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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Twice now my 10 month old Black Lab/Aussie mix has bolted out of the house and across the street. The first time happened with me when she was about 7 months. I opened the garage when she was in the garage with me (like I had done before). As soon as the garage opened a little bit she just took off across the yard and then crossed the very busy street. Traffic stopped for her, thank goodness. I think the cars coming at her scared her and she finally looked back at me and came when I called her. She was not chasing anything I could see, and was not barking.

The second time happened a couple days ago with my parents. They were showing guests out the front door. According to them, she bolted just like before. They couldn't see her chasing any one thing, but the most unsettling part was that as they were running after her, the closer they got she'd look back and go faster. It was a game for her, and she made it a little farther this time. She stopped for some reason, we don't know why. Thank God.

We went through the beginner PetSmart training class with positive reinforcement. We also used BarkBusters for frustrating behaviors in the home, which has really helped as well. We're going to be giving them a call as they've had good ideas in the past. I'm afraid all they're going to be able to say is, "Work more on getting her attention reliably in distracting environments." Which may be all we can do?

We discussed getting a long ranger shock collar that would kind of surprise her if she ever bolted again, but not only do I hate the idea of shock collars, I'd hate to have her wear one for a behavior she has displayed only twice in about 5 months (we got her in January).

Any ideas? Thanks in advance!
 

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The usual training involves teaching the dog to wait whenever a door opens...front door, car door, etc. That training sometimes means the dog is on leash until they understand.

Another training option, instead of the wait, is teaching the dog they can never, ever go out the front door or even near it. If the front door opens, the dog has to move far away and usually go to a mat or a rug.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
I've been teaching her to wait, mostly in the past month. When we do go outside, I have her sit/stay until I am on the other side of the door and say "free." Whenever I put her on the leash outside to potty (staked to the house) she sits/stays automatically until I say "free". She's very, very reliable with that now.

She's being "doorbell trained" as well, though she's much less reliable with that. We're working on it everyday, and she's improving. I just don't understand why she decided to bolt, or why it would be fun for her.

I've been reading that thread on e-collars, and I've been thinking it may be necessary. I'd obviously get a trainer who has experience with them and learn the proper way to use it. It's just so scary when she bolts and we have no way of getting her attention back on us. If it comes to her wearing an e-collar or being run over by a car, I'm gonna have to go with the e-collar. But maybe there's another way to deal with it?

I should also say that when she is in a discracting environment, it is VERY hard to get her attention. We've done positive reinforcement/clicker training, but I don't think the reward is a strong enough motivator for her. It's literally like I don't even exist when she gets in her own little world.
 

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There's a very simple solution here. Do not open doors without the dog being on a leash or crated.
 

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I had a similar problem with my dog. I fixed it by doing a training game of sorts. Basically I took the dog to a closed door. I made the dog sit. Then I reached for the door knob. If he stood up, I made him sit again. Eventually, I could touch the door knob with the dog sitting. Then I turned the knob. If he got up, we made him sit again. Eventually I could open the door partway without him getting up. If he did, I shut the door, made him sit again and started over. It took awhile, but Zero caught on eventually. Now he will not go outside unless I give him the command to go outside first.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
jesirose -- That will keep her from bolting I guess, but she won't ever learn. I want to be able to have her off leash eventually. She has to learn, I just don't know the most effective way to teach her.

hulkamaniac -- That's what I'm doing with Chloe, and she gets it and obeys 99% of the time. It's that 1% possibility that scares the heck out of me! She's just not as realiabe as I'd like her to be I guess.
 

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I should also say that when she is in a discracting environment, it is VERY hard to get her attention.
You've done all the right things! Keep at it. Distraction training is advanced obedience work and it can take years of daily training/proofing to become reliable.
I have to nix idea of the e-collar for this problem simply because if she bolts....who's going to be there with the remote in hand if that happens?
 

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First off, she's ten months old.
Welcome to adolescence. It sometimes seems when a dog hits this age they "unlearn" everything they've ever been taught..they have an increased need to chew, need more obedience training (sometimes feels like starting over again) and increased rules and boundaries. Labradors do not mature fully sometimes until they are three years old!

The door manners with a release word training should be continued. You need to work on her recall and yes this means starting with low distractions and working up. I taught Cracker a recall off squirrels using postiive reinforcement (and she's part hound, so that's a feat in itself)...I personally do not recommend ecollars so I wont get into that.

The reason the dog continued running when your parents chased her is because they chased her. Simple as that.

For now, no freedom off leash..if you have to open the garage door then tether her or leash her to you. Use five minutes of your garage time to work on the sit and stay..make sure you NEVER break from using the release word you have chosen. She needs to learn she does not MOVE from her spot until you say "free". Use this regularly in the house, on walks etc so she gets that it means it everywhere and in every situation.

This is simply a training issue that requires consistency and a planned escalation of distractions along with management so she doesn't get the opportunity to practice the bolting behaviour.
 

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E collars are about the strongest aversive you can get. Most of the time when an e collar is used to correct a dog the dog does no relate BEHAVIOR with the e collar. Instead the dog relates the shock to something in the environment and the behavior continues.

For instance:

You dog bolts. You recall him and he keeps on going so you zap him. He gets zapped right when he passes the mail box. He yips, jumps sideways and keeps on going. You finally catch him but as you approach the mail box your dog gets nervous and then plants all 4 feet looking at the mail box with terror.

The E collar has taught the dog nothing about bolting but a whole lot about how seriously nasty Mail Boxes are.....
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thank you all for the info! I'm really glad I'm headed in the right direction. I feel so frustrated, I really do feel some days like she's lost all the ground we've covered in the past couple months! I know she can be very smart when she listens, it's just getting her to listen that's the problem! I feel like positive reinforcement training isn't always effective... but I'll keep at it. It's worked for basic stuff like sit/stay/down, so maybe it will just take a little longer to work for the more difficult stuff.

Thank you so much for the advice!
 

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Both of my Aussies are/were bolters. Don't give them an inch or they will bolt. Make sure they aren't near a door that is being opened for a tragedy could occur if they run into traffic.

I make sure my new little guy isn't near a door, or somebody is holding his collar if I go get the paper, the mail or open the door for anything.

;)
 
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