golden retriever vs woodchucks

miscindy(5 SW MI)May 27, 2010

We've recently moved from the 'burbs to the country. Our golden retriever is loving all the room to run. However, she's chasing woodchucks. She tries to play with them, she's barking, wagging her tail and looking as happy as can be. The woodchucks, however, are in defense mode. This is the 2nd time this has happened and she won't come when we call her away and we're afraid to get too close to the scared woodchuck who's in "fight mode." The 1st time, our dog ended up with a bloody tongue--we think she bit it herself--not sure. This time the woodchuck escaped into a brush pile. We still couldn't get our dog to come home, but figured the woodchuck wasn't coming out of the pile anytime soon so my son and I left her in the woods. Hubby just got home from work and is going to get her now.

Any ideas on how to deal with/stop this behavior?

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softmentor(z9/sunset13 CA desert)

Walk up to her, shout VERY loud, as loud as you can and like you mean it, to get her attention, then make it clear that wood chuckin' is a "NO!" again very loud. Then bring her back to the house on a firm tight leash and confine her for a short time. Do not accept behavior you do not want. Deal with it decisively, it may save her life some day.
Real life example. I took my family out for a day in the mountains and took our border collie along. She is used to playing and fetching at our home where our house is on a small terraced area that drops off 4 feet rather sharply. She runs off this at a full run and jump without any trouble and does it all the time. In the mountains, we climbed along a little ridge that dropped off over 100 feet STRAIGHT down, and I mean straight. Our dog started running for the edge like she was going to jump off, just like she does at home. Luckily, I was looking right at her when she did and I shouted "stop" and she instantly, obediently stopped from a full run, dead in her tracks, less than 6 inches from the edge. If not for her intimidate response to my command, she would surely have died instantly.
Allowing a dog not to respond when you give a command is not ok. Next time it could be a full size raccoon or some other animal or a pack of them that could kill her. Take command and make sure she gets the message.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2010 at 9:24PM
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"We still couldn't get our dog to come home, but figured the woodchuck wasn't coming out of the pile anytime soon so my son and I left her in the woods." You had no leash with you, and no collar on the dog to drag it home with?

Keep your dog on a leash instead of letting it run free in the woods unless/until you have it well trained to heel and stop on command. Deer, bobcats, badgers, coyotes, and raccoons can kill a dog very easily, or leave it severely wounded. You might even have mountain lions - they eat dogs.

Even a woodchuck or rabbit can maul a dog if it gets cornered. They have teeth that leave deep penetrating wounds that abscess easily. The critter might die, but it's going to do its best to take the attacker with it.

And skunks ... have you considered what happens with Goldie goes blithely bouncing up to the stripey "kitty" that doesn't run ... just lifts its tail and lets Goldy have it with the defensive spray.

It's not Disney's "Bambi" in the woods.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 10:19AM
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If your dog is doing something and you start yelling at it to stop, and all the yelling has no response... if you continue to yell at your dog you are only training it to ignore your yelling. If you yell and your dog looks at you (and you can see the recognition in its eyes) but chooses to keep doing what it is doing instead of come to you... the desire to hunt is stronger than the desire to please you (it is hunting breed after all).

When your dog goes after something and you want it to stop, first you whistle or make some sort of loud noise (not in your normal tone) to get the dogs attention. Then and only then, when it is paying attention to you - then you give it the command to stop or come or whatever. If you get no response you go over and take the dog by the collar and lead it away.

Don't think that a few bad experiences with a wild animal will teach your dog to leave things alone, some dogs will continually chase things, they never learn their lesson.

You have to manage the situation. When you see the problem, pull your dog away from the problem and take it somewhere else. You can't expect the danger of the situation or the decibel level of your yelling to counteract the 10,000 years of breeding it took to turn your dog into a hunter. Don't get angry, don't punish the dog for being a dog, just keep him out of trouble by managing him better.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 11:18AM
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3 of our Great Pyrs tangled with a woodchuck last year. The woodchuck lost, 1 dog was unscathed, 1 had a bloody tongue, the other a bloody tongue and a nice gash under her eye, thinking she was the first one to attack. Woodchucks are tough little buggers. I doubt your dog bit her tongue.

Personally I EXPECT my dogs to keep me, my children(now mostly young men), my grandson, and the livestock safe. If the dogs didn't they're not worth a hoot, not when we live in such proximity with nature. They keep us safe by not allowing anything perceived as dangerous near us, clearing them out of the area, and yes killing it if it ignores the warnings. I expect your dog knows these woodchucks can be aggressive when needed, not surprised he didn't listen especially if you and your son were approaching the "danger" while the danger was still present & alive. He's not called mans best friend for nothing.

When you and your son retreated towards home, I would have expected the dog to cease when you called him off. Fine line there. My dogs will stop on the word NO, but they will not remove themselves if there is danger until I/we are safely away. They remain a solid deterant between us and the threat.

I say work on the training, and let the dog continue to make the area safe for you. The woodchucks will become wise to when you are in the woods & learn to move away knowing the big doggie is coming. Although if you are that rural, don't expect larger animals, like a lynx or such, to be run off by 1 little dog when she has kittens hidden in the brush.


    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 12:02PM
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softmentor(z9/sunset13 CA desert)

lazygardens - as always, good comments.

trianglejohn - exactly, and better said with better detail

brendasue - Yep dittos.

bottom line, you need to train and control your dog for it's own safety.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 2:06PM
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Sorry, but after having a neighbor move from the burbs to the country and thinking his dog could now be off leash, and getting hit by a car ...

Just because you moved to the country does not mean your dog should be off leash unless you have absolute control over your dog. And your rural town might still have leash laws .. ours does.

I agree with all the above.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 1:15PM
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oregonwoodsmoke(5 OR Sunset 1A)

Train your dog while you are at home. It does no good to call the dog if he has never been taught that he MUST come when he is called.

Keep your dog on a leash until the dog will absolutely 100% return to you when called. Then you walk the dog on a long line until he will 100% return to you when called. After that, the dog must drag a leash until he is 100% reliable to return to you as soon as called.

Always reward when the dog obeys. Praise works well. Food is a good motivator for some dogs. Never ever call the dog to you and punish him. If my dogs ever do anything wrong, you should see the scramble to get to my feet as quickly as possible, because by my feet is the "safe" zone. No punishment for coming to Mom, not ever, no matter what they have done.

If you leave your dog in the woods, you will soon find that you have no dog. The dog will be hit by a car, adopted by someone who thinks the dog is a stray, shot for chasing livestock, killed by a wild animal or another dog.

If you are out in the country, you will make enemies if you allow your dog to run loose and annoy your neighbors and worry the livestock. News flash: not everybody loves your dog.

Goldens are very smart, eager to please, and very easy to train. 2-3 minutes a day for a week in your backyard will teach the dog to always come to you whenever you call. Dogs love training sessions as long as you are upbeat and praise for good work.

If you are taking the dog out into the woods, please be sure his rabies shots are up to date.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 7:22PM
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bill7(NW MN)

We use these on our dogs. I know, people will say you can train your dog, but realistically, these work. We don't even zap the dogs that often anymore. Just the idea of wearing the collar gets them to listen.

Our labs chase deer, hares, cats (barn cats), gophers, ducks, geese, you name it. They even wanted out after a wolf the other night. It is what they live for. When they are outside, they have these on, with few exceptions.
They are "good" dogs, just very active. They can be 300 ft from me after a deer before I turn around, hence the long range collar. And yes, they have VERY selective hearing when chasing something that is alive and running.

Good luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tritronics

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 9:27PM
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miscindy(5 SW MI)

Thanks for the input. Our dog is not running loose all over the place. The 1st groundhog was in the front yard. The 2nd one, I said was in the 'woods,' but it was just beyond our tree line on our own land. We own 10 acres. We only have 3 neighbors and they are dog owners as well. They often allow their dogs to run free for a little while each day. We live a mile down a dead end gravel road with only 7 houses and little traffic, so cars aren't much of a concern. We've been letting her out freely and unless she's on a ground hog, she comes when called, even if she's out in the back part of our land--it just takes her a minute and she comes running, panting!

After the 2nd ground hog incident, we have decided to put our dog on a long line when she is out by herself. We thought she was okay as long as she stayed on our land (mostly) and came when we called her, but we are learning otherwise.

Here is a link that might be useful: My blog

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 4:56PM
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bill7(NW MN)


We just don't let our dogs run "free." Too much trouble awaits. At best, they get to go out at 5 a.m. alone to do their duty, only because they want breakfast, and will come back. Even then, I have collars on these two. Many a-times there has been an arctic hare on the driveway not paying attention to things, and as I open the door...

Either they are supervised or in the kennel, a 6x10 with a dog house, which by the way, the chew on.

And yet I love my dogs. Go figure.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2010 at 7:50AM
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I love my dogs as well but I do have serious doubts as to what will happen to them if left unattended. Jake is very old, an 18-yr-old black lab. In his hey-day, he would take off and do what dogs do if able. When my kids were little sometimes they left the fence door open or unlocked and he would get out and go find a deer carcass or get in trouble otherwise. In the country, this also holds true. Now, I have other critters whom I am responsible for and my dogs (2 huskies plus Jake) would be happy to relieve me of these responsibilities.
It is kind of a double edged sword; They are good mindful dogs but when faced with the running cat or chicken....they are not breeds that deal with that nicely since they are one a bird dog and the other can run faster than the wind. So, my huskies are kenneled and Jake is basically so old he doesn't try any of that stuff;)

There is nothing worse IMO than a neighbor's dog coming up on my property to kill the critters I have fostered. Doesn't mean the dog is bad, just means the owners haven't taken enough care. Please don't be one of these guys. Wouldn't we all love to live out in the country and let our dogs run wild. They are predators, too, aside from the basic safety of the whole thing. Lori

    Bookmark   June 7, 2010 at 1:34AM
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