Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Prey Drive

So Travis had this prey drive that made him rather unsafe around dogs that were hairy, fat, and/or small. That was the unusual thing... it could be large dog, but if it had jiggly fat rolls, Travis treated like prey.

Once at a park, someone with a huge American bulldog wanted to come up to see the greyhounds. I warned him that I didn't know how Travis would react. Unfortunately, the man came closer and Travis grabbed a big fat roll above the bulldog's tail. Soon, I had Travis pinned again and pried him off of the bulldog who was unharmed. The man was super nice and allowed me to grab a muzzle out of the car and let Travis meet his dog again (luckily I had my other GHs with me and my mom, so she was able to let them have a pleasant social greeting). Once muzzled and allowed to sniff the dog, the sight of those jiggly fat rolls on his back really excited Travis and stimulated that prey drive. It seemed we were getting no where.

I started taking Travis to just about every obedience class Anne Jones had. Though his obedience training was quite good, he still had a hard time not wanting to grab other dogs. He wore a muzzle and I corrected him for lunging at someone, but would click and treat every time a dog touched him, ran by, jumped, touched, etc.... anything. If he could stand quiet while a variety of dogs did what they do, he was rewarded. Eventually, he wasn't ballistic anymore, but he became a snake in waiting. This became especially evident when he grabbed my friend, Deanna Gamel's, sheltie puppy, Kelsi. Deanna and I both knew Travis, but as soon as Kelsi was in striking distance... Travis grabbed her by the tail. I immediately grabbed Travis and Deanna had Kelsi on a leash. She literally was in the air being pulled from both ends. I quickly made him release his grip. Kelsi was fine and has since represented the U.S. in International competitions.

At that point, I had had it. Travis was never going to amount to anything. I had worked so hard for at least a year and we had not progressed in some time. He certainly was never going to be able to do agility which would require him to run off lead with all types of dogs outside of the ring. He was never going to be able to do a sit stay next to something other than a GH at an obedience show. So I stopped wasting my time.

I'm not sure when it happened exactly. Travis still attended all of Katie's agility trials, run-thrus, and practice sessions, but I not longer sought out situations in which to work with him. During incidental encounters, Travis began to show me a different dog. I think a fetching and carrying his bumper was a big help. I started to let him carry his bumper while running with other dogs. Having something already in his mouth may have curbed his desire to grab something else. But he simply started to let it go of his desire to grab non-greyhound dogs. He began to demonstrate that he could be trusted and slowly I began to trust him. I started thinking that he might compete after all. It is as if he switched gears completely and started channeling all of his energy into more productive activies.... activities that Mom approved of, that earned him rewards, and that earned him freedom. I already worked him some in agility for exercise, but with competition being a possibility, I began teaching him weave poles.

07-31-2008 Footnote - The amazing thing is that Travis never again gave me any reason not to trust him. He was great with my parents' small dogs. He never had problems at any competitions surrounded by a variety of dogs. Once he let go of the issue, we never had a set back.