Predation Substitute Training with Simone Mueller

In this episode of K9 Conservationists, Kayla speaks with Simone Mueller about Predation Substitute Training.

Science Highlight: Performance of Pugs, German Shepherds, and Greyhounds (Canis lupus familiaris) on an odor-discrimination task

What is predation substitute training?

  • A force free protocol to stop predatory chasing.

What are the steps?

  1. Management/prevention: stay in contact with the dog while out, keep the dog on-path, perimeter training
  2. Tools: calmness around wildlife, so the dog can still think and perform alternative behavior (stand and watch). The deal is you can stand/watch but not chase. All parts of predatory sequence are inherently reinforcing, so we can allow them to eye/stalk without chase/bite
  3. Alternative reinforcement, outlet through predation games
  4. Interrupter (recall)

What are the first signs of predation?

  1. Observing – there is no trigger yet, but they are looking for one. This is the time to get involved.
  2. Stalking – they are focused on the prey, tense and arrow shaped body language, creeping forward
  3. Chase – high level of arousal, hard to train anything here
  4. Capture & consume – ideally you will never get to this point

Links Mentioned in the Episode: None

Where to find Simone Mueller: Website | Facebook | Instagram

You can support the K9 Conservationists Podcast by joining our Patreon at patreon.com/k9conservationists.

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Transcript (AI-Generated)

Kayla Fratt 

Hello and welcome to the K9Conservationists podcast where we’re positively obsessed with conservation protection dogs join us every week to discuss detection, training, animal welfare, conservation, biology and everything in between. I’m Kayla Fratt, a co founder of K9conservationists, where we train dogs to detect data for land managers, researchers, agencies and NGOs. Today I’m super excited to be talking to someone Muller about predation substitute training. So welcome to the podcast, Simone.

Simone Mueller 

Thank you very much, Kayla. I’m happy to be here.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, we’re excited to have you and for everyone at home. So Simone Mueller, M.A is a certified dog trainer and dog behavior consultant ATN from Germany. She specializes in force free anti predation training, and as the author of two books of the predation substitute training series, which are called hunting together at a rocket recall. Simone is an active member and part of the training committee of wildlife detection dogs. She is proud to be an associate trainer at the Scotland based Lothlorien Dog Training Club, which is ATLDTC, and a member of the initiative of force free dog training, the Pet Professional Guild and the Pet Dog Trainers of Europe, PDTE. You can follow Simone’s work on Facebook and Instagram under predation substitute training, and those of you who are at home may already have a pretty good idea what Simone and I are going to be talking about that I’m really excited to get into it.

Kayla Fratt 

But first, we do have to get into our science highlight. So this week, we read a performance of pugs, German Shepherds, and greyhounds which are all of the species Canis lupus familiaris on an odor discrimination task. This was written by our beloved Dr. Nathaniel Hall along with Kelsey Glen, David Smith and Clive when it was published in the Journal of comparative physiology in 2015. Basically, what they were looking at with this paper is that public opinion and scientific literature alike reflect a widespread assumption that there are differences in behavior between dog breeds. And as well as obviously there’s there are physiological phenotypic changes that we can see between dog breeds. However, direct empirical behavior assessments of such differences are rare and have produced mixed results. So what they were looking at is whether or not different breeds actually perform differently on an odor discrimination task. Their findings were that choice of breed for set detection work may be driven more by historical choices than by data. In this article, they directly assess the ability of German Shepherds, Pugs and greyhounds to acquire a simple olfactory discrimination, and their ability to maintain performance when the ability when the target odor was diluted. The results showed that contrary to expectations, pugs significantly outperform German shepherds in acquiring odor discrimination and maintaining performance when the odorant concentration was decreased. Nine out of 10, greyhounds did not complete the acquisition training, because they failed a motivation criterion. These results indicate the pugs up from German Shepherds and then mentions of olfaction assessed. However, greyhounds showed a general failure to participate. Overall, these results highlight the importance of direct behavior management management of assumed behavioral breed characteristics. So really interesting here, basically what they again, what they found is that in this odor discrimination task, you would have expected the German shepherds to perform better, they in fact, did not. As compared to pugs, I do think as far as our lines of work, it still would be important to take note of the fact that I would imagine you would rather have a German Shepherd in the field with you than a pug due to break essentially, the fact that our German shepherds would have moved much more easily and quickly over rugged terrain than a small pug. However, it is not necessarily because of because of the odor discrimination capabilities that are why we’re picking a given breed. So that is, that’s our science highlight. Now, let’s get into it with Simone Mueller. So let’s start with the obvious first question, what is predation substitute training?

Simone Mueller 

Predation substitute training is a force free method to stop predatory chasing in dogs and compared to the more traditional approaches that are out there. It’s a kind of holistic approach that takes into consideration the dog’s needs and instead of making the dog stop chasing or stop performing any product predatory behavior, we rather look at becoming a more to grow more together like a team.

Kayla Fratt 

Okay, yeah, that that’s perfect. And so what what were you kind of seeing before you started coming up with the concept of production substitute training What were you seeing in how people were dealing with predation that you thought wasn’t working? Or was dissatisfactory? To you on an ethical framework, kind of what were what were you seeing? And what were the problems that you you understood with the current challenge?

Simone Mueller 

Well, first of all, I have to mention that I didn’t come up with the idea. It is a concept that has been existing in among German dog trainers for quite a long time. So I think the beginning was about almost 20 years ago, because quite a while ago, we in Germany, we banned e collars, and now we even banned two prong collars from being used. So the doctrine has had to come up with a more creative or sophisticated way to stop hunting, as we in Germany have really high wildlife density. So you come across wildlife all the time when you walk in German forest, for example. And I learned these concepts during my dog trainer education that I did in 20s, although they started in 2016, and finished in 2018. And then I went to Scotland for three years to work with Lothlorien dog services with Claire stains. And we chatted about a lot of things during that time. And at one point, we found out that these anti predation trainings, force free anti predation trainings to basically not exist in the English speaking world. So the concept that people had when they dealt with predation was simply to stop the dog in whatever way. And if you are balanced dog trainer and use an E collar, this might work to some extent. But for the first three dog trainers, it’s always a struggle, because the only way to stop the dog from hunting is to establish a solid recall. And this does not always work. Because when the dog is already in full Chase, it’s really hard to stop the dog. Yeah, and this was when we found out that the holistic concept is not out there. And yeah, I thought maybe I can change that.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, well, we’re so grateful, like you’ve certainly been having a big year with, I feel like I had not heard of prediction, substitute training, or you, Simone Mueller, six months ago, even and then now I’ve seen you at at least one conference, I’ve heard you on a couple of big podcasts that I enjoy. So yeah, I think it’s working. And that’s it’s very exciting. And I think anyone who’s listening who’s got a dog can totally understand what you’re saying, as far as especially if you are more in the positive reinforcement force free end of the dog training, spectrum, or whatever you want to call it. Predation has always felt to me like the area where I am least confident in the ability of positive reinforcement to really deal with it. For exactly what you’re saying, you know, if you want to stop a behavior, if you want to suppress a behavior, punishment is pretty much the only thing that will do that. You can train alternative responses, you can, you know, build up these reinforcement histories, you can do all of these things that I’m sure are part of what you’re doing, and are certainly what I currently do. But you know, that moment when a dog is triggered by a prey animal in the environment, or an animal that they perceive as prey in the environment? Yeah, once they’re in that full Chase, it’s really, really hard to get them back. And there have certainly been times where I’ve been frustrated or scared or angry enough with my dogs that I have wished I had an E collar to deal with them, even though I am a pretty avowed anti e collar person. So I’m really excited to hear more about what you’ve got going on. Because I again, I think like our approaches, aside from teaching recall, you know, are also doing like some desensitization work and focus and engagement and teaching the dogs not to chase by exposing them to these animals in controlled ways. We can talk about that more, and we talked about that quite a bit in our episode with Skyler psychology. But so why don’t you take me through kind of what, what predation substitute training does encompass and then I would love to kind of pull apart how that’s different or similar to what what I’ve been doing with my dogs for conservation work.

Simone Mueller 

All the things that you just mentioned are in this protocol, but in a very structured way. So you have a kind of, yeah, schedule or kind of plan to work through with your dogs. And the most important thing is that you understand that you work on very different levels. So you it’s like you put together a puzzle of different pieces. Do you have to work on all these pieces? And once you take away one piece or you skip one piece, the whole puzzle does not work anymore. So it’s very important to incorporate all the different parts of prediction substitute training, while anti offers free anti prediction training. And, yeah, mainly, there are four parts that you have to work on. The first one is management and prevention. And when you hear Management and Prevention, most of the people are most people think, yeah, you put a leash on your dog, and then it’s prevented from hunting. But yeah, it’s not that, yeah, there are more sophisticated ways to do that. The most important thing is that you stay in contact with your dog while you are out. And you teach your dog to stay on a path, for example, and not run around in the bushes to so they stumble across wildlife, or you teach them to stay in a certain parameter around you and check in with you frequently. So there are a lot of things that you can do in order to stay in contact with your dog. And then the second part is about tools that you use when you are in the situation. So when there is a deer or when there is a rabbit, jumping and running in front of you. So what you basically do is you teach your dog calmness around wildlife so that they still are in a thinking state of their brain that allows them to do an alternative behavior, which is basically standing and watching. And instead of running off, so the deal is always you can stand as long as you want to. But you cannot Chase. And this works quite well, because all the parts of the predatory sequence are intrinsically reinforcing for the dog. So they feel good. And stalking is a part of predation. So it’s nothing. It’s not a kind of alternative behavior that we use that does not fit the motivation of the dog in this very moment. They can do they can stay within the predatory sequence, they can still hunt but with their eyes and not with their feet, if that makes sense. Oh boy, yeah.

Kayla Fratt 

Let’s, let’s put a quick pause. So we’re on step two of four, or component two, four. Let’s see if you’ve got it on the top of your head. Otherwise, I can help out. What is the Pradesh the predatory sequence? Yeah, just in case anyone at home isn’t familiar with that?

Simone Mueller 

Yeah, I’m sure we have to talk about this. Because not everybody realizes predation. When it starts though. Every dog owner really realizes Okay, no, my dog is hunting when they enter full Chase. But then it’s too late. Yeah, we’ve all been there. And it happens. Even with my dog, it happens from time to time that that I am too slow, or the rabbit was too close, or they had a bad day. And they couldn’t pull themselves together. So yeah, no problem, it happens. But prediction starts long before the chase. So the first science of prediction is when your dog is scanning the environment. For example, you have come across this that you step out of woodland into a field, or you come to the top of a hill, and then your dog suddenly stops and they look around. And this can be with their nose up in the air air scenting or it can be with their eyes, scanning the environment. Or it can be with their noses down six sagging in the bushes if you have a little spaniel or something like this. And this is where it all starts. So they are basically looking for prey, there is no trigger yet. But they want to come across something and this is the first step on the ladder. And here, you still have a lot of time to get your foot into the door. And ask them to do something else maybe together with you. Because at this point, they are on a very low level of arousal. But this can change really quickly. And as soon as the dog finds out, oh, yeah, there is something they go into the stalk, which means they do not look around anymore. They are focused on one particular animal or whatever they think might be an animal, sometimes it’s just a molehill or something like this. And yeah, and you can see this totally in their body language because suddenly they become really tense and a little bit arrow shaped and not that wiggly anymore. And then what they start is they start to creep forward and the purpose of the crib in in canines that still go through the whole letter, for example, dwarfs or dingoes or Yeah, coyotes is to bridge the gap between themselves and the prey animal because most prey animals have very long legs. Evolution has done its part here. And they might be quicker or faster or they can run longer than the dog or the wolf or whatever. So they want to be as close as possible before they then go into the chase. Yeah, and here we go. Now everybody knows Yeah, my dog is hunting. Yeah, we are already on a very high level of arousal, which is very Yeah,

Kayla Fratt 

we’ve already missed that eye and stalk. And even before the eye, there’s the scanning. And then in like the full predatory sequence, you know, we talk about there’s a grab bite, a kilobyte, and dissecting and consuming and obviously, ideally, we’re also interrupting far before that. Yeah, I feel like at that, at the chase is kind of the very last moment that you really want to even be trying to intervene.

Simone Mueller 

Everything that comes off to that you just mentioned the grab bite and the kill, bite and then dissect and eat. Yeah, you don’t really want to have that as a dog owner.

Kayla Fratt 

No, no, and especially in the conservation dog world, you know, it is such a huge deal. For us, it is such a privilege to be able to work with our dogs, and at times have permission to bring our dogs in places where dogs are not allowed in order to protect the environment. And one of the things that we I think is really tough as an industry is figuring out how to talk about the fact that we are selecting for dogs, or you know, dogs inherently are predators. It’s not like we have detection horses, where we wouldn’t have to deal with predatory behavior if I was if we ran equine conservationists. But, or bunnies or whatever it is. So we have to deal with the fact that our canine partners are inherently predators. And then even on top of that, when you think about what we’re selecting, for in working dogs, we’re trying to slice really thinly between a dog who enjoys the Hunt, who enjoys using their nose to try to find something that’s hard to find, and enjoys the chase so that we can reward them with toys. But doesn’t, but they have, we’re really looking for these dogs that have like a map that thoroughly on to toys. And don’t map that on to wild animals. And sometimes we get lucky. And that distinction is clear to a dog. And a lot of times we don’t. A lot of times that’s it’s just not possible. I mean, I don’t think yeah, I don’t think it’s possible to consistently always have dogs that have hunt, drive, and play drive, and all of these things that we need for them to work and do not also come with some amount of prey drive. And again, even if, you know, they’re still predators, so Okay, so you said first steps. First step is kind of this prevention and management and keeping. I love what you’re talking about as far as staying engaged with the dog. Because if most of our dogs if they’re in a nice bubble, and they’re engaged with us, and they’re checking in and they’re, we’re on a walk together, it is that much easier to know when to interrupt and have a chance to interrupt if we need to. And then second is we’re working on this calmness all around wildlife. So what does that I can imagine what I have done and would do in that, but what are some of the things that some exercises that may fit into that category?

Simone Mueller 

Okay, I get it, right. Um, yeah, in the situation, when you come across wildlife, you, you don’t play any games with them, you don’t do any exercises like that, you just captured the behavior that they naturally show. So when they show a solid stalk, or they stock something, or they watch something, this is what you capture, and you reward it, and you try to make it bigger, so it gets a nice reinforcement history. And when you make the stock bigger than three things can happen. The first thing is that the chain might break at this point, and they do not go any further in the predatory chain, which would be ideal. And you can you can achieve that. If you train your dog very young, or yes, in some dogs, you can achieve it but not in every dog that is realistic to say. But what you can achieve in every dog is that they will show the stock longer before they enter the next step on the ladder before they go into the chase. And this buys you time basically so you still have time to put your dog on the leash or to ask them to come away with you and do something else. And then what is really crucial here is the kind of reinforcement that you use here. Because if you just hand them over a dry cookie and say, Well, nice, nice, well, then you didn’t chase. So here’s your cookie, the next time your dog will say, Okay, I will never come back again, I was going straight into the chase next time, because this was so not rewarding for me. So you have to look at the motivations. And the motivation here is they want to hunt. So you have to play some predation games with them as a kind of substitute. And there is where the substitution comes into play that as a kind of reward. And as an outlet, you have to play prediction games with your dog that fulfill their needs, because they still have these needs. They don’t live, or they don’t know that they live in a world where it’s not appropriate to chase and kill wildlife. And so you have to give this to them in a controlled way. And this is the third part of the puzzle, that you play prediction games with them either in the situation as a reinforcer, or in another context. That is not that there is nothing around you, you just say, Okay, now we are on a nice metal, let’s play some games. And after they had these games that involve their noses, their eyes, their ears, even then it might happen that they say, Okay, I have this today, I am satisfied. And now I won’t go on the next track that comes across me that I come across. And yeah, it makes them far more approachable for you. And we have games for almost all this off. We have games for all the sequences to other parts of the predatory sequence that mimic these behaviors. Yeah, from from the scan to the stalk, the creep, the chase, of course, which is quite easy to do it with a flood pole or a ball and let them chase in a in a controlled way. And then you also have, yeah, the rather cooldown games, like for example, dissecting something that is okay to dissect not the life animal, but maybe a paper bag, or your Amazon carton boxes or whatever. And then of course, eating Yeah, eating is a big part to calm down again.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, it’s so interesting to hear you talk about this, because So back in, gosh, this was like seven or eight years ago now, I used to work full time in an animal shelter, and I was a behavior consultant there. So it was kind of my job. Whenever we had a dog or a cat that was, it was questionable whether or not that dog or cat was going to be an adoption candidate for a behavior reason, it was my job to kind of work with and assess those guys, along with a team of seven or eight others. And so with cats, in particular if we had cats that we labeled, overstep or overstimulated, so these are the sorts of cats where you know, you pet them a couple times, and they turn around BITE YOU ON THE HAND, one of the big things we would do for them, aside from clicker training, and working on building up their tolerance and kind of consent based procedures, is we also worked on a lot of these predatory games with them. And one of the things that blew my mind. So we’d have the fishing pole cat toy, that’s like a mini flirt pole, but for cats, and we would have them allow them to catch it, allow them some of the cats would want to catch the bundle of feathers and take it under a chair and pull it apart. And we would let them do that. And then at the end, we always gave them a high protein, high fat snack. And that was meant to kind of complete the whole predatory sequence. And then the theory being kind of satiate and calm these cuts down, they had kind of that box checked for the day. And that really did seem to help a lot in these other behavior problems that were totally, you know, on the surface unrelated to aggression. So the point being, I think, the only other time I’ve ever heard about people talking about food, and dissection, as part of the predatory segments is actually with cats, and I love hearing it here with our dogs.

Simone Mueller 

Yeah, and it’s so logical if you think about it, yeah. Because when you when you go to a gym, you start with warm up, then comes the full blown work out that makes you sweat, and then you do a cooldown. You don’t just stop in the middle of your spinning class and say, okay, and then I go home. And this is what,

Kayla Fratt 

make sure you get a protein shake or like even even just like a fistful of grapes or something on your way home like you’re getting

Simone Mueller 

exactly yeah, we do this with our dogs all the time. We take them to the dog park, and then we throw a ball, throw ball, throw a ball for a ball, like we give them the chase, which is the the most arousing part of the predatory sequence where most of the dopamine is released and then when they are fully pumped full of these hormones that make them are crazy, we put away the ball and we go home and we say, Okay, now sleep for eight hours because I go to work. And then we come home and couch is destroyed or the carpet is chewed up. And this is because our dogs need to come down. And if we don’t give them this calm down, they do it. Or they get it for themselves, which might be your carpet. Because by chewing and licking, and yeah, and dissecting things, this is the end of the sequence that makes you content in the end, because you have your food and you have had the chase. And now you can rest.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, yeah, well, and I’m even thinking, you know, what I’ve been doing here. So we use a toys as reinforcers in the field. So that’s a little bit different. But at night, here, I’ve been playing a little bit of fetch with the boys and we’ll play some patch. Ideally, we’re working on kind of restraining them throwing things into tall grass and having them go pick them out, we do that for a while. And then I’ve been also playing some tug of war and then moving into them working for some dinner. So they get some food and some training. And we’re kind of almost, I wasn’t thinking of this way, but kind of ratcheting down the arousal level, and then ending with the second half of their meal just comes in a bowl, and then we put them down and they go take their nap. Or hopefully at that point, it’s like 7pm. And we’re kind of done for the day. So yeah, I love that. Okay, so just to recap here, just so we’ve got it all in one go. So what are kind of the four components of this predation, substitute training again,

Simone Mueller 

the first one was Management and Prevention, so that your dog stays in contact with you. The second one was to tool that you have in the situation, which basically teaching them calmness or impulse control. And then the third one is to give them an outlet through predatory games or predation games. And the fourth component, the last component, of course, is an interrupter. Yeah, it would be every interpretation call protocol needs a positive interrupter to interrupt predation when it happens. So for example, as I mentioned before, the the deal was too fast and too, too near for my dog to pull themselves together, and they went off. And then I need to recall my dogs and I need to make make sure that the recall is paired with need oriented rewards. So if they want to chase I reward with a chase and not with a cookie into their mouth. This is the basics of it. And there are several tools that you can use to make your recall really rock solid, so that they they can listen to this recall even when they are in a in a chase. But this is a lot of work. So it’s not something that you it’s not like a magic pill you give your dog and then they won’t hunt anymore. It’s like yeah, it’s it’s a chore, and you have to put a lot of effort in it. It’s not a quick fix. Sometimes it’s a journey that goes on, I think it goes on as long as your dog leaves. You might have quick results in the beginning. So it’s not that it takes ages to get a foot into the door here. You get quick results from this kind of anti predation training because you work with the dogs needs. So it’s very logical for the dog and they progress really fast in the beginning, but it’s a work that never ends. So you always have to work on this. If you have a dog with a high prey motivation. You have to work with them as long as they live.

Kayla Fratt 

Listen, you and your dog are already canine conservationist by listening to this show. So go ahead and show it off. Join the club, check out our brand new merch store, which is located at K9conservationists.org/shop. It’s stocked with stickers and magnets and bags and shirts, we’re adding new designs all the time. If you’re an artist wanting to collaborate, just we split profits and are eager to hear from us reach out at K9conservationists@gmail.com. We also offer all of our webinars on demand through our store so you can check out our puppy raising webinar alerts and changes of behavior, introducing a target odor as well as seeking sourcing and alerting. We’re also planning to add new webinars to this all the time. So if you’ve got a request for a webinar, or you’re a practitioner hoping to contribute a webinar, again, we’re going to split our profits with you and you can reach out to us I Kanaan conservationist@gmail.com Let’s keep the learning going. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s that’s kind of a good point to circle to draw out a little bit more as you know, recognizing that we both with breeds anyway individuals, there are some dogs who are more motivated by predatory sequences than by others. Have you had any particular cases or clients, you would like to highlight about a dog that struggled with this and succeeded? Or have you had any cases where it really didn’t work, and it just was going to end up being a dog that couldn’t be locked safely in nature?

Simone Mueller 

Yeah, it depends on the dog. So it’s very, very individual. There are dogs that are not really prey driven. They perform predatory behavior, but the root of it all is more stress related. So I’m thinking of a border collie here that I had in my training. And he was excessively looking for mice and excessively mukut looking for prey. So he was jumping into the woods out into the woods and out again. And the problem was that there was a lot of stress going on at home. So he wasn’t good at being left alone. And he had to stay alone for about almost eight hours a day. And then when the people came home, they immediately took him out for that for his walk. And this was where he was showing all this predatory behavior. And gotcha, we didn’t work a lot on predation. Here, we worked a little bit on recall, but that was it. And the main work that we did was to teach him to stay alone, confident, without stress. And as soon as he didn’t have that background stress going on at home, he was not looking for, for this kick outside all the time, because he used this happy hormones that were released, throwing predation as a kind of stress relief. And yeah, he didn’t need that then anymore. However, there are also dogs that are truly Yeah, prey driven or pray motivated, I’d rather use the word, motivation and drive. And here, you have to do a more holistic approach, you have to teach them all the four components is not enough to teach them recall. And that’s it. So yes, there are dogs that are really are the owners who are really successful, and then you can walk your dog off leash, but you not with every dog. So it’s not a guarantee that you will be able to have your dog off leash after the training or something like that. But I have not come across any dog where I didn’t see any improvement. So yeah, I rather tell people not to focus. If you take the the off leash time as an example, from zero of leash and 100%. Because there is so much in between that you can reach for example, you can achieve that your dog is good off leash for about 20% of the time, when you work, or when you walk across a meadow where you know, there is not much wildlife. And then you can Yeah, give it a try. And you just drop the long line or you take the leash off for about five minutes. And then suddenly you feel okay, now I’m not comfortable with the situation anymore. So put the leash back on. No pressure, yeah. It is at least something and you can always make the situation for you and yourself or your dog better and improve the situation. And then it depends totally on the individual team, the person, how much work they put into it, the dog, the learning experience of the dog, the previous learning experience, or the genetics of the dog, how far you can go and how much you can achieve.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, I think I think those are, those are so many good points that you’ve made there. And I think, especially your point about, you know, we’re probably not going to go from 100% of your walks or on a six foot lead or a two meter lead to 100% of your walks are off leash and your dog is perfect. Certainly not very quickly and honestly even I don’t think I would say that my older dog barley is that 100% In all situations, they’re still always going to be situations where there are so many ground nesting birds or so many bunnies or so many bears, or whatever that even if his behavior is something I trust, implicitly there’s just too much risk to the wildlife or too much risk to us from the wildlife to ever really pursue 100% And like with my younger dog niffler He’s certainly at a stage where in open forest He’s good in fields, he’s good when he’s working, he’s good. But in dense forests situations where we are not working, he needs to be monitored pretty closely, we have a 30 foot long line, he still drags at times. And we’re still paying him really, really heavily for chickens and really working on keeping that perimeter smaller. He’s an intact 21 month old boy. So he really wants to range and really wants to run a farm. And the only times we have trouble with wildlife is when he has already ranged too far. And then something happens. And as you said, step one, that connection between the two of us is broken already. So either I don’t even recognize it, until something has kind of happened. And sometimes I’ll even just see on the GPS collar that something has gone wrong. Or even if I do see it, you know, I’m so far away that my voice isn’t very salient to him. And you know, these sorts of issues. So I love that you’re pointing out, you know, even when it gets really good, and even though it is improving, getting to 100% isn’t always possible isn’t always, again, realistically, a goal like here in the Western US, there are just always going to be places where it is not, I would not consider it safe to have my dog off leash, no matter what their training is, they could be walking practically between my legs, and I still feel like it might be better to have them on leash.

Simone Mueller 

Yeah. And I think it shouldn’t be a goal. And yeah, you can have this as a goal, of course, to give your dog off leash time, because it’s life, it’s quality of life for them. But I always feel that people have such a big pressure on them. And you tell them that this should be the goal. So I, I would rather look at the individual team and what is their needs. And oftentimes, people don’t even expect that much. You think as a trainer out there can be this and this and we can still improve that. But people are dog owners are often just, yeah, content with little improvements that make their life easier.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, well, and I loved what you said, that first dog that you gave the example of where this border collie was doing a lot of we would call it a cratering or ease out. And he’s hunting and hunting and hunting really looking for these mice in this way that the way you described it sounded frantic, it’s an impulsive, it sounded like a lot. Sounds like sort of behavior I would expect from a terrier. And the problem for this dog was actually much more holistic or required taking a big step back to look at the overall wellness picture. And I’m so excited to hear you talk about that in the context of predation. Because it seems like so much of this predation, substitute training you’re talking about is making sure that the dogs are well and getting their needs satiated elsewhere. Which, again, is something that I think is really important. I think there is a fundamental huge ethical issue to me with taking a shot caller to a predator that we have bred to cooperatively hunt with us for generations, and then blasting them to hack for doing that. And that has always felt really unethical to me. And then even just recalling a dog or always having a dog on leash. And again, having this this cooperative hunter that is part of our homes, and never allowing them to hunt has always sat a little weirdly with me as well. So I love that we’ve come up with this way that is entirely wildlife friendly. That still meets our dog’s needs, like how how cool like just my hat is off to you. And thank you so much for bringing this to, to the English speaking world.

Simone Mueller 

Yeah, and there is so much about predatory behavior that might not even be related to predation. As I mentioned before that background stress there are a lot of dogs that they flee into predation out of pain related problems. Because when dopamine is released into the body, it works like a kind of pain medic drug for them. So it’s a kind of self medication that dogs might might it’s just not every dog, but some dogs really give themselves a shot of these medication of these pain relief by going into predatory behavior. And there are so many things that you cannot just shock away. You know what I mean? Yeah, so it seems red, unfair, you should look behind every behavior is driven by a need. And we should rather look at the need that is Behind the behavior, so if we fulfill this need, the dog does not have to show it in such an intense way anymore. Yeah.

Kayla Fratt 

I don’t know if I even have much to say to that. It’s just, yeah, I love thinking about this stuff much more comprehensively. And so let’s kind of bring it out a little bit away from our, our pet dogs, and think about this with conservation dogs, based on what you know about these wildlife detector dogs. And you know, you presented at the wildlife tech conservation dog conference, and I’m sure you had some good questions. Is there anything that practitioners in the conservation dog field should be aware of when thinking about production, substitute training? Is there anything that you’ve found needs to be altered for our needs? You know, particularly thinking about the fact that we want our dogs to not just be engaged with us when we’re out in the proximity of wildlife, but also have the capacity to focus and work. So yeah, is there anything conservation dog specific that we need to talk about here?

Simone Mueller 

I think, yes. When we talk about conservation dogs, it’s, we need to understand what kind of dogs are suitable for this job. And we need predation here, we need predatory motivation, because all the things that you need for your job are derived from predation, we have the search as a Yeah, as a kind of, it depends on which or what kind of search that you do, do you do tracking of free search, like scent detection, then for all these things, you need predatory motivation. And then of course, as a reinforcer, you need play. And play also comes from predation, it’s derived from predation. So you need some level of predatory energy, but it shouldn’t be too high. And it shouldn’t be too low, because with a dog that is only a highly motivated, then you cannot work because you don’t have the cooperative aspect anymore. If your dog is only in hunting mode when they’re out and about. On the other hand, you don’t want a dog that is not enough motivated. Because you then you can you can work walk them safely everywhere, but you cannot work with them. So you need the moderate prey drive, you need cooperation, but you still need a kind of motivation for predation. And this is where the working dogs come into play here. They need to focus on you, but they still need to be able to be calm or not to be too distracted by wires, that sense that they come across. And yeah, I think it’s quite it always I can can totally not imagine how to work here in this field with an E collar. It is banned in my country. So I have never come across a working detection dog that was trained by an E collar. And I simply cannot imagine how it works. Because when you have a dog that is on a sand searching, then you have a high dopamine in the dog’s bloodstream. And as soon as you use intimidation, fear or pain, the dopamine is totally destroyed in the dog’s body. So it all goes against this. And your dog is not able to search anymore at this very moment. So you either have to wait for your dog to recover and have to interrupt the search and then you have to start again or I simply cannot imagine how it should work because the nice thing about an forced reinterpretation training is that, okay, you’re there is a for example, your your dog is searching and then there is a deer and your dog practically waits for the deer to disappear. And he can go straight back into the search because the dopamine flow has never been interrupted. So yeah.

Kayla Fratt 

No, I agree. I and I’ve told this story before on the podcast, I’ve only used an E collar one time. And again, this was it was a situation where I’ve I’ve always said I would never do it. I’ve always been very against the tool. And I was in a position where I felt like it was my boss’s and I felt like it was the only option we had available to us. And we did one session with barley and really what I saw was a dramatic decrease in his enthusiasm and confidence searching and it took a week or two from one pretty mild session to get that back up. He’s normally a very fast happy searcher. His tail is all the way up. He’s got this lovely Periscope tail wag when he’s working. It’s so Have fun. And this was, yeah, his tail was down. He was jumpy, he was nervous to go check places because he wasn’t sure exactly what had happened. And this was even with pretty mild stimulation and good timing. And I was I insisted that if this was going to happen to my dog, I was going to be the one administering it. And I still hated what I saw. And barley isn’t the most sensitive dog I’ve ever handled. So it’s also not that he’s just a big old softie. So yeah, I agree. I don’t I don’t, I did not like at all what I saw as a result of using it. But at the same time, I also wasn’t totally satisfied with having to recall him. So I think, you know, much more working on this kind of dissented, sensitization, first stages, that you’re talking about an engagement and helping the dog understand, just not to chase in the first place is really what both approaches were lacking. Yeah, yeah.

Simone Mueller 

And recall, is also an interrupter. It is called a positive interrupt about it’s an interrupter. And it costs lots of impulse control to follow your recall. And not do what they actually want to do, which is riding into the opposite direction.

Kayla Fratt 

When we ran into is, obviously the prairie dogs prefer to recall over being chased but for our search, recalling him and reinforcing him and restarting the search interrupted the search, just as much as him chasing, or him experiencing the shock from a collar. It was like all three of the options, were interrupting our work pretty badly. And I think, you know, step one is trying to get the right dogs for this job. And doing as much screening as you can to get a dog that is less likely to struggle with this. And then step two, is setting up your searches and your projects and your environment in a way that makes it more likely that dogs, and particularly the dogs you have are a tool that can be used adequately. You know, if you want to do dusk surveys, in an area full of corpuscular animal, you’re setting your dog up for failure, are you setting your dog up to make this project harder than normal? And sometimes we have temperature issues and all that, all that where you wouldn’t necessarily want your dog searching in the middle of the day when animals are less active. But yeah, and then we can start thinking about wellness and fulfilling the dog’s needs. And then thinking about this prediction, substitute training, so I, there’s just so many steps, there’s so much to it. And it’s not just finding the right reward so that your dog will recall to you because you found the holy grail of reward. I feel like people get so focused on that. Yeah,

Simone Mueller 

yeah, there. Yeah, I think for dogs that are working close to you. So you are still in a distance where you can cooperate with your dog, it’s totally an alternative to work on standing and watching instead of recall. However, this tool does not work when you are not there. So I sometimes get asked by people who have farm dogs, for example. And the dogs are out around the farm all day. And they people don’t want them to kill the chickens or whatever. So they asked me, Can I teach my dog to leave alone the chickens and I’m not with the dog, and no, it doesn’t work. It’s not the kind of training so you as a person are very important. You, you are a team, it only works as a team. So when you are out with your dog, and you are in contact, then this training works very well. But as soon as your dog is so far away, that they cannot communicate with you, it doesn’t work anymore. And here I see a point where it’s not suitable for detection dogs. If you have a detection dog who is supposed to work far away from you, then I have to say there is no solution that I have for the problem. But to be honest, at least in in Germany, most of the detection dogs that I know, work at a parameter around their humans that they still are able to communicate with them. And for this kind of work. Yeah, that’s totally an option to look into.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, well, yeah, I mean, I think generally for me, even my dogs may go 60 70, maybe 100 meters away from me. But I don’t really want them going any further than that, because I don’t like asking them to hold an alert while I walk 100 meters to catch up to them.

Simone Mueller 

So I think 200 meters is not a problem. That should be

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, no, I haven’t, I don’t think we’ve had issues. And I think you know, one of the things that like Skyla psychology talks about in our animal interactions episode was, and I think similar to what you’ve talked about, is just doing a lot of teaching them these alternative responses when they do see animals. So you know, yesterday, I took both of the boys, my dogs over to move got a herd of goats at the cabins that I’m staying out of my field site, and we just practiced, I let niffler watch them for a little while. And then I did actually interrupt him because I think he may have stared at this herd of moving goats for a very long time, he is a Border Collie, that is his job. And practice having him eat practice having him search for food in the grass nearby. And we’re working on building up these alternative responses, while there are goats that are behind the fence and they’re moving around, and they’re tempting, but we can modulate our distance away from them, and teaching more of this automated response. You know, as much as possible, you know, it’s just, it’s just something that’s really, really important in this field. And I think just hoping that because you’ve got your ball in your pocket, or an E collar on your dog, that you’re going to be able to stop them. Mid Chase is not good enough. And thinking about all of these other components that go into successfully training a conservation dog is, you know, that’s what we’re here for.

Simone Mueller 

Yeah, I think the way that you just told it, this is so nice and so nice, because this is the way that it should be. You take your dog to, to a meadow with a fence around. And behind this fence, there are some slow animals like cows or sheep. And then you start with the training, you do not start with a running rabbit. out in the field grazing head down so your dog can see it, but it’s not a trigger. And here is where you establish all your your learning. And what I really appreciate what you say is that you you worked a little bit on eating so that your dog is able to eat. Because this is so important to teach your dog that they can take food outside in various situations. Yes, yeah.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, let’s kind of and I think this is kind of roughly based on Sarah streamings worked up protocol for arousal testing. And this was kind of developed for agility dogs. But you know, she kind of talks about before you enter the agility ring, you want to ensure that your dog can eat and accept their reinforcers. And then they’re eating normally, you know, so like for my dog barley, in particular, if he’s not practically choking on the treats as he inhales them, that tells me that he is really distracted. And if he’s eating really slowly or refusing food, that is a big sign for me that he’s over threshold and to closer to excited or to upset or you know, to whatever it is. And then Sarah talks about marker testing. So can your dog differentiate between delivering food to the to the dog’s mouth versus having them catch it in the air versus tug versus catch, you know, kind of, and this obviously, means that you would need multiple markers for a dog if you wanted to be able to differentiate? And I do. And I think a lot of our listeners do, even if maybe they don’t know they do. And then next is can they I think I’ve got this right. The next would be can they respond to known cues? And this was kind of what niffler and I were working on last night around the goats. His first step is can you eat? Second step is, if I tell you to catch a treat? Do I see you anticipate me catching that before catching before I’ve even thrown it? Or are you kind of like only able to eat if I hand it to you? And then yeah, if I asked you to sit, do you sit? Do you sit in a way that is normal to you? Or is there an extra latency? Or are you more likely to kind of mess up and lie down and more likely than normal? You know, if your dog isn’t 100% perfect all the time. And then my next step and I can’t remember if this is Sarah’s or not, is I start seeing if the dog can offer behavior and if the dog can actually demonstrate that they’re able to learn in the presence of this trigger. And that’s when I know that we can move closer so it’s much less kind of functionally based than what you do. But it is very much so thinking about kind of the steps of moving closer and it’s so so much more than just rewarding them for disengage. cheering from the prey animal.

Simone Mueller 

Exactly. Yeah, this sounds really, really nice. Yeah, I wish all people did that.

Kayla Fratt 

I mean, that’s why we’re here. We’re trying to spread the word. So I’m aware. I know you said you’ve got some courses coming up. Where can people learn more about this? Maybe I’m going to take the class. We can all be students together. Yeah, learn more about this.

Simone Mueller 

So we have owner courses, or I teach some owner courses together with a colleague. And I also teach an instructor class, which will be in November, it will start in November. And it will be for professionals, for example, trainers, behavior consultants, behaviorist and yeah. Yeah, and the owner court did not okay, let’s stick with the instructor course. First, this will go over 10 weeks. So we will meet for 10 weeks, every week for about 90 minutes. And we will look into the four different aspects of relation substitute training and how to teach them to clients and to apply them on different types of breeds of dogs because there are differences in the breed specific behaviors when it comes to predation. Every dog was bred to do or perform to perform some kind of, or a certain aspect of predation. Yeah, we

Kayla Fratt 

talked about like different sections of that predatory sequence may be hypertrophied, or suppressed and different breeds.

Simone Mueller 

Exactly. Yes. That’s the point. So yeah, okay, Border Collies are bred to stalk and to

Kayla Fratt 

stalking and stalking and chasing, they like those things.

Simone Mueller 

Grab bite, for example, and kill the sheep. So

Kayla Fratt  

the farmers do not tend to like it when the 45 Oh, grab bites, a brand new baby lamb. So that is not a common trade and Border Collies the way it would be. And when even compared to catalogs are, they’re hurting dogs, like they are more apt to bite because they’re bred from cows and cows sometimes needed a good bite to convince them to do what they need. Yeah. Anyway, so Okay, so they talked about different breeds. What else is covered?

Simone Mueller 

And, yeah, so we talked about basically how to apply these, this protocol to your individual clients and their dogs. So yeah, this is what we’re going to do for 10 weeks. And I also teach in an older course, which is called odier. Really proud of

Kayla Fratt 

me managing can make puns in another language is no small feat. So my hat’s off to you, it comes in German,

Simone Mueller 

I had some help with that. Just take it. And in his own, of course, we’ll also look into the four aspects of interpretation training, but not in that depth, of course, because it’s only for four weeks. However, the great thing about the owner course is that we have a look at the team. So they get instructed by us. And they have to upload some homework and some exercises where they perform certain games or tasks with their dogs. And then we instruct them how to improve the relationship and how to Yeah, to how to work with their dogs individually. And I think this is the big value of this owner course compared to the book, you can always read the book. And it’s all the basics are in there that you need to know if you’re out and about and you want to survive in the wilderness. But if you really want some one to one coaching and know how to implement it with your dog, then the owner course Oh, dear is the perfect thing for you.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, no, that sounds great. And I just, I just noticed that you actually have like a freebie free video on your website. So I just put my email address in there. And we’ll definitely be linking all of that in the show notes. And I suspect we’re going to have some folks who are really excited about getting into this and learning how to apply it with their their working dogs or their want to be working dogs. Because, again, this is a huge component of being a successful conservation dog and a successful conservation dog handler. simply avoiding taking our dogs into the woods is not an option in this field. And I don’t think is necessarily an ethical option for any dog owner, but and having our dogs on leash is also not always the best solution. Sometimes long lines are not manageable in the in the field. So how do we get to the point where r us and our dogs can work as a team out here and I think this is a huge and helpful component We, yeah, I’m really excited for this course and excited to promote it. And hopefully we’ll see some of our students in it, or some of our listeners in it as students. Yeah, is there anything else you wanted to bring up or circle back to or expand on before we, before we go here?

Simone Mueller 

Oh, maybe just the freebie that you just mentioned, I didn’t even I totally forgot about my website, and you bring it up. I really liked this game. It’s a game basically, that I share here as a freebie, it’s very simple, but it teaches your dog to stand and watch. And this is, on the one hand, it’s the basic that you need for if they want to watch wildlife without going into the chase. So this is the kind of game that you play with them first, and then they, in order to teach them what what what you want from them, because most of the dogs have never considered to stand and stalk and chase with their eyes instead of the legs. So this teaches them a context or a concept that they can, they can chase in a safe way. And it’s also a neat oriented game because it gives them an outlet, they can perform predation together with you and they can connect all these positive emotions that they feel during hunting with you as a hunting partner. And I think this makes it really nice. I really love this game. It’s called the stalking game. And I think every dog should know this game because it’s such

Kayla Fratt 

Very excited to watch it and go give it a try with I’ve gotten permission from our landowner to use. He’s got chickens, a mini donkey, a horse and a small herd of goats. And he’s given me permission to use them as as bait for all of our all of our training this summer, which has been lovely instead of trying to trying to deal with wild animals, which is just so much harder. So yeah.

Well, Simone, thank you so much for coming on the podcast, I learned so much and I’m feeling so inspired by this conversation to get out and do some training, which is always a good feeling. And for everyone at home, I think I hope you’re also feeling inspired and you want to go outside and try some production subsidy training with your dog, be a canine conservationist, and whatever way suits your passion and skill set. You can find our links to these courses, the show notes, you can donate to K9Conservationists, we have transcripts of the episodes, join our Patreon. You can buy stickers, all of that is over at k9conservationists.org and we will be back in your headphones next week talking to more amazing practitioners that help make the world of conservation dogs a little bit better and a little bit bigger. Simone, thank you so much for coming on.

Simone Mueller 

Thank you so much for having me. Thank you. I really enjoyed it!