……Although I predominantly refer to the Rottweiler in this blog post; all of this information can be applied to any dominant, or rebellious dog who may or may not have a strong prey drive or herding instinct…..
The Rottweiler is a decent of a Roman dog breed that was used for herding. It first became bred in the town of Rottweiler, Germany after which it was then extensively used for further herding, pulling the carts in coal mines, and later for protection and security. Although Rottweilers are rarely used for herding anymore, the instincts are still there and they are often combined with a strong prey drive; Zeus is a prime example.
When Zeus turned 1 his testosterone levels began to spike and his prey drive/herding instincts along with it. For almost a year I could not trust others to walk him – and I even took a 7 month break from his group walks with other dogs. He would lunge at joggers, running children, and his all time favourite – cars, buses, and lorries ; the faster and bigger the movement was that raced past him – the stronger was his instinct to chase it.
Although controlling Zeus’s movements physically became second nature to my body very early on, we still had a few close calls in which he almost managed to pull us both into a fast moving vehicle. One of the most important pieces of dog training advice that I can pass on is being constantly aware and conscientious of your surroundings. You need to notice EVERYTHING before your dog does.
In December 2017, Zeus will be three years old. In this video Z is a little over 2 years old, and as you can see – chasing is one of his favourite forms of play. This is obviously directly linked to his prey instincts and therefore could potentially get out of hand if Zeus was at his adolescent prime or if he had not been as thoroughly socialised. Think about it like a switch in their brain – once that instinct switch has been turned on it can be very difficult to switch it off.
At 2 years old, Zeus was finally able to rejoin his group walks and there is absolutely nothing that he loves more. I will talk more about how to choose the right dog walker for your dog in another blog post, however I can tell you that finding someone suitable for a Rottweiler (or any other large dominant dog) is not an easy job. If he does not respect his walker then the walk can turn disastrous quite quickly. We have had a few situations like this, and I promise that you will loose sleep when & if this happens. It took me 2 years to find the right dog walker, and I must have gone through 8 – 10 different dog walking companies in London. Renato Pegano, our dog walker is worth more than gold.
UK law & laws in other parts of the world can often be stricter on large dog breeds if anything where to ever happen.
From my own experience there will always be people that are ‘watching’ you to some extent; or rather watching your dog. It is simply life that when you own a large breed dog, your dog is expected to be perfectly behaved – and understandably so. Having said this, every dog when out in society should be well-mannered – a small dog should be trained just as much as a big dog – but obviously the bigger the dog the more damage can be done if something were to happen.
My upstairs neighbours for example are terrified of dogs – and they have three small children. I am not upset about them being cautious and nervous about Zeus (although after 3 years of living in this apartment- I know they are every day getting more relaxed about Z- I secretly think they may have even started liking having him around ;)). Not everyone needs to like dogs – why should everyone have to like dogs? No, No – Live and Let Live and All. So, I don’t actually mind that they are watching Z’s behaviour – this helps keep our training in check and always in mind 🙂
What unfortunately can sometimes happen is people reporting big dogs for no reason ; no reason that the dog has caused. They may do this simply because they don’t want the dog living on their street, or they have very wrong misconceptions about the breed of the dog. Unfortunately this can happen, but there really is nothing else that we can do except train our dogs, behave appropriately and also for extra protection get obedience and temperament certificates for our dogs.
How To Manage & Train prey drive/ herding instinct
Avoiding a problem situation is always far easier than correcting your dogs behaviour when the situation has already risen. We began with first avoiding problem situations, to then distraction during problem situations.
Step 1. The more a dog participates in unwanted (or wanted) behaviour – the more that behaviour becomes learned. Therefore, if your problem is lunging for example, the more times your dog lunges the more permanent this behaviour becomes. You will know your dog’s triggers, so the first step to making your life easier is AVOIDING these trigger situations. If your dog likes to lunge at moving vehicles; do not walk on very busy streets, do not let your dog be on the side closest to the cars, and if you see a jogger running towards you – cross the street.
Step 2. When I see a jogger coming towards Zeus and I, I immediately distract Zeus with a command or a treat so that when the joggers runs past – Z’s attention is on me & not the jogger. If you have not yet taught your dog the LOOK AT ME command then go do it now; it should be the first command you teach your dog. There is nothing as important as teaching your dog to pay attention to you FULLY; this means looking you IN THE EYE every time you speak to them (it will also make it so much easier for you to teach them any further tricks/command).
After several years of consistency (doing this every bloody time a jogger runs past), Zeus has now learned that when we see a jogger he needs to look at me. There is no longer a conscious thought there – it is second nature for to him to do so. I don’t even need the treat anymore.
His mind and body has made the association that:
JOGGER = LOOK AT MUM = TREAT.
It took a little over a year of hard work and many tears (not in-front of Zeus) to be able to walk on a busy road in central London and not have to worry about Z lunging at a bus. Although I now trust Zeus with 95% certainty, I still NEVER loose sight of my surroundings. I do not talk on the phone when I am walking Zeus, and I never stop paying attention – this has become second nature to me. Remember, walking your dog is about YOUR DOG and your bond. It is next to feeding time, the MOST important interaction and time that you have with your dog. If you are not in control over your walks, you are not in charge, and this will have a direct impact on your dogs temperament and behaviour and therefore your mental wellbeing and household as well.
Stay consistent and one day you’ll even be able to start taking your Rottie on a quick evening walk before you head out on a Friday night in your highest heels 😉
🐶 . 🐶 . 🐶 . 🐶 . 🐶 . 🐶 . 🐶 . 🐶 . 🐶 . 🐶 . 🐶 . 🐶 . 🐶 . 🐶 . 🐶 . 🐶 . 🐶 . 🐶 . 🐶 . 🐶 . 🐶 . 🐶
Human in control of walk = happy person, content dog, stable household.
Dog in control of walk = stressed human, unhappy dog, chaotic household.
So put your phone away and start focusing on YOU and your DOG.🐕💜
Love, Z & A 💜
All images © 2017 ZeusandAnna