Nurture vs Nature? Questions

Discussion in 'Jack Russell Terrier' started by Zoey123, Nov 6, 2019.

  1. Zoey123

    Zoey123 New Member

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    Nurture vs Nature?

    I have a 2yr old JRT mix (Maisy) and a 7yr old German Shepherd (Leo). I feel very comfortable in my training abilities when it comes to high drive GSDs, and I was (naively) surprised at what a challenge Maisy has been. I’m usually a big believer in choosing a breed that fits your lifestyle, and a terrier definitely isn’t naturally the easiest fit for mine... but she needed a home, so I’m her mama and we’re making it great!

    I hike extensively with my dogs... on average about 30+ miles a week, with frequent all day hikes (15+ miles) in the national forests near us. Because there are coyotes, mountain lions, bears, rattlesnakes, and poisonous mushrooms, I am extremely strict about their obedience off leash on those trails. It came naturally to my GSD. A few months when he was a pup of reminding him to stay close and now he naturally is almost too close at all times, in a loose heel. I can grab his focus any instant I need it and he’s extremely trustworthy.

    Crazy Maisy, on the other hand, causes me some stress. She absolutely loves our hikes, but no matter what I do I can’t seem to get her to respect the “appropriate distance from mom” rule. I absolutely love her extreme confidence and independence, but it’s to the point that she doesn’t care even if she loses sight of us. It’s unique because she does know and still obey all her commands, but she has to be constantly reminded and she frequently hesitates. That gets old for us both on a 10 hour hike, and her struggle to focus on me when something (like wildlife) has her attention means that she is frequently on a long line because her hesitation, even when followed by obedience, is unacceptable to me if a dangerous situation arose.

    I’ve always thought the answer to a distracted or disinterested dog is games, unpredictability, keeping it interesting. I’ve tried and it seems like no matter what I do, that instinctual pull to shove her head in a hole or hike 20 feet in front of me instead of the 10 I’d prefer, wins ever time. I taught her “look at me” and for months straight I tried a long line paired with “look at me” when she was approaching the distance limit I’d like. She played along when she got a food reward each time but after months it made no difference otherwise and it’s not realistic for me to be giving her a treat every 30 seconds. I’ve tried just silently changing direction and walking away, she doesn’t even notice until I’ve almost lost sight of her and even when she realizes, she doesn’t care. I stopped doing that because it was panicking Leo, he likes for everyone to be together! I tried connecting her to him and she just started dragging him everywhere and that wasn’t fair either.

    I guess what I’m getting at with this long winded post is, do I need to just accept that no amount of training will ever override the instinct that contradicts nearly all of the behaviors I need from her to be as trustworthy as my GSD? Or should I keep at it? Does anyone have any games or training tips they suggest? It’s not the end of the world to keep a long line on hand, but it is a little bit of a drag to us both and I’d love to think that there is a future where I can trust her the way I trust Leo, even if she gets there a different way.

    If it helps with game/training suggestions, the off leash related commands she knows are come, wait, trail (means step back onto the path), wrong way, stop, heel (but she only does a focused heel, with eye contact, can’t seem to get her to do a loose one), look at me, leave it, back up. She’s a little genius and would be down to learn more I’m sure, problem is getting her to care about it when she’s an independent woman who doesn’t need her mama!

    thank you to anyone who read all this and thank you for the tips I hope you have! Funny how the things that make her so great also make her so challenging.
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  3. GsdSlave

    GsdSlave Member

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    I believe that nurture cannot completely overcome nature, often with the 'right' nurturing, nature can be worked on to a certain extent, but there will always be limitations and there’s only so much one can do to try and suppress genetics.
  4. CaroleC

    CaroleC Member

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    GsdSlave, Chris and Malka like this.
    Beagle owner here, need I say more?
    With regular training a hunting breed is capable of performing just as well as any other - as long as you are able to manage the environment. ie. you have to choose an area where there are minimal competing stimuli. My boy is 99% reliable, but the girl, (whom I didn't get till she was six) is rather less so. When off-lead, I make a point of avoiding hedge-lines, which are laden with scent, and where small furries might be lurking. We also pay attention to the weather conditions, and to the time of year. Rain after a few days of dry weather will release a level of scent from the ground that it is hard for hunting breeds to ignore. Likewise, at those times of year when there is a lot of wildlife activity, you may need to take note of likely runs, and the wind direction too.
    I try to not allow my hounds to fail, so would inclined stick with the longline until you are sure that you have a rock solid recall in areas like open fields or sports grounds, and at least for now, restrict free-running periods to places where the conditions favour success.

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