heel” exercise in Dogo). This is to keep focus when passing stones. While walking, randomly ask your dog to come to your left side and pay attention to you.
Find a toy she loves and increase the drive for it. Play with it regularly. This works best with tug toys but can be a ball if carefully thrown to the dog and taught a reliable drop – this toy only comes out for training, not for play. Additionally, it’s recommended to use a toy that can be easily grabbed and held by the dog, such as a tug toy or a ball that can be picked up with ease. When playing with the toy, make sure to keep the sessions short and exciting, so that the dog doesn’t get bored or lose interest.
Work on the tasks from the previous week and dedicate time to new ones. When working around the stone it is important to always have her on a leash.
During this stage of training, it is important to always have the stones be as boring as possible. Do not throw them, scatter them or make them interesting when moving them.
Bring a stone into the home and work on walking her past it and leaving it. Do obedience training with the stone near her. Start with the stone about 5 m away, get her to sit, down, stand, then release her and play with her training toy. If she cannot ignore the stone, move it further away. If she is doing well, bring it a bit closer. As the dog progresses, the stone can be moved closer until it’s right next to the dog, without causing any reaction. At this point, the dog can be praised and rewarded for ignoring the stone.
It’s important to ensure that the stone used during training sessions is not the same type of stone that the dog has developed an obsession with. Using a different type of stone may help to minimize the dog’s fixation on the original object. Additionally, it’s recommended to use a leash during these training sessions to ensure that the dog doesn’t have access to the stone. It’s important to remember that this training process may take time, and it’s essential not to rush or push the dog too hard.
Start walking in a controlled environment (no stones). Work on heeling and paying attention. When she pays attention, break the controlled walk with a random play session with her training toy.
Place one stone along the path in sight of the dog. Work on getting her to heel past it and use “Leave it’’. Scatter treats if she cannot ignore it. Observe how much attention she gives the stone. If too much, move further away. If she ignores the stone, throw a party. Depending on her progress, continue to add more stones along the way.
No matter how well, it’s important not to rush. If you feel she isn’t progressing at the rate of this plan, always slow down. Remember to always end training on a good note. End the session before she gets bored.
It’s time to work on harder impulse control. This is where we will introduce a muzzle as we don’t want to give her the opportunity to grab the stone. Make sure she is 100% happy with the muzzle. You can teach her that in Dogo– “Love the muzzle” exercise.
Have a stone set up in your house. Bring your dog out with the muzzle on and ask her to heel past the stone. When you’re passing the stone make sure she has enough leash length to access the stone. If she goes to approach it, say leave it and ask for her attention. If she looks at you, praise her. If she continues to go towards the stone turn and walk away so she has to follow. Try to gain her focus back and try again once she is calm. If she struggles, go back to the 2-week exercises.
If she is successfully leaving the stone alone while in reach but with a leash on, make it more and more obvious to her. Continue previous exercises like playing with the toy but this time within reach of the stone.
Once you are very confident that she ignores the stone, get a longer leash, and let her walk right over the stone. If she still ignores, make this a great party. If she tries to grab the stone and doesn’t listen to leave it, take her back a few steps.
This is where we start off-leash work. Do not start unless you are confident. Bring the dog into the room with no leash on. Don’t bring attention to the stone or anything in the room, start asking her to heel around the room or other commands. Play a bit. End the session.
Bring her into the room and just stand at the edge. Watch her explore. If she pays attention to you and wants instructions, play with her. If she approaches the stone tell her to leave it and scatter treats, see how she reacts. If she won’t explore the room, just walk around not looking at her or interacting.
If your dog is doing well at this point introduce new stones and new situations. For now, this would be a huge achievement to have her ignore the stone off-leash. Remember to take small steps and make everything other than the stone seem rewarding, especially if it is to do with paying attention to you. Move slowly so she succeeds with every session. Best of luck!