Fixation with hoses, leaky taps and showers!

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Fixation with hoses, leaky taps and showers!

Post by AMC » Thu Mar 21, 2019 2:26 pm

My 4 year old jack russell (originally a rescue) has always been fixated with water - especially anything that 'drips' such as a leaky tap, garden hoses, showers. He once actually charged out of a first floor window to get at the sprinkler in the garden (thank god he was ok - in fact after the shock of the fall he went straight on to 'attack' the sprinkler!)

When he gets fixated with the water it is impossible to divert his attention. In fact, I can tell by his whole body stance that he's prepared to 'defend' his access to the water and will growl/ nip if you try to physically move him. Obviously the main thing we do is avoid the situation, but sometimes this can be difficult. For example in the summer he will always be trying to escape out the back door to get at the hose in the garden when I'm watering (and he can hear it from upstairs!).

Is there anything i can do? (He demonstrates similar behaviour around the vacuum so I suspect there is something about the noise that seems to 'arouse' him)

Tips and advise welcome!

Joined:Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:48 pm

Re: Fixation with hoses, leaky taps and showers!

Post by jacksdad » Thu Mar 21, 2019 8:35 pm

AMC wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 2:26 pm
Obviously the main thing we do is avoid the situation, but sometimes this can be difficult.
This is always the first step. The more your dog gets to practice the unwanted behavior, the better they will be at it. More ingrained it will be, and the harder to change. Harder does not mean impossible though.

The next step is to train and alternate behavior. What do you want your dog to do OTHER than fixate on hoses, leaky tap, and showers. For example, look at you and sit or look at you and keep on walking.

you first train these WITHOUT the hose, leaky tap, and showers being a factor. make sure you are willing to bet $100 he will responds to whatever you trained in a wide variety of other distractions or "got to go up to" stuff.

Start by practicing just asking. Then when that is solid, ask him to do "it" with something he has little interest in if there is something better looking at you and getting SUPER YUMMY treats or chance to play tug etc. Increase the difficulty carefully. Make sure he is able respond reliably with each distraction before making it harder.

When you think he has enough of a foundation, I would start training his actual use of these alternate behaviors against which ever of the hose, leaky tap, or shower you have the most control over.

Start by first exposing him at the last intense level possible. For example the hose. just have a hose laying on the ground. start 10 feet away (or further if need be) walk by ask for the look (or whatever alternate behavior you trained), and keep practicing with the hose just on the ground, laying there doing nothing until you are finally able to walk over it and he doesn't "fixate" on it.

Then have a small, but brief trickle of water happen...ask for the alternate behavior. but again start at the distance you need to be successful. Work until he can walk past a hose with a trickle of water.

Apply this same idea to the shower.

The three principles primarily being used to train are....

Desensitization. This is the exposing at small enough intensity that you do not trigger the "fixation", but slowly increase intensity until he is able to be 'ho humm" about a normal level of intensity you would expect to encounter. Intensity referees to how close, how long are close, and how much water is present.

Operant conditioning. This is where he learns that doing X causes something YUMMY or SUPER fun to happen. If he sits when asked, bottom on ground makes food happen. if he looks at you when asks and holds that happens. this is the basic science of learning that behaviors has consequences and we are choosing to make the consequence of wanted behavior be something YUMMY!!! or FUN!!!

What is "YUMMY" or "FUN" is 100% controlled by your dog. We don't get to chose that our dog should work for say praise, or a bit of kibble. if they will, great, but if they don't you must find something they will work for. it really isn't different than your boss at work saying...I know you would prefer money, but I think you should work for this magazine subscription. how long will you work for that particular boss?

Matching law. this is the science of how can you "make" your dog work for silver when they are earning gold doing what we don't want them to do.
The answer is two parts. First, like mentioned above, we have to figure out what they will work for other than the thing we don't want them to do. And this new thing turns out to be "silver" (meaning less valuable) to the dog vs the "gold" of "attacking" hose, you make is SUPER easy to earn LOTS and LOTS of silver at a distance his behavior suggests it is simple too much effort to get over to that hose (the gold), so I will stay here and earn silver.

real world example. dog reactive dog. in this case reactive was one of those rare times the "aggression" was frustration in not getting to go play with all the fun dogs encountered on the walk due to the leash. So, we trained the dog to walk in a rough heel and to look at us. Then the first day out in the real world once the basic behaviors were trained, we were a water fall of bits of hot dog for the duration of the training session. we saw a dog coming...cue "look" and it was one bit of hot dog after another until we passed the dog. with in a month (4 one hours sessions) this dog was CHOOSING to stick with us in a loose leash and NOT looking like a maniac as he walked down the beach because it was EASIER to earn the LOTS and LOTS of "silver" (aka hot dog) than to go over to the dog (gold) way over there.

Hopefully that gives you a starting point.

Does he fixate on anything else? shadows? light reflection? does he lick "obsessively" at paws or other body parts?

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Re: Fixation with hoses, leaky taps and showers!

Post by Nettle » Sat Mar 23, 2019 3:52 am

I couldn't add to that excellent advice, but I can bring some explanation.

Loving and cute as JRTs are, they are predators, and originally bred for hunting out and catching other creatures. They retain these instincts. The movement and noise of running water is especially interesting,and it is easy for dogs to go from interest to obsession. Same with horses - big, strong-smelling, fast-moving and made entirely of meat. Moreover, horses with people on top or a cart behind look as if the first stages of an attack have taken place, so he'd like to join in. Horses are prey animals and therefore flighty, so even in fields, they can charge about or throw themselves down and roll, all of which can excite a predatory instinct.

We don't know your dog's typical day, but I would suggest harnessing his need to hunt by scattering some of his food round the garden, so he has to seek it out and find it, and hiding tiny food items in twists of paper, cardboard tubes or egg boxes (one of my dogs is particularly fulfilled by ripping up cardboard egg boxes). You can also lay scent trails round the garden using a spray bottle with a small piece of something smelly and yummy, such as liver or sausage, and squirting every few feet, with random tiny rewards now and then and a big jackpot when you get to the end. Start out using a long line so you are hunting together.
A dog is never bad or naughty - it is simply being a dog


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