Lunging at vehicles

Share your favorite training tips, ideas and methods with other Positively members!

Moderators: emmabeth, BoardHost

Post Reply
Daytona
Posts: 15
Joined: Tue May 15, 2012 12:16 pm

Lunging at vehicles

Post by Daytona » Wed Mar 27, 2013 5:17 pm

I'm walking an English Spaniel who lunges at buses and tractors - it seems to be any large vehicle.

I distracted him successfully with a treat today - is this correct ?

He has only one eye (left), I haven't taken notice of whether traffic passing one side or the other makes a difference.

He also runs towards trains, or the noise of trains in the distance.

OnceInAWeil
Posts: 431
Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2012 4:20 pm
Location: AZ, USA

Re: Lunging at vehicles

Post by OnceInAWeil » Thu Mar 28, 2013 11:23 am

Hi, welcome to the forum. Do you own the dog, or do you walk him for someone else?

You're on the right track with distracting with treats, but you need to work with him from a distance. That means you should try to walk him in places where you can see large vehicles from a distance but won't be walking close to them. His fear of large vehicles is a bit like a person with a spider phobia. If you tried to keep a person with arachnophobia calm while a huge tarantula crawled by, you'd probably fail. If you let them observe the tarantula from 100 feet away, their fear would probably be a lot more manageable. It may also be helpful to work with a large, parked vehicle, but still be mindful of giving him enough distance. It's very likely that he won't need as much distance for a stationary vehicle as he will for a moving one.

So give him however much distance he needs, even if it is the length of a football field or more. When he sees large vehicles, immediately stick a delicious treat under his nose for him to eat. When I say delicious, I mean meaty and smelly, like a bit of hot dog (only use small bits, the size of a pea or less--because you will be giving them often). Hard, pet store biscuits likely will not be reinforcing enough to help him build a positive association.

If he DOES react, immediately get more distance between him and the vehicle until he is able to look at it calmly. Resume giving treats. If he is not taking treats, that is also a sign that he is too close.

The same thing goes for trains. For train noises off in the distance, stuff some hot dog (or whatever treat you choose) under his nose immediately when you start to hear the train, even if he has started reacting. I would try the whole hot dog if he finds the noise particularly upsetting. Sometimes a big, juicy treat like that is just too difficult to pass up. You must be consistent about offering treats every time he hears the train, whether he is reacting or not. Over time, this should help him to start thinking "where's my treat?" and looking at you expectantly when he hears the train, instead of flipping out.

I think this video will be helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdraNF2hcgA


I'm sure other posters here will have even more advice for you. :)

Daytona
Posts: 15
Joined: Tue May 15, 2012 12:16 pm

Re: Lunging at vehicles

Post by Daytona » Sun Apr 07, 2013 11:03 am

Many thanks for the comprehensive reply OnceInAWeil :D You've answered many questions.

I'm a dog walker so he's one of my new clients. The problem area for vehicles is on a 200 yard/meter stretch of rural road with a path alongside from their house to the fields. There's only about 3 vehicles pass us so it's manageable for him. So it is fear that's the problem ? I wasn't sure. More generally, does every issue originate with fear ? I used a treat to distract him as soon as I heard and saw the bus approaching round a corner 50 yards/meters away, I got immediate attention and constant eye contact as I withheld the treat until the bus had passed, the closest it came to him was about 4 yrds/m away. He is fine when large vehicles are stationary or slow moving (drain clearer, horse box and tractor ploughing). He sometimes looks at me when cars are passing expecting a treat but I've not been giving him them, do you think I should ?

That's a brilliant video, thank you - there's nothing like actually seeing it being done for real.

I obviously keep away from the railway line which is several fields and about quarter of a mile distant and he hadn't reacted for I guess the 50 previous trains over several weeks but the wind was blowing the sound towards us as it was going over a viaduct, which all made it noisier. He ran ahead along the path barking in the direction of the noise, which was to the side, but behind a hill. He's toy orientated so when we're playing with his Frisbee I don't think he notices the trains, we weren't playing at the time as I have to give him a break due to his mild arthritis.

Thanks once again :D

emmabeth
Posts: 8894
Joined: Tue Oct 17, 2006 9:24 pm
Location: West Midlands
Contact:

Re: Lunging at vehicles

Post by emmabeth » Sun Apr 07, 2013 7:51 pm

Whilst not every issue will be directly related to fear, fear is the safest assumption for us to make - assume fear and you are wrong, no real harm done. Assume something ELSE and its really fear.. and you really could make matters worse.

In this instance I'd put money on it being fear - whilst lunging at things can seem quite a confident action to take, don't forget he is on a lead, he can't run away, and he probably can't freeze. Also, as far as he is concerned, he lunges... the big scary bus goes away! Result.. he doesn't know it would go away anyway.

Then chuck in that he only has one eye so his vision, particularly his depth perception (ie, how far away is it) is affected as well as his overall vision reduced, and thats gotta make things scarier.

So yes - counter condition by rewarding him for vehicles passing. I would reward him for cars too - not every car, but getting him thinking that vehicles passing is a reason to look to you and perhaps earn a reward must be a good thing. For big vehicles you know he has lunged at in the past, make the reward really good so more of it, or higher value stuff.

Don't fall into the trap of thinking you must ask him to DO something for these rewards (i dont think you are but just in case) - you are aiming to change his emotional response to seeing vehicles, classical conditioning, so all he has to do to earn the reward is see the vehicle (or even hear it).

If you started to ask him to do stuff, that would increase his stress and you would probably fail - i see this a lot, people asking the dog to SIT as the other dog comes past, or the scary car goes by.. inevitably, that fails and the dog freaks out and then the owner loses patience..
West Midlands based 1-2-1 Training & Behaviour Canine Consultant

Daytona
Posts: 15
Joined: Tue May 15, 2012 12:16 pm

Re: Lunging at vehicles

Post by Daytona » Mon Apr 08, 2013 5:01 pm

Thanks emmabeth :)

OnceInAWeil
Posts: 431
Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2012 4:20 pm
Location: AZ, USA

Re: Lunging at vehicles

Post by OnceInAWeil » Mon Apr 08, 2013 7:23 pm

Daytona wrote:
I used a treat to distract him as soon as I heard and saw the bus approaching round a corner 50 yards/meters away, I got immediate attention and constant eye contact as I withheld the treat until the bus had passed, the closest it came to him was about 4 yrds/m away. He is fine when large vehicles are stationary or slow moving (drain clearer, horse box and tractor ploughing). He sometimes looks at me when cars are passing expecting a treat but I've not been giving him them, do you think I should ?
Your clients are very lucky to have a dog walker like you. :D

Definitely reinforce the looking at you behavior when any sort of vehicle passes, as emmabeth said. It's great that he is offering it at this point.

Post Reply