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By shaping behaviors with Operant Conditioning, you can train your Lacy Dog to perform complex tasks in a matter of minutes.

By shaping behaviors with Operant Conditioning, you can train your Lacy Dog to perform complex tasks in a matter of minutes.

Ever since B.F. Skinner laid out the foundations of Operant Conditioning, OC based methods have been increasingly used to teach dogs and other animals a wide variety of behaviors. Much of the original development of the training techniques occurred at marine parks, where scientists and trainers were assisted by graduate students and Skinner’s children. Then, with the aid and impetus of the Internet, groups of dog owners and trainers alike discovered the benefits of OC and the Positive Training movement began to explode. Today, there remain two fundamentally different approaches to dog training: Positive Reinforcement (Here Fifi sweetie, come to Mommy and you get this treat) and Traditional (Hey Atlas, you crazy cur, stay away from that rabbit trail or my boot is going where the sun don’t shine). The trend, however, is clearly towards OC based Positive Reinforcement training methods. Dogs trained with the new techniques have shown, in obedience, agility and other competitions, that these techniques produce results that equal or surpass Traditional correction based training methods. The most popular OC based training method, by far, is Clicker Training. Originally conceptualized by Karen Pryor at Sealife Marine Park in Hawaii, Clicker Training has even being used for performance training of human athletes.

Why you should understand Operant Conditioning

“But I have a hog hunting/blood tracking/herding Lacy Dog bred to do those things. And he does them. What do I need with some fancy technique?” Well, the funny thing is you already use Operant Conditioning with your dog, all the time, every single day. This is so important I’m going to repeat it. You are use Operant Conditioning, every day, every time you interact with your dog! Now, given you are going to do something, don’t you want to get it right? Hey, you have a Lacy Dog. You know he is smarter than 99.9% of the dogs out there, and I bet your dog watches every little thing you say and do. You picked your dog because of what he is capable of doing. So make the most of it!

And there is a specific reason why this is the right technique for a Lacy Dog, even more so than for other breeds. Reading the NLDA Breed Standard, a Lacy is to have “incredible drive and determination to work.” These are reflections of a Lacy’s high prey drive, or predatory instinct. Lacy Dogs are bred to retain as much of their wild wolf ancestor’s predatory instinct as possible and still be safe around humans. One of the things that separates wild predators from domestic animals is that wild predators cannot be successfully disciplined. You can’t discipline a killer whale or a tiger, and, most importantly, you can’t use discipline to successfully train a wolf. Yank on a wolf’s collar and all he does is yank back even harder. Read the rest of this entry »

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blue lacy family

Though the Lacy is a wonderfully unique breed, it’s not easy owning a driven working dog. This breed can be challenging and isn’t for everyone. So what type of person should own a Lacy Dog?

1.) You have a real job for your dog. Lacys are very popular with hog hunters in Texas. They make great tracking dogs for deer hunters. They are a huge help to professional trappers. Cattle ranchers can move an entire herd with just two dogs. If you want to compete at the top levels of agility or flyball, these dogs have the natural talent to take you there. And they make good all-purpose ranch dogs, patrolling the property, killing varmints and protecting their family. But if you have to make up a job to justify having a Lacy, this isn’t the right breed for you. If you need a working companion, Lacys are incredibly driven, intelligent dogs that rise to the challenge.

2.) You have a very active lifestyle. If you’re a professional rancher or hunter, that is pretty much taken care of. But people who want to use Lacys for tracking or dog sports need to keep their dogs active and entertained on a daily basis. Lacys don’t make good couch potatoes, especially when they are young. Long daily walks are just the beginning when it comes to meeting their exercise needs. So if you like to go jogging in the mornings and hiking every weekend before deer season starts, you might make a good Lacy owner.

3.) You are an experienced dog owner. Lacys are extremely smart dogs, and while that means they can learn new tasks very quickly, it also leads to independent thinking and testing boundaries. Many Lacy owners say their dogs talk back to them and will even question their authority. This breed is very pack oriented, so it’s especially important their owner is a strong leader. All of that can be overwhelming for first-time owners. But if you have experience with curs or active herding dogs, you might be prepared for a Lacy. Read the rest of this entry »

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There is no single, surefire method to train a Lacy on hogs. Each dog is different and what works for one hunter may not work for another. However, these are some of the things we’ve found most successful with our own dogs as well as other dogs we have trained. Please remember safety first and be patient.

The first step, regardless of the dog’s age, is introducing them to a hog. Our own pups start that process at six to eight weeks old, always on a hog of equal or smaller size. The puppies typically see the piglet as a playmate until the piglet nips them, which is usually what “keys” the pup off. Older dogs may need a companion to help them find their way. We use one of our finished dogs to teach older pups and dogs the first few times. After that introduction, we have them work alone for a while so they learn to trust themselves.

As the dog progresses and gains confidence, as well as knowledge of how the hog moves and thinks, we graduate them up in hog size until they can control a 200 to 250 pound boar efficiently. Repetition is important, working the dog on a daily bases increases their drive and helps keep them focused. A young pup will have a short attention span, so five to ten minutes a day is enough. Older dogs can work anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. It’s important not to overwork your dog. Give them breaks and let them get a drink. Read the rest of this entry »

Lacys were developed to be an all-around working dog. Our new series, Lacys at Work, explores the numerous jobs the breed excels at.

lacy agility jump

What is agility?
This modern dog sport is all about speed and accuracy. Modeled after equestrian show jumping, the goal of the handler and their dog is to complete a set of obstacles in the fastest time without any disqualifications. The most common obstacles are the bar jump, tire jump, tunnel, chute, teeter, A-frame, dog walk, weave poles and pause table. Courses are designed to test the team with tight turns, close obstacles, distance work and much more. In addition to standard agility, some organizations offer classes like jumpers, gambler’s choice, juniors and relays. But whether or not you want to compete, agility training is a great way to challenge your Lacy both physically and mentally.

How do agility dogs work?
The most important quality of a winning agility team is obedience. Dogs must run through the course without a leash, treats or toys. A close connection between the dog and their handler is extremely important. They must be in constant communication via hand signals and voice commands to successfully navigate a challenging course. Dogs also need to be accurate in order to earn a qualifying score for their round. To earn credit for the dog walk, A-frame and teeter, they must touch the yellow contact zones at the beginning and end of the obstacle. When negotiating the weave poles, the dog must enter to the right of the first pole and proceed through the entire series without missing any. They also must negotiate the tire correctly, jumping through the center ring, and cannot knock down jump poles. Speed is icing on the cake. Of the dogs that complete the proper course with no faults, the fastest round wins. Read the rest of this entry »

Always On The Go
It is hard to resist a beautiful blue Lacy puppy. In addition to their unique good looks, they are incredibly intelligent with an intriguing history and entertaining personality. But don’t forget that the Lacy was bred for decades to work on ranches in the Texas Hill Country. They have the stamina, energy and intense drive needed to hunt wild hogs, herd rough cattle, face trapped predators and track wounded bucks. In a few months, the adorable puppy curled up in your lap will become a very active adult dog ready for a job.

Will you be ready? Have you planned for life with an energetic, indefatigable, driven working dog? In 2001, these were the top ten reasons people relinquished their dogs to a shelter:

    Moving
    Landlord issues
    Cost of pet maintenance
    No time for pet
    Inadequate facilities
    Too many pets at home
    Pet illness
    Personal problems
    Biting
    No home for littermates

Read the rest of this entry »

Lacys were developed to be an all-around working dog. Our new series, Lacys at Work, explores the numerous jobs the breed excels at.

jerry and diggerWhat is blood tracking?
Blood tracking is the art of using a dog to trail and find wounded game. In Texas, blood dogs are mainly used to trail wounded deer. Hunting leases in this part of the world range anywhere from $8 to $20 per acre and trophy deer packages may cost anywhere from $2,500 to $20,000, so any tool that can be utilized to recover a wounded deer is well worth the effort. Blood tracking dogs are trained to follow a scent trail of blood as well as microscopic scent particles eliminated from a deer’s wound. An experienced dog will also track the scent from the inter-digital gland located between the hoofs when a blood trail runs out.

How do blood tracking dogs work?
Tracking dogs utilize any scent particle that is eliminated from a deer’s wound or body to find the animal. These scents are not only limited to blood, they also include stomach material, other tissue and tarsal gland secretions. The dogs must be able to associate the blood track and scent it is following with one particular wounded deer, staying on track even if another deer has walked over the trail. An experienced dog will be able to avoid all distractions and remain focused on its task. When a dog finds a dead deer, they normally stay by their find and begin to eat on it. A live wounded deer is another story. The dog must be able hold the animal in one area by baying, and if the bay breaks, the dog must be able to stop the deer by biting it in the leg and keep baying it until the handler arrives to dispatch the deer. Read the rest of this entry »

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