The Rabbit!

Ray established a long a time ago the fact that he had a very strong prey drive, and walking him on a leash always had the potential for problems if caught unawares.

The advantage of only six feet of leash is that he has a very limited distance in which to accelerate to “chase speed”! I can only imagine what it would feel like if he accelerated the full length of an extendable leash! The problem of “shock” when Ray runs out of leash is compounded by his build. While I am a long way from being an expert on dogs, I still remember my physics from school, some of which does seem to have an application here!

Ray, as everybody notices when they see him, is predominantly German Shepherd and they are pretty strong dogs. Most German Shepherds that I have seen have an interesting side profile because their spinal column tends to “drop” as it runs from neck to tail. Rottweilers however seem to have a more horizontal form, and Ray is the compromise. While he may look initially like a German Shepherd, his head and his long back legs would seem to be Rotti genetics.

Back to my memories of physics and the “lever principle” (leverage ability is relative to the distance from the fulcrum), it would seem reasonable to assume that, all other things being equal, Ray’s long back legs could potentially give him some additional power!

With this background in mind, we were recently walking Ray around our general neighborhood and I was on the other end of the leash. We were in a residential area that had no sidewalks, so were walking on the edge of the road and Ray was checking out various scents in the grass alongside. I usually look a little ahead of Ray because of his habit of grabbing anything remotely edible. If I can see something that may be of interest to him before he does, I have an opportunity to use “leave it” and reward him as appropriate. As an aside, he generally responds very well to “leave it” even to the point of ignoring squirrels… but he has to hear “leave it” before his senses are totally focused on the object of interest!

At one point in our walk, I saw a rabbit. It was about 12-15 feet ahead of us and about 3 feet away from the side of the road. We were moving along quite slowly because Ray was totally engrossed in exploring scents in the grass. This was not particularly surprising because very close by was a drainage ditch and we know that many creatures “run” the ditch and shelter/hide in the pipes under the various driveways.

The rabbit was very near to a driveway, so I watched with interest as we got closer and closer. I was expecting it to see Ray and dart into the pipe. When we were about 8-10 feet away from the rabbit, I was really getting curious. The rabbit was staring at Ray obviously monitoring him very closely, but Ray had his head down and still checking out the grass.  I didn’t want to give a premature “leave it” and confuse him (“Leave what?”), but this did seem to be a good time to prepare for a sudden lunge from Ray with the resulting arm wrenching pull from the leash!

We got closer and closer and at about 6 feet from the rabbit, I was braced ready for the inevitable. The rabbit was going to leap into the pipe and Ray would have to be prevented from trying to follow it. But none of that happened. The rabbit just sat, clearly tensed up for a quick departure, and watched Ray get closer. Ray still had his head down and was snuffling through the grass!

We passed within 3 feet of a sitting rabbit and Ray showed no signs that he even knew it was there! His sense of smell has appeared to be very good on other occasions. His eyesight would seem fine, although we do occasionally wonder about that when he overlooks what, to us, is the obvious. Of course he could simply be letting his nose guide him around. Given the ability of the canine nose, I can accept that visuals are secondary to dogs. The final possibility is his proven ability to focus so strongly that not even yummy treats exist!

Our conclusion was that whatever was holding his attention in the grass was totally absorbing to the point where nothing else existed at that moment. I still find it unbelievable that Ray could walk within such close proximity to a rabbit and not react to it! Over three years with us and we are still learning things about him!

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31 thoughts on “The Rabbit!

  1. Wow! That is shocking! Gotta wonder what the smell was that had him so entranced!! Apparently it was the rabbit’s lucky day!! Yup, dogs are like teens, they can totally surprise us at times! Just when you think you got them figured out…..:)

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  2. Smelling is the #1 sense that dogs use, no doubt whatever had piqued his interest was far more interesting than any rabbit sense. Sam has done the exact same thing. Just when you think you’ve got them figured out, they go and throw you a curve. 😉

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  3. Hahaha rabbits a clever they will keep still and just watch and wait,Had Ray shown more interest in his direciont the rabbit would have bolted.Most of the time keeping still will get them out of trouble.Ray would have know the rabbit was there but as long as the rabbit kept still then there was no thrill of the chase for Ray…plus I expect he would no you would have stopped his fun anyway,xx Rachel and Speedy

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    • It will be interesting for her to get to know the Shepherd traits vs the Elkhound traits, so she can have some expectations of potential behavior! Our Ray has the herding, protective instincts of a Shepherd, with a laid back attitude which would appear to be his Rotti genes showing! Both Shepherds and Rottis are very affectionate once they get to know you (and that takes time), and both are very cautious with people they do not know. We got a “double-dose” of caution with Ray which explains why it has taken us 3 years to get him to be sociable and comfortable around other people and dogs. 🙂

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        • Very cute pup! If her husband has a history with Shepherds, and if he is planning on doing the training, I hope that he is up to date with current training techniques (positive reinforcement) rather than the domination style of a few years ago. Because of Ray’s background and resulting issues, we have been in constant touch with our Humane Society trainers, and two statements have really stuck in my mind in the context of training:
          – You can train your dog to do what you ask because that is what he wants to do, or you can train him to do what you ask because he is scared of the consequences. Choose one!
          – A dog’s mentality is about the same as a 3 yr old child. If you wouldn’t do it to a 3 yr old child, then perhaps you should not be doing it to a dog!

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  4. Reminds me of the time Jake walked right past a frog. It was inches away. He didn’t even sniff it. He was old at the time so perhaps there was no interest or the watery smell was not to his liking. I have a fabulous picture of him. He is sleeping on an outdoor lounge chair and a bird is perched on the arm. In his heyday he could knock a bird out of the air with a 4′ jump. You can’t help but wonder what’s going on in their minds.

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  5. I’d go with the scent in the grass being more interesting, but, if the rabbit had moved, then it may have been a different story. Maggie has an understanding with the rabbits here. She knows she can chase them, and they know that. However, they also know she’s not as quick as she was, and so they agree to ignore each other ‘to save face’!
    But if it was a pheasant or partridge up for grabs? Maggie doesn’t care about her age, she’d be off! (and she’d lift it!!)

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