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Should I be letting my dog off lead?

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Ambers Mum, Mar 28, 2011.


  1. Ambers Mum

    Ambers Mum PetForums Newbie

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    Hi,

    I have a 6 month old boxer bitch, she is very energetic so I like to let her off lead when I take her out for a walk, I have fields near my house.
    She runs around but follows where I go as we walk. However if she sees another person or dog she runs off to them to play, she ignores me and will not come back.
    This has happened twice, so what I do is let her off lead but if I see someone in distance approaching I get her back on lead.
    Should I be letting her off the lead if she hasn't learned to come back to me with distractions around.
    How do people teach recall? Do they not let their dogs off lead at all untill they know they will always come back?
    My only worry with this is that she wont burn off her energy!

    Thanks :)
     
  2. Pineapple

    Pineapple PetForums Member

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    Hi, I've been having a hard time with my dog's recall - he's 8 months old, and very keen on other dogs, and much like yours, he'll stick close throughout a walk, but if he spots another dog approaching, he'll be off to investigate and it's been a challenge trying to get his recall working once he's made contact.

    I had a trainer work with me and her advice was to use a long line, let the line trail behind the dog, and periodically call the dog to you and reward with play (or a treat - my dog prefers tug games when we're out)

    When another dog approaches, take up the end of the long line and let the dogs sniff each other, then urge your dog to leave the dog and follow you and immediately treat or play tug when he does. The idea being to narrow the 'window' where the dog is switching off to you, and try to make coming back to you fun.

    I have to say, I really didn't get on with this method at all - walks were really unpleasant, I'd be hauled along by the dog at times when he wanted to run to another dog, or else people tend to keep their dogs at a distance when they see your dog is on a long line.

    Here's what I've been doing the last few weeks, and it's been working really well for me: I stopped walking my dog so much on the beach and walk him instead where there are lots of little hills and tussocks with grass. Whenever he gets too far ahead, I'll duck down out of view and wait for him to notice he's 'lost' me. I'll then blow on my whistle (which I've been using at home to call him in from the garden), and he comes straight to me. I've been trying to do this before he runs to other dogs, so he'll associate coming to the whistle with impending play time with dogs. It's been going pretty well, and I've found the key is to tap into his need to keep me in sight. When he hears the whistle and turns and can't see me, he'll leave off what he's doing to find me. As your dog is also young and wanting to stick near you (when there're no distractions around), I think you can tap into this too.

    Of course, he still has his moments of deafness (when he's started a big game with another dog for example), but I've noticed a big improvement using this method.

    Hope that helps, different dogs respond to different things, so if you can persevere with the long line that might work better for you - I personally found it nightmarish & much prefer the hide & whistle method.
     
    #2 Pineapple, Mar 28, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2011
  3. Sled dog hotel

    Sled dog hotel PetForums VIP

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    6mths or so is the age when dogs often do this, even ones that came before can start to be more interested in other things. They can also come into season or be getting ready for it in the next month or too, and hormones and things deffinately doesnt help the situation. If they learn to run off and avoid you now, you can have an ongoing battle.

    I would keep her on either a long line or a flexi giant extendable (The ones with the wide webbing all the way through) while you are practicing recall training. If she has already become deaf to being called, then sometimes training with a whistle can help.

    Start indoors, with the whistle and some treats, high value ones like cheese,chicken sausages and hot dogs are usually good, Keep these for recall only. Just walk around, and every time you whistle treat her immediately
    she should follow you. After you have had a few sessions indoors, try it when she is in the gaarden sniffing about, stand by the back door and whistle and treat when she comes. Then try it from inside the house. If all that goes ok then try outside, on the long line or extendable. Start where there are few distractions and if and as she gets better, do it where there are more and build up.

    Keep whistling her back periodically throughout the walk, After treating send her away again with go play. Sometimes when you get her back, throw a ball a couple of times, or play tug before sending her to go play again. This should teach her being called and coming isnt end of walk, and also keeps her interest and focus as she doesnt know what she is going to get a game or treat or both for coming back.

    Never run after her to catch her, they get wise to it and think its a game of catch me if you can. Try whistling and running in the other direction instead,
    it then becomes a chase me game, You can do this anyway as a game and reward. You can also hide behind things and whistle, and when she comes to find you treat. If there is two of you any time, you can both have treats or balls or tug toys, calling her backwards and forwards between you to keep her focus and recall.

    Never just take her somewhere, let her off and dont recall her until its time for lead and home. They get wise to that too, and are more likely to run off.
    You can even try, calling her back, practicing a few minutes walking with you and then sending her away again to go play in between.

    Hope this will help.
     
  4. kaisa624

    kaisa624 PetForums VIP

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    We call Holly back numerous times of a walk. Half just for recall practice and treats, half for back on lead, so that way she doesn't know which reason she's coming back, just that she gets a treat :)
     
  5. Chihuahua Clothes Mikey

    Chihuahua Clothes Mikey PetForums Newbie

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    I'll ofter a little different perspective here. Personally, I'm not ok with my dogs not coming when called. I really believe in the pack leadership mentality, and if my dog runs off in front of me on his own will, then that is very clearly a sign that he is not following me and sees himself as the leader in our pack of me and him. In nature, you would never see a dog running off in front of his leader--he would get his ass kicked for that. That's the instinctive rule that dogs have between the leader and the followers, and I tap into that. Every dog belongs to a pack, and every pack has a leader. And that leader is me. I condition my dogs to stick by my side, regardless of what is going on around us. It's never ok for them to get distracted out of that "migrating" mode where we're traveling together on a walk.

    That's the perspective I live by. It's not one I see many other owners living, but it works well for me. Hope that helps in some way! :)
     
  6. sunshine80

    sunshine80 PetForums VIP

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    I suppose it depends alot on how busy an area you walk your dog in. Sonny has unrealiable recall around people and other dogs so if I see someone coming then he gets called back and put on the lead. I still let him off lead when there is no one else about though and he can run about as he pleases as long as he comes back when called.
     
  7. RobD-BCactive

    RobD-BCactive PetForums VIP

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    My dog follows, even if he's ahead, aside or behind; I can recall him. Obedience is nothing to do with Pack Leader stuff but conditionaing, consistency, bonding & play and rewards based training. What I did was ensure plenty of play with pups & dogs when he was young, and have him refocus on me to calm. I have him closer when we pass on leash dogs, we don't know and he stays out of trouble.

    At puppy stage, when he would rush up to ppl and to greet dogs in a group that met regularly, then I would avoid recalling him, until I thought he would come back. If the situation wasn't safe (had to watch out for joggers etc who might get him chasing them), then I'd have him on long leash, with extended training line. So recall got solid before he teethed and started any teenage stage. I worked hard on having him learn to ignore things that he liked to chase, and soon I could tell he wasn't trying to shoot off after them, so he was off leash more and more of the time.

    Just kept working hard on it, making sure it was reinforced with play, praise and also occasionally food rewards.

    From what you are saying, probably meeting more dogs & people, will make the strangers less interesting, and she'll be easier to control. That's not meant to contradict Sled Dog Hotel, kaisa264 & Pineapples suggestions.

    I don't like calling the dog back, to just put them on the lead. Far better to have a quck game of tug and then do it :)
     
  8. Bobbie

    Bobbie PetForums VIP

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    I think at this age they are like teenagers and when do they do as they are told just keep at it and you will succeed. Even if you will feel a bit down at times somehow you will hit on the one thing your dog will come back for.
     
  9. Colliepoodle

    Colliepoodle PetForums VIP

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    Cesar? J Fennell?
     
  10. leashedForLife

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    :lol: dogs don't form 'packs'; the pair-bond is the foundation of any pack, and dogs are not monogamous.
    * male dogs don't co-rear their pups
    * male dogs don't feed the bitch when she is denning
    * packs of dogs don't co-operatively rear a single litter
    dogs don't migrate, either - they are territorial & stay in a general area, often with a pretty
    regular schedule of scavenging here, get a drink there, nap in the shade around X time...
    at a guess, i'd say U have overdosed on the Dawg-Wrassler, who is not a scientifically accurate source. ;)
     
  11. haeveymolly

    haeveymolly PetForums VIP

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    Never had much of a problem really with any of mine and i have done exactly the same with them all, let them off lead the first time out so around 12 weeks and taught recall before that, what i have never done is put them on a lead when ive seen someone approaching as i think they quicky realise this and dont stay near as they know the lead will go on, ive always used distraction, luckily our regular walk which i tended to stick too till they got better i knew more or less all the dogs so knew if they did ignore me they wernt in any danger.
     
  12. ballybee

    ballybee PetForums VIP

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    Tummel did this and i felt exactly the same, he's a lab X rhodesian ridgeback so it's extremely important for him to get enought exercise. He wouldn't ever come back if there was a distraction but one day i called his bluff and walked away...he followed me! Everytime we're now having an offlead walk off the farm and some walks on the farm(i put him onlead when i know theres a risk of him getting into livestock...i live on a cattle farm so it's for his own safety) i now completely ignore any distraction(including the farm collie who is dog aggressive), and any wrong turns Tummel may take and he actually does follow. I see it as him going "we're going this way now" and by refusing to follow him he gives in and follows me....i'm his source of food, affection, play and warmth so why would he choose to leave that?

    Even now he has his bad days where he refuses to listen and come back....i solve this by turning around and heading home no matter how far away we are...even if it's just 10 feet from the gate i make it clear i will not leave the house if he isn't prepared to listen to me...then for any other walks that day it's strictly onlead as he has "days" rather than walks where he acts up :blink:

    So anyway....try calling her bluff in an empty space and see what she does...if all goes well you can progress to having distractions around. Tummel will now run off to greet a dog, watch me walk past(i can now actually interact with dogs as well and still have him walk away with me) then follow me to carry on walking.
     
  13. Colliepoodle

    Colliepoodle PetForums VIP

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    Oh, don't spoil it! I was quite enjoying the mental image of a majestic flock of Poodles swooping by, their yapping barely audible over the whirring of their little propeller tails.....
     
  14. leashedForLife

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    :lol: [narrator] "the biannual migration of the Poodles of the Serengeti, filmed by National Geographic..."
     
  15. RobD-BCactive

    RobD-BCactive PetForums VIP

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    But do be fair!

    If they head south for the winter, north for the summer then they may be a migrating pack. I don't know how the dogs would detour to Thailand though, beats me, may be they build rafts from sticks and old tug toys? :)
     
  16. Chihuahua Clothes Mikey

    Chihuahua Clothes Mikey PetForums Newbie

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    hey sorry Ambers Mum, I tried to help. Didn't mean to attract the haters into your discussion :) For your sake and to be brutally clear, by "migrate", I mean "go somewhere"; and by "pack", I mean the common term we use to describe a group of dogs, haha. The jokers will be jokers.

    Like I said, I know a lot of people get riled up over this advice, but speaking from years of experience working with many very difficult dogs at shelters all over the world, both as full time work and volunteering, and working with dogs in almost every way imaginable, I've become very strongly convinced that it's both faster and more effective to tap into the instinct that already exists in a dog, instead of installing an understanding of obedience commands in them. I've used both, but after testing out what I do now with dogs and giving it each my best, seeing how much more quicker it works and how consistently the dogs follow it, I don't see myself going back any time soon.

    I hope you find a solution for this case with your dog! :001_smile:
     
  17. RobD-BCactive

    RobD-BCactive PetForums VIP

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    No retractiion of the fallacy "In nature, you would never see a dog running off in front of his leader--he would get his ass kicked...". What makes your advice credible, if you play fast & loose on your assertions?

    Why do you think that training a dog using positive-reinforcement isn't equally "tapping into the instinct that already exists"?

    How many people, find untrained feral dogs behaviour eg) Wild Dingos or Indian Rubbish Dump dogs, a suitable model for a pet?


    This is not about "Haters", your label, this was about what works well for us. I can assure you that the dogs I meet from shelters without obedience commands causes great inconvenience and difficulty for their loving owners. They find they do need to train them.

    On "Migrate" Migration - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia you'll see that "Animal migration, the travelling of long distances in search of a new habitat " would be the generally accepted definition, and not "go somewhere".

    If the DW does not care about accuracy, then what other advice is going to be wildly wrong?


    Are you seriously implying that the solution to a recall problem of a young dog is
    So how would you suggest that is actually done? How are the play & socialisation needs of this dog to be fulfilled, when it is so conditioned, and how if you permit the dog to run around, does this conditioning mean it knows that you recall?

    Dogs were bred to do jobs and many of those required speed running, without solid trained recall, your "never leave side" dog will not be a fit, healthy example but a stifled and frustrated creature without outlets.
     
    #17 RobD-BCactive, Mar 30, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2011
  18. keirk

    keirk PetForums Member

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    While I think that your ideas - almost word for word from the CM himself - are utter nonsense, I've don't doubt they work.

    But, not because you are "tapping into the instinct" of the dog - more dogs are so adaptable they will almost put up with any old crap from us - as long as you keep feeding them.

    It's proven that feral domestic dogs (we are not talking about wolves here) will not form packs. Dogs are social animals, yes - pack animals, no.

    So recall has nothing to do with the "pack". Nor how much the dog loves you. Nor anything else. Its a skill you have to teach. Simple operant conditioning. The dog doesnt come back when you recall because you've not taught him to in that situation.


    To the OP - you teach recall, like any other skill, firstly in an area where there are no distractions, from a short distance, and reward the dog (with something of value to the dog - my dog will work for hot dog in the house - but food is of less value in the park - but tennis balls rule everywhere). Then add distance. Then add distractions (other people / a new area / other dogs) gradually (ie the dogs are far away / or the new area does have many interesting smells (like a tennis court)). If you end up in a situation where you know the dog will ignore the command - go and get them or use a long line.

    Hope that helps.
     
    RobD-BCactive likes this.
  19. haeveymolly

    haeveymolly PetForums VIP

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    My springers will walk by our side, thats not to say they dont get the right exercise a springer would go crazy if all it did was walk by our sides but they will are able to do when needs must and as you never know when you are going to need this to happen is always a good idea to at least try and train this, i really cant understand tho why mine will/can do this but pull like trains when on the lead:confused: oh well thats springers for ya.:D
     
  20. leashedForLife

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    since the instincts U refer to and count upon don't, in fact, exist -- the reason it works is because dogs are very plastic,
    and manage to cope with a lot of frank junk: a huge spectrum running the gamut from mostly-decent teaching with
    some bad stuff popping up, to mostly-mediocre with a lot of bad stuff, to appallingly bad with much harsh handling.

    commands AKA cues are neither more nor less than a label for an action - i say X, U do Y -
    and cannot come into play until after the dog knows the behavior: there is no point in shouting, sit! Sit! SIT!...
    when the dog has no bloody idea what the heck U want - teach the behavior, then label the action [add the cue].
    i can teach dogs that i never touch in a shelter-run to come to the front & sit as a default, it's easy
    and requires no "cue" whatsoever - the person arriving at the gate or door is the cue.

    re bad training, poor grasp of behavior science, etc -
    the number of really-good teachers & trainers is growing, but there are plenty of dawg-wrassler wannabes
    as well as shock-the-dog/pup-into-compliance franchisees & barf-bluster or lisstner franchisees, around the world -
    by the time we add the classic-Koehler crowd & other punish the dog into good behavior drill-sargeants,
    there's a slew of misapprehension, misinformation & balderdash out there.
    this myth that real training takes a long time is just that - teaching is fast & simple, if done well -
    any naive dog can learn at an incredible rate, given clear direction & being rewarded for right-behavior.
    it's about eliminating or reducing the odds of wrong-answers [management] & setting the dog up for success:
    make the wrong answer difficult or impossible, make the right-answer easy or inevitable, and make
    the right-answer pay off... while wrong-answers give no rewards.


    good teaching of naive dogs or pups is quick, but needs practice to become habitual & fluent - if they are taught,
    and then the taught behavior is not practiced or the cue/behavior maintained, it will fade-away & die.
    so practice & maintenance are critical to retain learned behaviors, & not have them evaporate over time.

    behavior modification takes longer simply because UNlearning means disassembling old habits, & then
    teaching the new desirable preferred-behavior, so it inevitably takes longer than teaching a naive dog or pup.
     
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