How excitable/distracted does he get? i.e. Im assuming he takes the opportunity to leg it off and find interesting playmates, squirrels, rubbish to entertain him?
The level of the 'off leash' problem, depends on the solution. If you want him to walk to heel off leash, then basic heelwork training should do it. If he is a distracted type, then I advocate a 'punishment' approach. (Controversial as a lot of training guides always tell you to reward when he comes to you). However, my approach has always worked with my dogs.
Basic training must be there. He must know his basic vocabulary. Come, sit, stay, etc. If you havent acheived that yet, then dont attempt to address this issue until you have. The worst thing you can do with a dog that runs off, is chase him. As long as his groundwork is solid, i.e. he comes to you on 'come' in your garden, you can enforce it in the park.
Its good to set this up in a large open field as you will only need to do this once, and you need the dog to be able to see you for a far distance. A strange field is better also as if you use his usual walks, he knows where all the interesting things are.
As soon as he runs, shout 'Come' once. And once only. If he ignores you, then turn and run the other way. Do not look back. Do not get anxious that hes going for miles unsupervised. You keep going in the opposite direction. You can slow down to a walk but do not return or look back. If you run out of field then stop, with your back still in the direction he went in and wait. Your dog WILL come and find you. It may be a minute, it maybe 5 minutes. Now the important bit. As soon as he gets close to you, you must turn and chase him away. Either shouting at him, or throw something at him but do not let him within 10 foot of you. He must know you are not best pleased!. Then walk off. Again he will try to come up to you, and again you must drive him away. Do NOT reward him for returning. Instead you are telling him that "OK you wanted to beggar off, well, I DONT WANT YOU in my pack". After a couple of times of driving him away, his ears will drop and he will be looking at you beseechingly, possibly standing still as hes now confused by this new reaction. You can then look at some leaves, or a bush and whilst still ignoring him, let him come close to look at whatever it is you are looking at.
Dont speak to him, and carry on with your walk. Forget the incident, and as he stays close to you, tell him "Good Boy". If he ever runs off again, shout him once and if ignored, turn and do this all again. Ive only ever had to do it once with every dog Ive had, and from that point on they have never gone more than 10 foot outside my 'area'. The most basic fear in a dog is being excluded from the 'pack' and this is what you are doing.
Its only my opinion (!) so happy for contradictory views on here, but rewarding a dog that runs off, just because he eventually came back, is madness. In doggy terms, he beggers off, has a good play with another dog, chases a couple of squirrels, a quick circuit round the golf course, then eventually returns back to owner to be greeted with "Good Boy heres a biscuit!" Life doesnt get much better than that! Why on earth should he stop doing it when that happens
PS Please dont confuse this incident with 'recall' training. Its not. This is a dog running away from his pack leader to find something more interesting. Continue with his recall training but you will find he is far more attentive from now on, and remember use the command once and once only. Any more than that and you're training him to be 'deaf'!
I wanted to know more about her dog because there are some breeds which will never be trustworthy off lead. Take my husky for example, I've trained her to do agility and to ignore distractions. But I would never trust her in a park or new environment without a leash - she is just that way where she will run off.
You have to understand that when a dog runs off, the run itself (the puppy burn) will be extremely reinforcing for your dog. Which is why it is one of the worst thing that could happen. That is why the obedience commands are so important, the come or down command could literally save your dog's life.
It is my personal experience that you should only give your dog freedom once he has showed signs that he will listen if distracted. It is so important to train all obedience skills around distractions and in new environments, the goal is to be able to control your dog using your voice only.
Now some dogs will stay by you and never run away - some dogs are so distracted by anything that moves that you'll never be able to trust them. It's up to you to discover which kind of dog you have - and train it accordingly.
Hi Jean, Sounds like you need to try my method. I disagree about trust issues, if a dog is so complacent of its owner to just go off and do its own thing, then there are serious alpha issues, whatever the breed. If it is a powerful dog, like a husky, its even more important to have alpha dominance and control. A powerful dog must NEVER leave its owner and sometimes general 'obedience' training isnt enough. You must enforce your pack leadership on this dog.
What happens if it slips its leash one day? What happens if he slips out the front door?No dog should be written off as a 'distracted' type that should remain under leash control at all times. ALL dogs can be brought to remain with the alpha leader, whatever the breed.
One of the worst books I have read was a book called Marley and Me. About a 'reckless' labrador who was 'untrainable'. That dog lived and died with no Alpha leadership, and because of that will not have been a happy, contented, calm dog.
Even Border Collies who are bred to be 'dominant' as they need to dominate a sheep herd, adore an alpha leader, relax, and lead content controlled lives under that alpha leadership. If you have a dog that runs off, address it immediately. It is the most dangerous aspect of dog ownership going, if only for his own safety. To dismiss off lead work, as a dog is untrustworthy, is irresponsible. They slip out of cars, gates, parks every day. That dog MUST stay with you at all times, ESPECIALLY off leash.
I addressed above a technique that works with general established household 'pets', who commonly just turn the 'deaf' ear. In the case of powerful dogs I would recommend rattle tin training. Happy to expand further on this, but feel very strongly that no owner should 'accept' that their dog runs off, just because he does. This really is a serious behavioural issue that is far more important than teaching a dog to sit.
Still love your site hunny, hope you dont mind my post! Caro xx
I read my last post again, and some of the things I was thinking actually came out wrong, and I apologize.
What I really meant by not trusting your dog is that freedom has to be earned. Itâ€™s unrealistic to expect a dog that has never been conditioned to ignore distractions to follow you in a very distracting environment such as a park.
I personally train both of my dogs in a park by my house without a leash and there is no problem. I actually had to condition my husky not to run off in the beginning and she has learned not to do it â€“ however I would never just bring her without a leash in a new environment. Again, I just wouldnâ€™t trust her since she has not been conditioned to it.
I believe we have very different training methods â€“ Iâ€™d like to know more about yours, maybe we can even learn a few things from each other? :dogsmile:
Me too Jean! I love your site, and I love open views and discussion. I know I may come across as opinionated, so may I apologise if I do! But Im certainly here to learn too, and find your classroom brilliant. I do get a tad 'cross' sometimes, as I dont know if its the same where you are, but here in the UK we seem to have a growing problem of 'uncontrollable' dogs (and children!). And the problems almost always stem from parents/owners. 30 years ago, doggy people seemed to know far more about raising dogs, than today, and I often wonder if, like our children, we have swung a little too far towards 'understanding' problems, and 'positive' reinforcements, and have forgotten that basic child/dog rearing is founded on strong boundaries, routine, and fear. I dont mean of course, beating a child or dog into submission, but the 'fear' of getting caught bunking off school by your parent, or 'fear' of disobeying a command from your alpha, its intrinsic to good behaviour. Positive reward training is excellent, and very effective, but a dog must not bite, run riot in the neighbourhood, or demolish your home! I do subscribe to rewarding good behaviour, but there must be a consequence for bad behaviour, and more often than not, dogs are far easier than children in that they generally only need to be taught a 'consequence' once! I hope I dont go against the ethos of your site, which is a positive training one, but sometimes, some owners just lack confidence in taking a firmer hand, as they think theyll be reported for abuse! If your dog deserves a good telling off, then tell him off. My way is without hitting, shaking or even touching my dogs, but by pack exclusion, rattle tin or water spray, and I certainly have never given two hoots to what a stranger in the park, witnessing me chasing my dog away whilst swearing obscenities at him and throwing my car keys, thinks!!!!! But I have to say, its worked every time. That dog suddenly discovers respect. Caro xx
Also, I think it's important to leash train first and foremost. Once a dog is properly leash-trained, he will know where he is expected to be in relation to you. Once he's mastered the leash training, start by tying the end of the leash to your beltloop or something... Your hands should not touch the leash at all, unless he starts venturing ahead. Then try again...if he's completely leash trained, he should do great with it tied to your beltloop. From here, drop the leash without being extremely obvious(throwing it down and shouting, "YOU'RE FREE BUDDY!"). Make sure you use a fairly long leash for this one... If he's completely leash trained, he will likely stay by you at least for a while, if not for the whole time. If he starts to take off, you can step on the leash to stop him and start walking him on leash for a while. Make sure you start the walk on-leash, and if he's doing well, then progress to dropping the leash. Once he's doing just as well on-leash as he is with the leash dragging, try starting the walk with the leash dragging. Until you're sure he's good off leash, keeping the leash on but dragging the ground is just a precaution. You can stop him if need be, but you're not really controlling him. Remember to keep your stride consistent...dogs can't really lengthen their stride, but they can quicken their pace. If he's not staying with his shoulder at your knee very well, pay attention to your stride. Find a normal, comfortable stride length and stick with it. You can teach him "Easy" to slow down(and slow your PACE), and "Hurry"(and quicken your PACE). Your stride length shouldn't change. Make a clear difference in the "Easy" and "Hurry." Say "easy" calmly and in an almost soothing tone. Say "hurry" in a happy, excited tone. He will adjust his pace to your stride length, so remember this when you start working on off-leash walks. Don't change your stride... Good luck! =)