1. I have a 4 year old Westie. He is a chaser, we are slowly working that out. I too have found that desensitizing him has done nothing. He goes down and gets his ball without chasing, but often chases on the way back from the box. In the left lane, that split second of turning off the box and losing sight of the dog in the right lane sends him in to a craze. What he typically does is cross over and shake the ball he has in his mouth. Once the other dog acknowledges that, he then after some herding makes his way back to me. We have tried gates, loud noises, everything. All of that does nothing. If I don't get a hold of him and quickly, he will run back down the lane after the dog.
2. Do you have good method at teaching tugging? Currently he is super food motivated. I am working on tugging. If I really get him amped up, he will tug, but he still isn't really latching on, more rather gumming it. And if a ball rolls by, he is done. He is way in to the ball, not more so than chasing other dogs, but more into a rolling ball than tugging with me.
In my opinion ball obsession and chasing are the two hardest problems to fix and this guy has a little bit of both.
Here are some ideas for this type of chasing:
1. Don't ever give him the opportunity to chase. Chasing and getting access to the other dog is very rewarding. From this point on, don't ever give him the opportunity to practice the chasing behavior. After awhile the chasing becomes a habit, force him to break the habit!
If he is more likely to chase with multiple dogs running, run him with one other dog until he is reliable. Run him against the slowest dog on the team. Use gates along the whole lane including the run back, removing them one by one over the course of several weeks. Do head to head box work with you and him completely enclosed in gates. If you don't have gates, get a few people to block and make sure they understand the rules and are quick. Make sure the blockers know that they are in charge of forming a barrier around the dog being chased and ignore your dog. They should not allow access to the other dog at all. No one should be yelling at him. With these precautions, he should never get full access to the dog he wants, but he still might try to chase. If he does, calmly pick him up and put him in his crate until his next turn or at least a few minutes. Letting him run again is a reward.
2. Build positive associations with moving dogs. starting outside of flyball practice try doing some control unleashed & premack type training. I would use LAT (look at that) with moving dogs, click/treat for attention to you, relaxation protocol, parallel games, Give Me a Break (GMAB)
- LAT: go to a spot where he is under threshold and reward him for orienting toward running dogs.
-GMAB: teach him the basic rules of the game in a non distracting environment. When he knows the game, go to practice and set up gates around you and your dog near the flyball lanes ( as far away as needed to keep him under threshold), making a box around you. Put a chair in the box. While standing, ask the dog to do a behavior and click/treat at a high rate with about 10 treats. And then release the dog to go do whatever he wants and you sit down. As soon as the dog looks back at you, get out of the chair and repeat with another request for a sit/lie down and click/treat. Do this for short sessions several times during practice.
3. Work at the point just before he tends to react. If he always goes and gets his ball and brings it back over jump 7 before chasing, set up a short course (2 jumps in both lanes) have someone else release him and you stand right in front of the last jump on his way back and reward him before the point that you expect him to chase. You could even remove all the jumps and have someone else release him and then reward him just after the box and slowly move down the lane until you are far enough back to release him, adding the jumps back in later. It really isn't necessary to use full runs to work on this. More running makes the dog have to think more and a more tired dog is more likely to chase. If he chases on the flat during recalls, work there. Try separating the lanes as far apart as you can. Also try staggering the dogs, alternate between releasing him first and releasing the other dog first.
4. Build value for you and a solid recall. When I say "solid recall". I mean that you want your dog to run fast to you. This is where the tugging comes into the picture. I'll have to do another post on building tug drive and a few recall games, but here are a few quick tips. Start training at home and then add distractions slowly. Ask him to sit and then say "ready set TUG" and run away, dragging the tug. Push him away from you, play keep away. Throw the tug, push him back behind you and race him for the tug. You win the first two and then let him win. Once he gets the tug, run away and get him to chase you. Always end the game when the dog is most excited about tugging. Never wait until he decides to end it. Try the tug exchange game - get two tugs and leave them on the ground, run and grab one and act like it is very exciting. When he comes over, play keep away, pushing him away and teasing him and then let him get it. As soon as he is tugging at his peak, drop the tug and run and get the next one. Keep tugging sessions very short (30 seconds). Try using a ball with a small rope on in and play fetch, tugging with him each time before and after you throw it. Also read these articles
5. Play games that will desensitize him to motion. Even if it hasn't worked before, it might work eventually with the right methods it might help.
- Focus on the Handler: get one other dog that you can rely on to go fetch a ball and bring it right back to his handler and two tennis balls. With plenty of space in front of you, and the other handler holding his dog, throw the ball 10 feet in front of you and release your dog to go get it and give him a cue to bring it back and put it in your hand. If he can't do that, keep working on it. If he can on the second round, do the same thing but just as he is getting back to you, have the 2nd handler throw the ball for their dog and release to get it. Alternate who starts first and keep it under the point of chasing.
- Get out Game: I'll have to post a video of this one. With no other dogs around and your dog off leash, throw a treat to your side and say "get out" as soon as he gets it, say "get out" again throwing it in the other direction. Keep doing this, throwing in a request to come right to you every so often. In the next session, add another dog playing the game nearby, slowly getting closer and adding more dogs playing the game.
- Three boxes: set up a box in between the two normal flyball lanes and put the chasing dog in the middle. The thought is that it will blow his mind and he won't be able to choose someone to chase.
- Chase games: without jumps, have someone hold the chasing dog and a non-reactive dog near the box. The holder releases the non-reactive dog first and then the chasing dog. The handler of the first dog should run much further (to 60 feet) and the handler of the chasing dog to 15 feet. In between 15 and 60 feet, have people prepared to block the chasing dog.
Final Thoughts -
1. Allow the chasing dog to experience other dogs and being off leash and running unless this is dangerous. I think this often happens to dogs that aren't exposed to a lot of motion and never have the opportunity to interact with other dogs off leash
2. Some people have had success with slamming pool noodles on the ground, Ecollars or water guns. I have had sucesss with water gun, but never with pool noodles. Be careful with Ecollars as you may end up with a dog that never wants to walk into the building again.
3. If he does it right, respond appropriately. give him a HUGE payment.
4. Talk to your vet about medication. Your dog might benefit from some psych meds
4. This takes a lot of patience and could take many years to fix.