Can you actually distract a guard dog with meat?
May 11, 2010 2:26 PM   Subscribe

Can you actually distract a guard dog with meat?
posted by mrgrimm to Pets & Animals (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
There's a Mythbusters episode that covers this in a very fun way: http://mythbustersresults.com/episode74 Their conclusion? It's plausible.
posted by cnc at 2:30 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


You need a better definition of "guard dog," I think. Certainly dogs can be trained to ignore food, so are you asking if this is part of "standard" guard dog training?
posted by contraption at 2:31 PM on May 11, 2010


Yeah, I was thinking of "professionally trained" guard dogs (whatever that means.) Is it part of their standard training to be schooled against those sort of tricks, etc.

Thanks for the Mythbusters tip, cnc. Good to know about the female dog urine.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:32 PM on May 11, 2010


For non-professional dogs, take a can of spam and poke some holes in it. They'll be taunted by the promise of meat-like product, but be unable to get to it.
posted by kanewai at 2:43 PM on May 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


I remember reading an article several years ago about the FBI distracting a mobster's guard dog by feeding it Big Macs over the course of several months (weeks?). Conditioning the dog over a period of time is the whole idea behind training, so not only would I think it was plausible, but I fail to see how you could prevent it.
posted by geoff. at 2:45 PM on May 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


on it takes a thief i never saw a dog pose a problem. you redirect them for 10 seconds and before they know it, they're locked in a bathroom/closet/laundry room.
posted by nadawi at 2:49 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tangentially related story:

I had a great-uncle who had a few german shorthair pointers. He loved those dogs, and loved talking about them. One summer day, during a BBQ, he bragged that "those damn dogs will retrieve anything." His brother replies "Oh yeah?" grabs a hot dog off of the grill, throws it into the yard and yells "FETCH!" Of course, the dogs eat the hot dog. The rest of the afternoon is spent yelling "FETCH" and feeding hot dogs to the pointers.

My dad tells this story at one of his BBQs, and his friend says "I bet I can teach my lab to fetch a hot dog." This is on memorial day. The bet is $5, due on labor day. Labor day rolls around, and the lab has polished off a LOT of hot dogs. Friend says that he tried to start with frozen dogs and work his way up to cooked ones, but not one hot dog made it back.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:51 PM on May 11, 2010 [24 favorites]


My dog eats faster than anything I've ever seen. I could throw her a 20-ounce porterhouse and I will have distracted her for about 3 seconds.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:08 PM on May 11, 2010


If you gave my dog meat like that, she'd eat it in a couple of seconds and run after you barking until she got some more.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:27 PM on May 11, 2010


I haven't watched the Mythbusters episode but I imagine that the 20 oz porterhouse distraction might work for a longer amount of time if cut into many little pieces before being flung.
posted by Morrigan at 3:28 PM on May 11, 2010


It's possible, not even hard to teach food refusal to a dog. I did it once because I was taking the guy into a situation where it was very important that he not beg. The only way I know to do it though is with punishment and, once we were out of that place I didn't keep it up as it was hard on us both. He soon forgot the training (I don't know if he remembered the trauma, but he did still trust me.), so I assume it has to be reinforced often.

If it's possible to teach a dog to carry a dead duck four hundred yards with out breaking its skin, it should be possible to teach on to carry a roast chicken too, but I've not tried. The juiciness would probably work against you.
posted by Some1 at 3:30 PM on May 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


With a "leave it' command my dog will sit and stare at a piece of steak until she's given permission to "eat it". Last week I got her to sit and watch while the cat ate a piece of beef out of the dog's bowl, the dog was a foot away from the cat. When I said "eat it", I suspect the dog considered eating the cat.

I believe a dog could be trained to ignore food under the right situation...
posted by HuronBob at 3:37 PM on May 11, 2010 [7 favorites]


My dog obeys a "leave it" command also. But that is assuming a more or less calm dog (other than the excitement! of! treats!)

That being said, in the place where we lived two houses ago, with the intact doberman next door, when our dog got into fence-fighting with the neighbor's dobie, no tasty tempting morsel of anything would distract him from the barking! and the chasing! at the other dog. Believe me, we tried it. So I think a big part of it is the frame of mind of the dog at that particular moment. If a guard dog has already decided that you are a threat, it may be too late.
posted by ambrosia at 3:44 PM on May 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Every night I set my dogs' food bowls full of raw meat and other goodies down in front of them, tell them to "leave it," then walk out of the room, wait, and say "take it," whereupon they do. They will leave it even if I'm not there watching. I don't do it to torture them--a solid "leave it" is a very useful skill and has kept them out of harm's way on numerous occasions.

Also, I haven't done this myself, but I've seen others train a dog to retrieve a piece of string cheese. You start with it in its plastic casing. And then . . . er . . . beats me. But it definitely can be done.
posted by HotToddy at 4:02 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well trained dogs have release words to eat (i.e. they don't get to eat something until a magic word is said). This prevents them from being poisoned by something they shouldn't eat. It's possible to train even a pet this way, I don't know why it wouldn't be standard issue for guard dogs. So, it's plausible you'd run into a dog this wouldn't work on.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:06 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you're looking for a way to distract a guard dog, I've heard that a mix of dried blood and cocaine on a piece of cloth works pretty well, and has the extra result of nullifying the dog's scent-following abilities.
posted by anadem at 4:11 PM on May 11, 2010


That last was a trick of the French Resistance in WWII
posted by Pressed Rat at 5:07 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


A professionally trained dog will not take anything from anyone without an ok from his handler.
If he were to what would be the point of having a guard dog?
posted by Postroad at 5:43 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is a difference between a professionally trained guard dog (think zeus and apollo from magnum P.I.) and a junkyard owner who has dogs to guard his property.

The latter could probably be distracted with meat, but it depends on how pissed it is that you are entering its zone of control. I imagine the best guard dogs are also the most well fed.
posted by outsider at 7:07 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


My dad tells this story at one of his BBQs, and his friend says "I bet I can teach my lab to fetch a hot dog." This is on memorial day. The bet is $5, due on labor day. Labor day rolls around, and the lab has polished off a LOT of hot dogs. Friend says that he tried to start with frozen dogs and work his way up to cooked ones, but not one hot dog made it back.

craven_morhead, your story tells us something about your dad's friend (he isn't a good dog trainer), but absolutely nothing about those dogs, or labs in general.

I have a buddy who can put a dripping, warm piece of bacon on his dog's nose, walk away, come back, and only then on command will the dog snatch the bacon. My buddy is a good dog trainer.


I imagine the best guard dogs are also the most well fed.

outsider, that makes no more sense than saying that the best chefs are well-fed, since they won't be tempted to eat their creations before they are served to the guests.

A well-trained dog obeys his training. They're about 99.8% genetically identical to the grey wolf (and in fact are now classified as a mere subspecies, Canis lupus familiaris). A grey wolf who disobeys the pack's hunting protocols when they're stalking the first prey they've seen in a week... is not going to be very popular, to put it mildly.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:39 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


stoneweaver:
Well trained dogs have release words to eat (i.e. they don't get to eat something until a magic word is said). This prevents them from being poisoned by something they shouldn't eat. It's possible to train even a pet this way, I don't know why it wouldn't be standard issue for guard dogs. So, it's plausible you'd run into a dog this wouldn't work on.

A security firm in Dayton OH saved bucks by going with a cheaper dog trainer, until a robbery was committed on their watch. The robber threw a dog-training jacket in with the dogs. They promptly attacked the jacket, as they were trained to do. He walked by them. Security firm was then found liable for fraudulent services, and quickly hired the expensive trainer to retrain all their dogs... at a significant premium.

So, it seems likely you can get both kinds of guard dogs:
(1)poorly trained and easily distracted, and
(2) well-trained and focused.

IME, well-trained working dogs are capable of a level of focus and attention far beyond what we mere humans can achieve. It's one of their genetic strengths.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:49 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I used to be a part of a dog training forum and one of the tasks that some of the advanced trainers worked on was having their dog retrieve cheese sticks. As in, the dog would be holding the cheese in their mouths without eating it. It's a progressive trick, but my dogs were so eager to please that when they realized I wanted them to spit out the cheese eventually, they would immediately spit out the cheese if I gave it to them, and later refused to take it at all. Several of the trainers were able to teach their dogs to carry cheese sticks without eating them though.

My dogs do not eat their food unless released to do so. I frequently feed them as I am leaving the house so they don't notice me leaving. On a few occasions, they apparently did not hear me release them. I would come home several hours later to find two full bowls of food and two dogs lying forlornly in front of their food bowls.

In the obedience class we used to go to, every class begins and ends with all the dogs sitting in an extended down/stay. Off leash. Bitches in season are allowed in the class, as well as intact male dogs, as many dogs are also doing conformation showing. While I have had to deal with my dog rolling around in the grass like a loon on certain days when he just wants to goof off, he did not have any problem doing 3 minute off leash down-stay about 6 feet away from an in-season bitch.

Dogs can be trained to do many things. While the vast majority of dogs will probably succumb to the temptation of a steak (or better yet, a nice slice of liver or a hunk of marrow bone), my own dogs included, dogs that were explicitly trained to ignore such distractions do exist. I believe this is a standard part of Schutzhund training.
posted by hindmost at 12:37 AM on May 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Note than a standard part of some dog obedience and agility training is for the dog to refuse food or to carry food to the handler without eating it. So, absolutely, dogs can be trained not to simply scarf stuff down.
posted by rodgerd at 2:47 AM on May 12, 2010


My goofy home-trained Austrailian Shepherd-Corgi mix wouldn't eat a Cheerio dropped on the floor without my foot-tap saying it was OK, so, yeah, I can imagine a professionally-trained guard dog not being tempted by a steak.

On the other hand--this was in my presence, and he knew he had to obey me. I'm not convinced that training would transfer to a stranger. But then, this was Buster, not Apoolo or Zeus.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:34 AM on May 12, 2010


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