My Belgian shepherd listens very well. She pays attention to me and she will come when I call her, without hesitation. She will walk right next to me without a leash. I could go on, but to summarise: she's a very good dog and we've both worked hard to get there.

However, when she spots sheep, cows, horses, pheasants, wild cats (cats she knows are fine), you name it, she totally changes. All she can focus on is the wild animal. If she's on the leash, she will just keep pulling like a 'mad dog' in that direction. Any kind of correction is totally ignored. It's tunnel vision and I am like air to her. Whatever I may do, pull on leash, 'shout', try to get to her with her favourite food, she ignores me like I'm air. I'm simply not there to her; all there is, is the wild animal.

If she's off the leash, she will just chase the animal until she's lost it, and then eventually she will come back. Obviously, I'm quite hesitant to let her off the leash now.

How can I start working towards better behaviour around wild animals with her? The main problem that I'm facing is that she ignores me totally when she spots a wild animal, whereas normally she's very attentive. It's hard to do any training, since I can't even get her attention to begin with. So perhaps I should rephrase my question: how can I get my dog's attention in such a situation? I know what to do once I have her attention, but I simply can't get it in these situations.

The only suggestion I've gotten so far, is to use a remote electric collar, but I'm very hesitant to use these, because they seem rather cruel and I have no experience whatsoever with these. I have always used positive reinforcement training methods, so I simply don't feel comfortable with these devices. She was adopted from an animal shelter, had been through a lot and was a very insecure and even traumatised dog, and now she's a confident, happy, and well-behaved dog (except when around wild animals, of course), thanks to positive reinforcement training, and I simply don't want one of these E-collar to traumatise her again. On the other hand, the E-collars seem like a perfect fit for these kinds of situations and perhaps the only thing that may be able to get her attention when she spots a wild animal, so I would be willing to try this, but only as a last resort.

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    I would agree that electric collar, or similar negative reinforcement, is a bad idea. I was recommended to use such myself with my dog, but I found that they must be used very precisely and consistently to avoid creating side effects. Looking at the race description for Belgian shepherd, I note that they are high energy dogs. Being a fan of Cesar Milan, I would say you should try to let your dog run to work off some excess energy. Then when exhausted, put her in a controlled meeting with an animal and practice her paying attention to you.
    – TLP
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 12:57
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    @Zaralynda Yes, I know. I've been a few years at stackoverflow.com. If I had posted an answer like this there, it would be considered opinion, and hence not a valid answer. I'm new to the pets stackexchange, so I am getting a feel for what you consider answers and not.
    – TLP
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 22:32
  • If you do decide to use the electric collar, just be sure to larn how and when to use it. It can be very effective as long as it is used correctly
    – Huangism
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 14:10

1 Answer 1


Here's what worked for my mom and her dog for the off-leash chasing.

First of all, you need to start training in a calm situation. There's no way you can train your dog not to chase when they are already "zoned out".

So what you do is, you find some kind of treat your dog really loves (for my dog it's canned cat food). Then you start conditioning them: you find a word you don't usually use a lot (for my dog: "Michi"). That word will become your "superword". Everytime you say that word, you feed your dog the special treat. They should get that treat only if you say the superword, never as a regular treat. You do that for a while, always in calm situations with nothing to chase around. Once your dog knows that the word means special treat and gets really excited about it, you start using it in situations that are less calm, maybe with other dogs around, something like that.

Also, try to let your dog off the leash when you can be relatively sure there won't be any distraction and call the superword or give him a treat when he's some distance away from you. Once your dog is fully conditioned on the superword, it should be possible to call him back using the word even if he's already "zoned out".

It may sound a bit strange, but worked for my mom's dog. Normally there would be no getting through to him when there's something "in his nose". But with that method you can actually call him back when a group of deer crosses the path a few meters in front of him. Plus it's something you can easily try, so just give it a go.

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