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What does anyone do with a dog that runs off?

(35 Posts)
silentcatastrophe Sun 28-Aug-11 20:03:08

I have probably asked this before.... Our pup (18 months) bolts and comes home only when he is good and ready. I have spoken to so many trainers and behaviourists about this, but am really no further forward. Do we simply have a delinquent dog? A behaviourist did come to the house, but frankly he was rubbish and told me to do what I was already doing, and provided categorically no insight whatsoever. This man is a member of reputable organisations, and I was really quite taken aback. One sheepdog trainer thought that we might have to resort to a collar of some sort, which I haven't done, because I don't want to worsen the situation. Next week we are off to see another sheepdog trainer, who uses a thing called The Natural Method.
When horror dog is on a line, he behaves really well, and like a normal dog. Off the lead, he just goes. He is not deaf, and to date, the pleasure he gets from racing around is infinitely greater than anything we can offer him.

I don't like keeping dogs on the lead one bit unless I have to. We have the problem that if he won't come back, he can't go off.

Jaynerae Sun 28-Aug-11 20:56:21

I had this problem with my beagle, I am happy to say she recalls to a whistle like a speeding bullet now.

I stopped letting her off the lead and kept her on a long line until I was confident she was sufficiently trained to go off lead again.

I decided to train her to recall to a whistle as I know she can sense stress and anger in my voice which is unavoidable when she is haring around ignoring you!

I started training her at home, had her on a short lead in house and garden, blew whistle when she looked at me I gave her a treat. Kept doing this for couple of days, then let her off lead in garden, blew whistle, she came to me for treat, as she now associated whistle with treat. Kept doing this at random times from within house in other rooms and in garden, when she could and couldn't see me. Once she came every time I whistled I took her to the park.

I put her on a 20ft training line and practised whistle and treat again. I did this for a week until she came back every time.

Then when I was confident she was ready, I left an ordinary lead on her but let it trail behind her, and let her run, whistle treat, just kept repeating. I left lead on it to make it easier to catch her if I needed to.

After another couple of weeks I took lead off totally and let her go. Now have very good recall. She will ignore me if she has found food to steal though! But I am conscious of environment when I want to let her off, and if I see any potential distractions I will keep her on long line till it's passed. I also recall her several times and put lead on at random times so she does not know when lead is going on to go home.

I am not a trainer, I took this advice from a trainer and with patience and lots of practice it worked.

Hope it works for you too.

RedwingWinter Sun 28-Aug-11 20:58:53

What kind of dog do you have? Mine is a malamute/husky cross and he just can't go off lead, ever, except in a secure enclosure.

Having said that, I still practise recall with him in case he ever escapes (it has happened a couple of times already, by accident). In the house, I turn it into a game, call him with a treat in my hand and then run away so he has to chase me to get the treat. It is helping a lot, and he seems to find it fun. When we are at the dog park with lots of distractions, it is much more difficult. I'm hoping more practise will help!

Mine likes to think for himself about whether or not to obey a command. You can almost see his mind working ('do you have a piece of sausage in your hand? can't smell anything so perhaps I'll just ignore you'). It takes him five minutes to decide whether or not to sit, so I'm not the best person to be giving training advice, except that this selective deafness is just a trait of malamutes.

I can sympathize, though. I would love to see my dog running around off-lead, but I know it's just not going to happen. He would be too busy chasing squirrels, digging up mice, and just running, and it would be hours before he thought of coming back.

Abra1d Sun 28-Aug-11 21:04:49

We do something called 'go touch'. Our dog has to run to us and touch a Pringles lid with her nose and then she gets a treat and we say 'Good touch,'. She finds this great fun. But we are very careful where we let her off now. If it is too rabbitty or if there are other dogs or livestock, she stays on the lead. Having had a pair of dogs who ran off all the time I have grown to lose patience with the worry. My extendable lead is used a lot.

silentcatastrophe Mon 29-Aug-11 09:55:41

Thank you for your replies all! Jaynerae, we have tried for month after month after month doing exactly what has worked for you. It has not worked for me!! I am also rather confused by the idea of blowing a whistle/calling the dog, when it is as clear as it could be that he is not listening. Surely by using the whistle/name, you are teaching the dog to ignore you?

This dog is a farm collie. A failed sheepdog, in the best possible way of course!

Abra1d Mon 29-Aug-11 10:02:27

Get him very interested in the Pringles lid. Don't catch him when he touches it but give him a treat and say GOOD TOuch in an excited way. Then he won't associate it with being put on his lead, just with something interesting happening.

This doesn't work when they were chasing prey, but does if you want to do 'ordinary' catching.

minimu11 Mon 29-Aug-11 11:10:42

Silentcatastrophe I feel your pain! You have worked so hard with this dog and it is frustrating that what usually works for other dogs is not seeming to work with this one.

The advantage of a whistle is maybe that the pitch of the whistle penetrates the dogs brain better than your voice. You don't teach the dog to recall to the whistle just that if it hears the whistle it gets the best game or food ever. (yep in our eyes a recall but to the dog fun times!)

However I think you have other issues going on here not just a dodgy recall.

What is the dog like generally
Is he reactive to noise?
Does he chase things ?
Does he scent or track?
Does he run off after specific things or just leg it for no specific reason?

Just to let you know you are not alone here is a blog from an experienced dog trainer who is having just the same issues as you here. It is not you or your training it is just a tricky dog who will eventually make you a fantastic dog trainer and owner when you have cracked this!

Booboostoo Mon 29-Aug-11 11:24:56

A long line is a veyr good solution for dogs that won't recall but you need the patience of a saint!

The long line works like this: you attach a really long, really light weight (must be light weight so the dog forgets it's there) line to the dog's collar and find an area without too many obstructions for the line to get tangled in. You let the dog off the lead as normal, allowing the line to trail behind him (make sure it doesn't get tangled anywhere and pulls on the dog). When you want to recall give your command and if the dog ignores you step on the line so he can't go any further. Walk to the dog stepping on the line all the way so he can't move any further, two fingers under collar and then reverse back to where you were when you called him. When you get there give a fantastic treat (sausage, cheese, etc), priase and release. You are teaching the dog that you have control even when he thinks he is free and no matter what he has to return to where you called him from, which when he does return is a pleasant event. Repeat ad nauseum, do not allow off the long line and you may need to keep at this for a few months but at the end you will have a recall!

silentcatastrophe Mon 29-Aug-11 19:11:53

Horror dog takes no interest (so far) in livestock or small fluffy things, and he doesn't appear to be sniffing anything in particular. He has no fear of noises like fireworks or guns etc. When he's off, he often stops and slows right down, has a gentle potter, and leaps around in no particular direction. He is then happy to come close, have a sniff, and race off again, only too fast for us to catch him. I don't call for him, because I know he can hear me, and he's simply taking no notice. I have told him to drop the ball, which he does, and he will look up briefly on hearing his name.

It is possible that the line the dog is on is too heavy. He has run off with it on, and we have to wait until we hear him bark somewhere because he has got stuck. Otherwise we are doing exactly what you say, Boo! We have been doing it for about 6 months now. He is brilliant on the line, and behaves very well. He looks at us, comes to us when we move away from him, moves with us. But, given the slightest opportunity, he will be off and into the sunset.

I so hope he survives and that we can learn to be better guardians.

silentcatastrophe Mon 29-Aug-11 19:19:00

I'm just taking a look at the link, Minimu. Thank you for that. Is it the same dog????? Toby is so lovely and kind in so many ways, but the running off is something else. I'll report back when we have seen the sheepdog trainer later this week. I am relieved that I am not the only one! It is awful being responsible for a dog who is effectively completely out of control.

Kingsroadie Mon 29-Aug-11 21:29:09

I also have the same problem (although clearly not as bad as my puppy is only 5 months old). He bolts when he sees another dog. He LOVES other dogs (they don't always love him as he jumps all over them). I try and prevent it as much as possible by catching him before he runs. But with a toddler this isn't always possible. I have bought special sheepskin and rabbit fur toys I bring out in the park and a ball on a rope, use hotdog treats and a whistle. He was pretty good at coming back when we first started using the whistle but is now not very good (He is fine in the house but it's with the distraction of another dog).

We have used a long line but he runs at full pelt and then almost kills himself when the longline stops/we step on it. Ie so fast he flipped over with my husband this weekend - which makes me worried to use it! I have read Culture Clash etc and lots of books about making myself the most interesting, but no matter how hard I try with the above things, I am still not more interesting than other dogs. I mean, my puppy just goes mad for other dogs and they mostly aren't interested. Even the other puppies. He is a bit of a lunatic generally - he is a cockapoo and very very lively, but he does sit, down, off, paw, stay etc very well. He is still entire and we plan on having him chopped soon (our vet advises asap but as he is a poodle cross she wants to wait another few weeks or a month to check he loses his baby canines - apparently poodles sometimes don't and have to have them out so she would whip them out at the same time as castration), which may (hopefully) help.

So really I am asking Minimu for a bit of advice - do I keep persevering with the longline (even though it regularly garotts him?!) and recall/pulling him back if he ignores me, then treating etc. He really needs to be off lead to burn his masses of energy. At the moment I mostly let him off only in the dog run (but he can get under the fence at one part of it which isn't ideal by any means) as I can't 100% concentrate on him with the toddler too. Although I do sometimes let him off in the main park. We live in London btw so he can bolt but it's a small park and he can't get that far (maybe 100m across). However, obv we really need to sort it out!

Thanks so much in advance, sorry for hijack and silent - I feel your pain (although you seem to have done so much and are clearly far more experienced than me! grin )

mymumdom Mon 29-Aug-11 21:40:56

We have a lurcher, a saluki/ greyhound cross. She loves her walks and could easily outrun me if she thought about it. She also has a strong prey drive but luckily for me she is not very bright.
I will only let her out the front door with her lead on, I click the latch on the lead a few times before I put it on her and this drives her into a frenzy of excitement. When I let her off the lead, I can call her, whistle, wave a sausage around madly, she ignores me completely. But if I stand still and click the lead-catch she's there by my side, begging for me to put the lead on so she can go for a walk, even though she's already free to run.
Intelligence in dogs is over rated...

mymumdom Mon 29-Aug-11 21:44:55

Kingsroadie, what about putting a harness on your pup with the longline so you don't hurt his neck? At 5 months, he's not even a teenager, I'd let him hang on to his bits until he was lifting his leg if I were you.

Kingsroadie Mon 29-Aug-11 22:04:53

Mymum - good idea re harness! Thanks! Your dog sounds hilarious - mine is very sharp sadly - may be my downfall. A friend has a saluki who also isn't the brightest spark... grin

Re the chop - I know there are differing opinions on when to do it - I haven't actually had a chance to read into yet to make an informed decision - just going by what my vet has advised me ( I think you are also a vet!) ... won't be doing it for at least another month or so though, and will research it properly before making a decision! Thank you!

minimu11 Mon 29-Aug-11 22:10:15

Yep always use a long line with a harness.

I would not get him castrated to stop him running off - I doubt that it will help at all with that. Obviously get him castrated for health reasons and to prevent accidental mating.

If you are not getting any obvious issues eg spraying furniture etc I delay castration until after 14 months but it is a personal issue.

I would carry on with the long lead but I would be looking at the rewards he gets for recall. If he loves meeting other dogs then can his reward for recall be greeting other dogs sometimes?

Do keep at it - I know it seems a long time but hopefully you will have your dog for 16 years so a few months on a long line now will be worth it

mymumdom Mon 29-Aug-11 22:17:45

Yep, am a vet and after years of advising owners to 'snip' asap have noticed that it rarely calmed dogs down as much as I'd like to think it had. I now say neuter once they have lifted their leg for a week.
Poodle crosses are on the other end of the intelligence spectrum to mine ( bless her) and you need to make sure he is getting enough to exercise his brain as well as his little legs.
Ten minutes fun training/ obedience games 2-3x a day as well as a couple of shorter walks a day rather than one big one. Also feed in a treat ball, or hide his dinner around the house/garden.
There are some good books on 'thinking' games for dogs.

Kingsroadie Tue 30-Aug-11 09:10:41

Thanks a lot. Will get a harness for longline and think about the neutering timings too. V helpful. Yes he has treat balls and a kong bottle with a rope in it and brain training (you hide treats in it and he has to work out how to get them out etc), and I do little training sessions with him too. They are def v bright!

silentcatastrophe Tue 30-Aug-11 19:29:38

We have a harness for horror dog. We worked out, eventually that we have lots of this kind of thing!! So many things forgotten about in cupboards for our other dogs who no longer need them, then you find that the vital bit is missing.

Toby has had the snip for his valentine's day present. He was 14 months old. We were advised that he should be lifting his leg before the op took place. It has made no difference whatsoever to his behaviour, although we have lost the risk that he might go after bits of skirt.

How I would love to be able to let this hound off the lead to burn off some energy, but it feels utterley irresponsible when he won't come when he's called. Must find out where we are actually going tomorrow! The lady says she deals frequently with this problem, so I hope she can offer some insight and we can change our ways sufficiently!

I have also noticed that Toby reacts very harshly to being nipped by other dogs. He becomes quite aggressive. I do wonder if he has ever been really put in his place by another dog.

WoodRose Tue 30-Aug-11 19:46:22

Silentcatastrophe - Please come back and tell us how you get on. My 9 mos old collie puppy has well and truly entered her adolescent phase. Up until 7 months, her recall was excellent. For the last 2 months, however, it has been "Talk to the paw, 'cause the ears ain't listening". She is back on the long line until her recall is back on track and it is tedious for her and me. Training classes resume in 2 weeks time, so I'm gritting my teeth until then.

ExitPursuedByATroll Tue 30-Aug-11 19:55:26

My Springer used to be the same, but the tennis ball has been my friend. Unless there is a duck or a goose about, the ball is what he wants. If there is a duck or a goose about, there is nothing I could do to possibly make myself more interesting.

Good luck.

silentcatastrophe Thu 01-Sep-11 18:57:56

Well... I think we may be on to something! No more treats, no more being dragged around on the lead, and a recall in the making.... A lot of what the trainer made sense in that you need to practice good behaviour in the house. She uses a thing called the Natural Method which is not something I know very much about. It involves touch and pressure and release. I don't think I understand enough to explain simply, but I think it means that we, as humans, behave and move in such a way that the dog does not feel the need or desire to make executive decisions, and allows us to take responsibility. As such, is more likely to work with us than do their own thing.

ExitPursuedByATroll Thu 01-Sep-11 20:01:25

I knew it would all be my fault.


How do I have to move? Is it available on Youtube?

silentcatastrophe Thu 01-Sep-11 20:17:54

It's not your fault, Exit! Horror dog is/was THE SAME!!!

silentcatastrophe Sun 04-Sep-11 11:05:26

We are getting on ok. Today we have been out with a highly dangerous piece of string with dog attached. This is because the lunge line is relatively heavy. Toby didn't pull and didn't try to run off. I don't know what he thought of the string. Yesterday I nearly got dragged into the river, such was the excitement of swimming!

I am spending even more time just watching the dogs and trying to notice their behaviour.

When Toby runs off, it is clear that treats and toys are of absolutely no interest. The way we are going at the moment recognises this, and hopefully will help to strengthen our relationship.

misschenko Sun 04-Sep-11 12:38:00

I've started gundog training with my 12 month lab, which has done wonders for his recall. I don't see any reason why info from the first lesson shouldn't work with non-gundogs. We were told not to walk dog at all until responding well to whistle and hand signal recall in house and garden. We had to do 3 x 15 minute training sessions a day (recall, lead walking practice using slip lead, stops from a distance etc). Once dog responded consistently (it took mine 4 days. I was very surprised that he didn't seem to miss his hour long off lead walks and wasn't bouncing off the walls) move to next stage and practice everything in a quiet safe area, I used a car park late in the evening so no grass or interesting smells. The level of distraction is gradually increased but make sure dog able to do everything perfectly before moving on. After 2 weeks I was able to let him off lead in our usual walking place and he stayed much closer than he used to so I didn't have much opportunity to use the recall whistle but when I did he came back instantly.

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