Our 6 year-old German Shepherd, Ali, keeps running down and killing deer. She's a great dog and always obeys our voice commands, except when she spots a deer. Do any of you have any training tips on how we can break her of this terrible habit?
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Our 6 year-old German Shepherd, Ali, keeps running down and killing deer. She's a great dog and always obeys our ... a deer. Do any of you have any training tips on how we can break her of this terrible habit?

don't let her do that. if you can't control her by voice commands, she has no business being off-lead.

shelly
http://home.bluemarble.net/~scouvrette>> http://cat-sidh.blogspot.com

To the uneducated, an A is just three sticks.
A.A. Milne
Our 6 year-old German Shepherd, Ali, keeps running down and killing deer. She's a great dog and always obeys our ... a deer. Do any of you have any training tips on how we can break her of this terrible habit?

1. Buy a leash, and keep her on it.
2. Find a trainer who can teach you how to use an e-collar forrecall/calloff.
I normally do NOT recommend e-collars unless I know someone personally, but this is exactly the sort of thing where an E-collar sounds like the most appropriate tool.
However, you CANNOT just go out and buy a cheapie one at PetsMart, stick it on the dog, and start zapping.
First, for this situation, you would need a GOOD collar with a long range - which pretty much means TriTronics, which are expenseive, but worth every penny.
Second, before it can be used to call her off deer, she needs to be trained what the signal means, and to respond to it, and IMO most people do best with someone to teach them how to train that.

You can train a call-off in other ways, but IME it works best if the call-off is trained from the beginning, BEFORE the dog gets the habit. Call-offs have to be taught ON leash to start with; it's a process of getting a conditioned response to turn back towards you and/or stop. And they work best if you pay close enough attention to the dog to call her off BEFORE she goes into full chase; that means having her within a relatively close range, and being 100% aware of her.
You'll need to do that with an e-collar, as well, but you have a second or so more to respond in, since the dog will feel the e-collar when she may not hear your voice - not because she's at a distance, but because her focus on the deer is so strong that she literally is unaware of your voice. Same principle as someone not hearing you if you speak to them when they're deep in concentration, and needing to be tapped on the shoulder - the e-collar allows you that physical tap on the collar when there's no physical leash.
In any case, this dog should NOT be off-leash until you have some form of control over her; the chances of her being either shot or run over are too high. Additionally, a dog that will run and kill deer may decide to run horses, sheep, goats, etc., which WILL get her shot.
You are lucky that no one has shot her for this. Most hunters I know if they see a dog running deer will not hesitate to kill the dog. Do you realize that in most states that you can be fined for allowing the dog to attack deer and the dog be put to sleep.
If she won't listen to voice command then invest in a good 6 foot fence or a strong trolley line but keep the dog confined and not allowed to run loose.

Celeste
I was hoping to get some worthwhile training tips, not a lecture. We don't live in or near a city. We live on small 43 acre farm, and have no nearby neighbors. Ali never leaves our property, even when she's chasing deer. Don't like the idea of an e-collar. She's been reward-trained and she's an absolutely wonderful and obedient dog, except for her deer chasing. We've got three horses, 2 cats and about a dozen chickens and she gets along great with them. Again, I'm looking for some training tips, not a lecture.
I was hoping to get some worthwhile training tips, not a lecture. We don't live in or near a city. ... no nearby neighbors. Ali never leaves our property, even when she's chasing deer. Don't like the idea of an e-collar.

The "idea" of an ecollar is very often misudnderstood by people who have limited direct experience with them. Why reject something that you know little about? You want to train with kindness then consider the e-collar. Because it is just about the least stressful way there is to acheive your goal - short of keeping her on leash 100% of the time. Instead of rejecting the idea out of hand consider further research.
She's been reward-trained and she's an absolutely wonderful and obedient dog, except for her deer chasing. We've got three horses, 2 cats and about a dozen chickens and she gets along great with them. Again, I'm looking for some training tips, not a lecture.

Traning tips aren't going to do it. Taking a training class, and investing some real time in training probably will. The first thing any competent trainer will tell you is that during the time you are training you must entirely prevent the behavior. Keep in mind the basis of your "reward-training" is that the dog will repeat behaviors that are rewarding. Every time she succeeds in chasing she is being more strongly "trained" in that unwanted behavior. So if you want to work toward the possiblity of stopping the behavior through obedience, you have stop the behavior from occurring until obdience is instillled.

Diane Blackman
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I was hoping to get some worthwhile training tips, not a lecture. We don't live in or near a city. ... a dozen chickens and she gets along great with them. Again, I'm looking for some training tips, not a lecture.[/nq]What they are trying to tell you is that deer chasing is very dangerous but also very rewarding to the dog. If she generally responds to your voice commands but doesn't when chasing deer, then you have to do something other than voice commands to stop her. That means fencing her away from the deer, e-collar training and use, leashing her, etc. That is what people have been telling you. The chances of reward-training a dog who has already tried and fell in love with chasing deer to not chase them are pretty low, IMO.

Even if you want to train a more solid come and leave it, you are going to have to leash her while you train and do something to keep her away from deer (and/or deer away from her) in the meantime. Every time she takes off after a deer and ends up having a great time is another huge reinforcer of the deer chasing behavior. She is reward-based training herself with a reward that is far more valuable to her than anything you have to offer or she would forget the deer and go to you for a treat/reward.

Paula
"Anyway, other people are weird, but sometimes they have candy, so it's best to try to get along with them." Joe Bay
She is reward-based training herself with a reward that is far more valuable to her than anything you have to offer or she would forget the deer and go to you for a treat/reward.

Bingo.
I was hoping to get some worthwhile training tips, not a lecture.

I gave you a "training tip": you need to teach this dog a call-off. I also gave you the "training tip" that you need to monitor her behaviour and body language very closely, so that you can see when she is getting ready to chase the deer, and call her off before she gets started.

However, the process of teaching a call-off to a dog whose behaviour of chasing and killing deer - and ignoring your attempts at call-off - is firmly entrenched is something that can't be covered by on-line "training tips".
We don't live in or near a city.

? That has no relation to anything I said. Dogs get shot and run over in the country as much or MORE than dogs who live in the city - especially dogs whose owners have made the mistake of allowing them to start running deer.
Ali never leaves our property, even when she's chasing deer.

So far, she hasn't. What would happen if she started a deer near the edge of your property, and the deer headed for the hills? I assume there's a public road that gives access to your 43 acres? What would happen if she started the deer near the road, and the deer crossed the road?
And what will happen if someone witnesses her killing a deer, and reports you to the game warden?
She's been reward-trained and she's an absolutely wonderful and obedient dog, except for her deer chasing.

And as several others have pointed out, that's a very clear indication that chasing and killing the deer is more rewarding to her than anything you can offer.
Again, my "tips" to you are:

1. You need to teach this dog a call-off, and until you have done so, youneed to leash her.

2. Call-offs can be taught on-leash with rewards, but I seriously doubtthat reward-based call-off training is going to be sufficient, because she has already learned that chasing the deer is more rewarding than any treat you can offer.

3. E-collars are not inconsistent with reward-based training, and the factthat she's had that sort of training actually means that the e-collar work can be made more effective.
In fact, when using an e-collar strictly for call-off/recall, you can have the training be almost entirely reward-based - you reward the dog for responding to the collar signal.
In any case, the fact remains that until the dog is taught a reliable call-off - with or without using an e-collar - she needs to be leashed; every time she ignores you and rewards herself with running and killing deer will reinforce the behaviour.
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