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Problems Off the Lead

2333 Views 21 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  FourIsCompany
I have a slightly tricky problem which I hope I could get some good advice..... after reading quite a few threds on this forum I still didn't mange to find an answer to my predicament.

I have a new Male Springer Spangle aged 5 (Jack) he is fantastic around the house and garden, he doesnt chew, bark, jump, pee, poop or beg. He does come, sit, stay, lie down and walks to heel on the lead.

but my problem is this... as soon as I get down the field and let him off his lead he gets excited and very easily distracted (by other dogs or if he finds a scent) resulting in him tearing through bushes (which isnt a problem) but its a one way route sometimes and WILL NOT listen to my commands of Jack! Come! (in the usual nice cheerful, friendly voice, which he obeys amazingly at home and in the garden)

He's never actually ran off (yet) but I just don't want to be reinforcing bad behaviour, I don't tell him off and ALWAYS give him positive attention when he does come back to me.
Jack also doesn't like treats when he is off his lead so I'm only able to give him positive attention of "Good Boy!" when he does 'decide' to come in.

So after all of that waffle my question is this....

Q - How do I get him to listen to me and obey when he's off his lead as good as he is when he is at home or in the garden?

Any suggestions would be much appreciated
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You need to practice recall training with increased distractions.

Start over. Practice in your house and yard and only do it when you have set him up to succeed and are sure he will come. (You may want to purchase a 20ft line to help out with this) Then, start doing it in the front yard, in other safe areas, etc. Eventually work up to the field. Don't let him off leash until he is completely calm.

He shouldn't be offleash in this field if he has no recall. For now, your best bet would be to buy a long line (maybe 100ft long) and let him stay on that.

Oh, forgot to mention.. use small treats and "jackpot" him (give him a handful of tiny treats rapidly) when he comes to you. Coming has to be a good experience.

Also, since he doesn't seem to like to listen to the word come, you might want to try "here"
Just a couple of recall ground rules...

Increase distractions SLOWLY. A big old field is a big old field to you, but to Jack it's smothered in a million new sights, sounds and smells that can be detected only by him. So move slowly. If he's mastered recall in your garden, then put him back on-leash and try it at a short distance in an area with a slightly higher distraction level.

If possible, enforce every command. In other words, try to reduce the number of times you shout "Come!" and it goes unheeded. This means one thing: Jack should NOT be off-leash until you are 95% sure he will respond to your call. Practise with long leashes or retractable leashes so you can still maintain control over him until he gets it right.

Never punish for a recall, no matter how slow; you seem to have that under your belt.

And if all else fails...

Dog-catching is not easy, but initiating a game of chase with any young, rambunctious dog is. If Jack refuses to come by, get his attention, then turn and start running in the opposite direction. He'll most likely join in the game and run towards you.

Does Jack know a "leave it" cue?
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Thanks for the quick reply's guys, these are some very good ones and i wasn't 100% what I should be doing.

I do run in the opposite way and this does work to a degree, but I need to get his attention first for him to look over his shoulder. But when he does eventually come in, he'll never come closer than 4-5 meters.
But when he does come in and 'sit' I offer him a treat (which he refuses) instead i give him lots and lots of 'good boy'

But yes.... a longer lead is a very good idea.
The only thing I have to add is remember that the long lead's first purpose is not to real the dog back in when he doesn't come. It is just for safety. You want to increase distractions slowly so that you don't have to use the lead. In other words, as the other posts said, you want to be sure that he will come every time before you increase the amount of diestractions. In your case can you find an "in between" sized feild to practice in before you bring him to the big one?
Dogs do not generlize behavior from one location to another. They just do NOT.

So, when you go to the big field, start over teaching the recall on a long line. Have lots of treats and give him a few when he comes to you on recall. Next go to another place and do this again.. and another and another. I do this with recalls, sits, stand, stay, lie down etc etc etc.

Otherwise "come here" means return to me at home, but not anywhere else. Well, I want my dog to respond to cues better in the context of 'anywhere else' than she does in the 'Living Room!' so I train in the context of 'everywhere else' until the dog understands sit means sit no matter where we are, what we are doing or what is going on. I tell ppl.. I don't care if the second coming is coming.. when I say to the dog "come her!" it means she should "Come Here!"

It has been suggested that to generalize any behavior to a cue request you have to repeat the training in 20 different places before the dog understands that cue means the same in the house, the back yard, the big field, the park, Petsmart etc etc.

I have taken my dog to the grocery store and trained her in front of that with carts and kids. To the Dollar store, and done the same. To a field. To a park. To a village street. To a city Street. To a different park. No wonder she likes to ride in the truck.. we always go somewhere and train and she gets dog treats!
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Thanks again for the tips, the one problem I have is when we are down the field and there's no dogs around or he doesn't have a scent under his nose he will actually, Sit and Stay.

But when I do manage to recall him, I can't reward him cause when he is out he doesn't take treats.....
What kind of treats are you using?
some small chews which he loves around the house, or small biscuit which also he loves when he's training around the house.

He's just not intrested in that when he is out running around, just wants to run run run..... i can have all of his toys in my hand and treats and he wouldn't batter an eye lid. But around the house his toys and treats are like the most exciting thing ever.
You want to really up the value of the treats so that he'll do anything for them. The general rule for treats is: the stinkier the better. Cheese, peanut butter, roast chicken leftovers and beef jerky are all very good high-value treats that can motivate a dog more than a regular dog biscuit. The next time you go to the pet store, also look for Natural Balance food rolls (which you can cut into smaller pieces to make treats) or Grizzly NuTreats -- both are also fabulous high-value treats.
Most dogs go crazy for either liver or cheese or even hotdogs but, if your Springer absolutely refuses to eat anything, your praise or petting can be his reward. The reward is anything your dog really really loves.

Please try working in various locations first using leashes and long lines in order to be able to reinforce your commands. But, in addition to those tools you might want to consider some one on one professional training perhaps even e-collar training but definitely some professional assistance.
Yes. You need to upgrade the treat for distracting situations. You can also use a game of tug with a toy as a reward.

I use Spam (as suggested by a FT trainer of dogs), Hot dogs (quarter them lengthwise and the cut cross wise so you get about 50 treats out of a single hot dog.. Remember, it isn't the SIZE of the treat that counts, it is the Quality). For REALLY distracting situations I use diced up Cooked Shoulder steak. You can use cooked chickent.. all kinds of stuff that REALLY turns a dog on. String cheese can produce a large # of treats too.

Biscuits etc. are low end treats and tend to work at home.

When you are working with your dog it is wise to remember that you are ALWAYS competing with the environment for your dog's attention!
IF (big IF) you feel that you are having little success with the use of positive reinforcement and motivational methods you might as some have suggested consider using corrections to some degree. I found this on YOUTUBE which may not be your cup of tea.

This Springer is in training and the handler uses a prong collar/corrections


These Springers where trained on a remote E-COLLAR


It is difficult to find anything on you tube illustrating the training of a Springer. I wonder why?
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You can use being allowed to go out running again as the reward. Call the dog back to you, once he gets to you and sits mark it (good boy!) and release the dog (Ok or whatever) and tell him to go away or explore or what ever you want to use. Make it a game, where you call the dog back (act goofy and fun), he runs to you, you give him and you tell him good boy (and reward via food or praise)! now go get away from me! Most dogs it makes them want to hang around you because they think you don't want them to.
If possible, enforce every command. In other words, try to reduce the number of times you shout "Come!" and it goes unheeded. This means one thing: Jack should NOT be off-leash until you are 95% sure he will respond to your call. Practise with long leashes or retractable leashes so you can still maintain control over him until he gets it right.

Never punish for a recall, no matter how slow; you seem to have that under your belt.
Tucker has this same problem; I need some specifics of "enforce every command". I'm not comfortable using a prong collar and there's no one I trust at the moment to help me with one.
The trick is to set the dog up to succeed every time. If the dog fails, it is because he wasn't ready for the level you are asking for.

For instance: If you call the dog and he is 5 feet away and he comes to yu all the time. that is great. If you move up to 20 feet away and his recall is iffy, then you need to reduce the distance to 8 feet and gradually work up to 20 feet.

If you have to repeat commands the repeat becomes the command. For instance: If you say "sit" and the dog stands there so next you say "sit sit" and the dog stands there but when you say "sit Sit SIT" he sits, well the last one is not the command.

Dogs are much better at learning to respond to non verbal cues such as hand signals. Dogs are not vocal coumminicators like humans are, so body postion and hand signals work better as cues than verbal commands.

Teaching a dog to do something in increments works better than lumping a behavior. If you are working on recall, break down what you want into steps. When you call a dog, how does he typically respond?
1.) He looks at you.
2.) He leans in your direction.
3.) He takes a step in your direction.
4.) he takes another step in your direction.
5.) he takes more steps until he is in front of you.
6.) he stands there.
7.) he sits in front of you.

To train a recall, make the distance from you to the dog very short (a couple of feet at first) and click and reward each of the above behaviors until they chain together as a complete recall. When it is consistant, add a cue (hand signal or verbal). When the dog responds to the cue at a hort distance (like in the house), increase the distance.

Repeat this same phase training in several "new" places until the dog generalizes the behavior to all situations and locations.

You can do all of this with the word "YES!" and an immediate reward after that word (Yes! marks the correct choice in the dog's behavior).

I have never used a prong collar.. or any type of correction/aversive to get a dog to recall. Doing so can really and truly back fire on you. The point of training is to set the dog up to do it right every time and to make if fun so he wants to do it right every time. Food is often (not ALWAYS) the best motivator with toys and games up there as good motivators as well.

As you move into more and more distracting situations you need to up the quality and frequency of the motivator.
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Elana is completely right. When I say that every command should be enforced, I don't mean that you should be reeling your dog in against his will every time you call him. It means that you need to set the dog up for success by identifying his limits and not crossing them. If you know that your dog can recall from 10 feet very well, increase to 14 feet. If you find that he can't do 14 feet, shift down to 12. Still can't do 12? Shift down again and work on recall from 10 feet some more. Try not to give him more than you know he can handle. This isn't just to make training a fun and rewarding experience for him (though this is a very valid purpose for setting up for success). It's also so that you don't end up shouting commands at your dog that he ignores. This dilutes the meaning of your cues and sets you back in the training process.

There are two criteria to training recall: distance and distraction level. Distance is how far you want your dog to recall from (5 ft vs 30 ft), and distraction level is how exciting his current environment is (your living room vs dog park). Increase these only one at a time. If he can recall from 30 feet in your backyard, a relatively low-distraction environment, don't expect him to recall from 30 feet in the field. Start by asking for 2 feet in the field, and gradually increase.
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Thank you Elana!
You might also find that being sent BACK to whatever scent he's finding so interesting is a really, really powerful reward. We used this with a friend's springer- kept him on a longline and his reward for coming back when called out of the water was that he got to be sent BACK into the water. He knew perfectly well that he COULD be dragged, but it set up a pattern of "You come back when I call you, I'll send you back out." Getting sent was SO reinforcing that it very quickly became a pattern. He's not 100% but he IS vastly improved.

This is called the Premack Principle, btw. :) (A more reinforcing behavior can be used to reinforce a less reinforcing behavior.)
Just re-read this thread and there are a lot of great suggestions here.

Rewards don't have to be food, but I'll tell you this: Tucker *loves* roast beef. He got a small roast for his birthday, and little bits of roast beef almost top raw hamburger in his book (also a lot easier to handle).

I'm working on Tucker's recall with a long line, and two similar squeaky balls -- he's not a fetch and retrieve guy, he's a fetch and guard guy.

I do have a question on the long lines: we have many bushes, trees, shrubs, rocks where I live and he's a master at getting himself tangled. Any suggestions on how to minimize this?
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