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Something kind of disturbing happened to me today at the park, I wonder if anyone might have some training advice on how to prevent it in the future.

Our park has a wonderful off-leash policy in the AMs before 9. Juniper is a 10 month old shelter rescue with plenty of puppy energy. We've had her about 3 months. While I was initially nervous about letting her off leash, she has been doing great, she loves the exercise and is getting great socialization with other dogs.

So, today she was romping around with a lab puppy and a bulldog, good matches for her 30 pound size. They are playing chase in a tight circle around their owners. Suddenly, a boisterous boxer comes barreling over, before you know it the circle is widening, until he chases Juniper right out of the park and into the road. I take off running (Junie's a fast runner) and find her standing up in the road about 300 feet from where we were. Luckily, it was closed to traffic, and she was just standing there, but boy I was scared! She could have just continue to run into a six-lane busy street. All the other dogs (including the boxer) returned to their owners.

Expert dog owners, what do you think of this behavior? Fluky or a sign that I've dropped the ball in training her? She's not great in terms of coming when called, she complies maybe half the time, but in general, she doesn't wander too far away. After today, should I be absolutely drilling it into her? She likes training and is very treat motivated.

Any tips appreciated in terms of handling a situation like this and how to keep your dog from accidentally getting into a bad situation. I will train and train and train if it will help me keep her safe.
 

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If you are going to allow her to run around off leash in an unfenced park (particularly one close to the street) then yes, you absolutely need to work on a recall/come command until it is solid. Until you have such a command down then I would really caution against anymore off leash park time. Juniper's actions were not anything weird or strange in terms of dog behavior, she simply reacted to the situation. It'd be no different then if she noticed something of interest across the street and took off after that instead.

My suggestion would be to invest in a long leash/line for your recall training. This allows you to have some space in between the two of you without totally losing control of your dog. Practice wise, start out somewhere with limited distractions such as your yard or even a long hallway. Remember that dog training is done in small steps. So when you begin, you want to praise any and all movement toward the 'goal' behavior. Which means, when you say 'Come' and she takes even a step toward you, act as if it's the best thing you've ever seen. Once she gets the hang of this you can begin increasing your expectations - waiting for her to come closer until you praise/treat. You then continue to practice until she is coming all the way to you at command and once she's got that down in a distraction free environment, you can begin implementing it elsewhere.

I've also seen this booklet pretty highly recommended when it comes to recall training -
http://www.dogwise.com/ItemDetails.cfm?ID=DTB813

Being able to call your dog at any moment is actually one of the MOST important commands you can teach. You never know when you are going to have to use it.

Good luck!
 

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Thanks so much, I really appreciate the advice. I'm definitely going to work with her until she has recall really well established. And when we do work up to off leash, I'll test her frequently so I know when to start refreshing the training. We do have a 26' lead, so I started practicing with her this morning. Also, at home, I'm just repeating her name and giving her a treat to get the name a bit better.

Could I ask some more specific questions? At the park today I let her run out on the long lead but call her back before she reaches the end. She responded most times, and if she did, she gets a click, a "good girl" and a treat when she gets to me. I praise her as soon as she starts back. What's the best approach though when she doesn't turn or acknowledge the command? Just repeat it?

How much praise is enough, if she gets the concept pretty well and is only ignoring occassionally? Some of the stuff I read about recall training said to use really effusive praise, like 20 seconds, so I wonder if the whole click, "good girl," treat thing is enough. My idea was to practice a million times, so I'm trying to run her through the steps pretty quickly. Should I be doing more praising?
 

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More praise at the end of a recall is NEVER too much. Always praise and, during training, lots of treats.

When the dog looks at you, click and offer the treat AT YOU. She is looking at you and the click means a reward and the reward should be delivered where you want her to end up.

If you cue and she does not respond, do not repeat the cue. Instead move her closer to you and when she is looking at you repeat the cue. If she is not responding, do not move TO her. Always quickly move away from her (most dogs will follow or chase).

I make a big deal out a dog coming when called. It is that important. I always give extra attention and petting and intermittently treats with occaisional jack pots. When I call, I want my dog to come as fast as possible and to come to me EVERY time.
 

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Good advice so far!

Another thing to consider is to make you the "home base" whenever she's threatened. I take my dog to the fenced dog park almost everyday, and whenever there is a dog that seems a little 'off-kilter' I automatically get between him and the dog and do my best to make my dog feel safer and like he's being protected from the 'bully'.

I started doing this after having a few too many dogs chase him around the park biting the hair off his backend. Now, whenever he's scared he comes to me automatically for protection. If the dog ends up being calm he's no worse for the wear...if not..then I can "claim" him to the unbalanced dog and it makes things easier.

He's been going to fenced dog parks since he was 4 months old, and now he's a year old. I've learned to listen to him. Over the last few months the ONLY time he comes to me for help...is if the dog REALLY IS unstable. So it's like a heads-up for me to keep an eye on that dog. Otherwise he's out there having a good ole time with all the stable dogs..
 
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