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Because I mostly gave up trying to train a good recall into my dog. I've been doing it from day 1 since we got her( over two years ago), never making negative associations with coming back when called, or the cue that I use.
I used a long line, fenced in places, gave her more freedom when I thought we progressed and always used treats ( various ones: cheese, steak, boilead meat, bread, the little tube with liver paste, salmon paste, string cheese,yoghurt, raw meat, those sausages that you cut up in little pieces, various store bought treats, dehydrated veggies). I don't think the problem is the treat that I am using, but more like.. I will never have a better treat than the environment.

The result is always the same eventually, she sticks around for 10 seconds and then bolts out of sight. She is good about coming back and doing huge circles around me if she is in an unknown place so I am not worried about losing her. However, she came with a little reactivity in her and if she is offleash will randomly go up to a person and bark, much too close for a stranger to be comfortable. If she is in line of sight will snap out of it when called. This happens around 2-3 times a year, but I obviously avoid these situations.

I have worked with a trainer who mostly guided us to continue with the positive experiences outside, find better treats and work on focus. Again she was brilliant while in a 20m range, too bad she bolts immediately. The trainer admitted defeat when we came back after a week holiday when Eli stayed with someone else ( no offleash time) and forgot everything she learned haha. Frustrating? Yes.. but I have learned to live with it. I am glad the trainer at least got to see what I was experiencing.
I took a recall class with FDSA, but they were building value in a toy and Eli isn't wired like that. She never ever puts her mouth on anything, so toys are useless.. I did try and use some of the other tricks they presented there.

So here we are now.. Eli hasn't been offleash in many many months.. We do lots of tricks outside to keep her focused, we go to a hoopers class in a field filled with bunnies and she keeps engaging beautifully. The place is fenced in, off course, but she comes when called and doesn't need a leash to work with me.

People around me keep saying she I should just let her off leash, especially in off leash areas for dogs, as she is not that bad. I refuse, because I don't want to take the chance that she will go up to a person and bark.
Also, sometimes she bolts for 30 minutes and doesn't come back( this happened once last year and that's when she lost all off leash privileges).


I know there are a lot of very experienced dog people here so I would love to hear your opinions. Maybe I am giving up too fast, missing something.. My last idea would be to seek a gun dog trainer and see what is their opinion? I keep getting recommendations like give her more treats, switch the recall cue, train her gradually.. But I have already done all those in the span of two years.

Thanks and please let me know if you think I am doing something wrong or being too negative!! I don't really have dog people friends, so maybe I need some criticism once in a while.
 

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Is she mastiff? Saw your avatar pic....
I've owned a couple of bullmastiffs, and the general training and obedience is night and day between those dogs and say, the german shepherds we've also owned.
My experience with the BMs was that they are very obedient dogs in their own way, but tend to want to do things on their own terms. Not the kind of dog to ask how high when you tell them to leap. The breeders I spoke with throughout the years basically said precision obedience generally just wasnt their thing as a breed. Then theres the fact that those breeds tend to be more independent thinkers than most......they were mostly created to be able to work independently rather than always at a humans direction. It doesnt surprise me that the trainer gave up. I've actually heard of that quite a bit with the bullmastiffs at least. Blind, unwavering obedience is not easy to acheive with these dogs, if at all. Genetic make up.
Have you tried starting small again with a long line? They can be pretty stubborn.....and the fact that many of them dont have much food or play drive can make it even more challenging. There were some things with mine that they just had to learn that not listening just wasnt an option since motivation could be in short supply.
I think you need a trainer that does things differently from the first one. Not every dog can be trained with great results by shoving treats and toys in their mouths. Different methods for different dogs. One size does not fit all.
I used a long line with mine, not coming when told wasnt an option. Running circles around me wasnt an option. Long line gives some measure of control. Still reward the dog every time it makes it back to you. Gentle but firm persuasion. Trying to force it will likely backfire with these dogs. Dog needs to learn that doing what you want is in its best interest ( gets a piece of raw steak or something really good as reward also...gets a paycheck of sorts ) and not listening isnt an option anyway, so might as well just do what the human says.
Very easy dogs to train in some ways, not so easy in other ways imo.
 

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Some dogs are just never off-leash reliable. I mean, 2 years is still pretty young, and gun dogs (she's a Gordon Setter, right, if I remember correctly?) seem to mature rather slowly, so I wouldn't give up. Keep training, and perhaps one day she'll be reliable. It's not really unusual for dogs bred for hunting to be more interested in the environment than, say, a herding dog.

Some people use an e-collar for recall. You can use the vibration setting to gently 'remind' the dog that they are supposed to be near their handler. I would recommend a professional for training this.

It seems that she is more willing to listen to you and engage even amongst distractions when she has a 'job' to do. Perhaps you can find a way to simulate a 'hunt'?
 

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I'm not saying there's a quick fix, however... I don't see the problem as a recall problem at the core. I see the problem as a boundary problem. In fact, I often say that off leash hiking has little to do with recall. Of course recall is important, but if you have a dog that knows the rules of hiking off leash (not reactive, stays close enough), you rarely need to call your dog at all.

My hands on experience with this is small, since I start my dogs on engagement-type games and boundary training from day 1 and I think genetically my boys wouldn't want to wander far... But I will say that I worked with someone who adopted an under socialized adult with zero prior training. The dog was disinterested in treats outside and listened well enough in a certain radius, but when we unleashed her in a safe area (large island, but no risk of truly getting lost), she took off and was 'too comfortable' being out of sight and away from the owner. To simplify the process... We worked on boundary training with a 50' long line. If she hit the end of the line, we would stop and wait for her to come back to us. Yes, it was tedious work. The transition step is a dragging line. But they hike off leash with no issues now.

Also, there is an art to using the long line. The key is to NOT wait until they hit the end of the line before practicing recall, or else tension is a factor you need to fade out over time. When using a long line to teach boundaries, I don't drop the line until the dog shows me he won't even use all of it.

Reactivity is a different animal. The dog I mentioned above had severe reactivity (like, explosive lunging and barking the moment she saw a dog) and we addressed that first.

I think it can be done. I think it takes a longer or shorter amount of time depending on the dog. But the summary is: I think positive methods will work, but the question is 'how do I get my dog to stay within a certain distance from me', not necessarily 'how do I get my dog to come when called'.
 

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To add to the "how do I get my dog to stay within a certain distance of me", you can play hide and seek. If Eli doesn't really care if she doesn't know where you are, then it probably won't work, though. My dog is a shadow and likes to know where I am and what I'm doing and is also genetically predisposed to be near me because he's a herder.

Anyways, I taught Ralphie to check in with me by occasionally by dropping out of sight if he started to get a ways away. So he would come back and look for me, and when he found me he would get his super special treats. I noticed he was much better about looking back and checking to see where I was. Note, I live in North Dakota, so you can watch your dog run away for 2 weeks cuz its flat as a pancake and there are like 2 trees. He gets pretty far away sometimes, but he also keeps me in sight. I will praise him for checking in, and toss a treat if he's close enough. If he chooses to run back to me he gets rewarded, as well.

Again, I don't know if that will be beneficial to you at all, but you could always try in a safe location.
 

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Bucky is 4 years old and will never be offleash. He is reactive and has even mouthed hands of people at the dog park from behind. He does not run off, when he has gotten out he sticks around but I consider a loose Bucky a dangerous Bucky.

Don't give up. Don't let her offleash. As she continues to mature with your great training she will get better. Bucky is also extremely excited by the great outdoors but as I haven't forbidden him to pay attention to it and continue to reward look backs he is getting better.[this is onleash!] It is a process. It seems like nothing is getting through then one day you'll be walking along dog at your side and you cannot remember the last time you rewarded because it is so natural. None of my dogs were terrific at 2 years old. All were great at 5. Bucky has 4 months to go.....maybe he will be great at 6!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Sorry, I completely missed some details! Eli is a Gordon Setter, nearly 4 years old. I have had her since she was 1 year and a half. She was given a lot of liberty as a young pup from what I was told and was not really engaged outside.
That being said, I would like to thank everyone for their input.

@Francl27 Thank you for your thoughts.

@ [email protected] The dog in my avatar is indeed a bullmastiff, but she is not the subject of this topic. She had an awesome recall and kept close by. I worked with her from a very young age and we managed to make a great team with no such issues yey!


@ Lillith I will have to admit that I hold some prejudice against e-collars. I am sure they work and can be used well, but I have only seen then be abused irl. So keeping away from that at this time. But, I will say, I think a vibration of sorts, paired with training will probably work with Eli. It's just .. I don't feel comfortable going there.
Also, Eli doesn't really care if she sees me or not, she goes by nose. I can hide all I want, she will do her thing and when she wants to come back, will just follow that scent.

@ Canyx You expressed my thoughts exactly, I wasn't sure how to convey that. It is most definitely a range thing! Now, I've been doing exercises to keep Eli in a certain range, but I have found that she basically came back, took her treat and immediately took off again ( on a long line) at full speed. I felt like I was poisoning the cue as after some time she wouldn't take the treats anymore. So instead of bringing her excitement level down, it just went up up up until food was not longer something worth coming back for.
Right now I am only using a long lead and we are at the step where she will come back as she hits the end of the leash and will mostly recall. I can see it though .. there are times when she decided to take off and runs at full speed and is stop quite abruptly by the leash.
How did you do it with dragging the line? I feel like if we get to that step, Eli will just do a sudden sprint and will take off, leash dragging behind her with nothing stopping her.
I would say that her reactivity is on the mild side as I can control it if she is in range. She has never failed to listen in such a situation, even outside, highly excited and offleash.

@Kathyy I am continuously rewarding her for checking in, I haven't stopped that and I probably never will. It's also a big part of our loose leash routine so it's become my second nature to do it. I did notice little improvements over time, while on leash. I can engage her easier and she will stay engaged. I couldn't have done this when I adopted her.
 

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each and every dog has certain abilities that come out as time goes on and if you pay attention you can see it, and some dogs are better than others. From reading these posts it becomes obvious what your dog is good for and here's a suggestion. In order for any dog to come to you, or 'recall' as it is known, it has to have a good reason. Seems simple enough but in reality it isn't in some dogs. You're not interesting enough, what's over here is more interesting than where you are. So use that, with a passion. Give your dog a reason to be away from you, (on a long line of course) and train for tracking. He's the perfect candidate. During his training you will find that he'll come to you out of the pure joy of finding something. Now things become a lot more fun. He's using his nose, so you use it as well. Give him things to find. One dog I had (Black Bess) started tracking at a year old and became 100% successful at finding lost children and criminals with her training ending at 6 years old. She was just that good, nothing could beat her. Every dog is good at something, yours is a tracker.
 

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Agree. I don't know how far Gordons are expected to search for scent but that could be part of this. Some breeds are supposed to stay closer than others. My JRT came back but he ran straight out 1/4 mile then turned around. Not inside my comfort zone for sure. When Sassy was off lead she stayed inside the 15' radius she had been on the flexi. Well inside my comfort zone. Then the squirrels 'called' and it was all over but that was on me and I did learn how to teach her to stay close.

If her nose is down looking for scent then that is a clear indication. Ginger didn't know what the damp black thing on her head was for when we got her and now she is a sniffy fiend so a nosework class might focus a dog unsure of the concept. I'm calling it a good thing that Bucky can now trot along with nose to ground sometimes. When we started out he was whirling around me frantic because there was too much to take in. Talking myself into taking him to nosework classes. It was okay for Ginger but for him it could be incredible.
 

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If I had this dog, instead of the ones I have, I would honestly just get a long line or check line and use it.

There is a lot of stuff on Fenzi right now about the risk/benefits of dogs being off leash, and it's made me think a lot about the actual benefits of being off leash - and really, none of them have a thing to do with whether they're physically attached to a leash or not. You can have the dog off leash and lose those benefits, you can have the dog on a leash and gain them.

The actual, honest to god, important (IMO) part is that the dog have time and space to do things that aren't human directed and human controlled, to stimulate their minds and ideally also their bodies (but IMO mind is more important) in novel environments. Whether you do that on a leash, on a long line, or inside a fence or a farm store really doesn't matter.

And I say that as someone who does a LOT off leash, but has only recently cued into how freaking much my dogs, particularly the Border-Things need that 'not telling you what to do, it isn't training, no close control' time. I'm lucky with them.


Their range is just about that, and I'm comfortable with that. That isn't training, that's a byproduct of breed, and I have places I can give them that. I'm very, very, fortunate in both.

You MIGHT be able to train it with a dog not naturally inclined or inclined otherwise, but at that point - human is anxious, dog is being directed/controlled and not really getting what one of the big benefits of off leash is. So, yeah. I'd just use a long line. Or flexi. Or fence. Or a garage or - whatever got my dog time that's them doing what they want, at the pace they want.
 

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It does sound like she has a great quality of life and lots of exercise and stimulation regardless of being on-leash, so I'd hardly think Eli is suffering! You clearly care a lot and have found ways around it. I confess that I manage more than work towards a perfect recall - Sam has a great natural orbit and recall when we're alone, but is massively overstimulated by strange dogs and totally loses his brain, so we only go off-leash in areas we are quite confident we'll be alone. It's worth it to avoid altercations.

The running in circles around you - have you tried teaching collar/harness grabs separately and as part of the recall? It really does improve the dog's willingness to come in close and let you get a hold on them. Especially when you're careful to make sure that not all recall+grabs mean the end of a fun time.
 

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Oy, my sheltie is very young still....he learned "come" right away....and promply ignores us unless we have a treat. We've started calling treats "payment" because he will NOT do hardly anything unless he gets food out of it, lol. Doesn't care if we're happy, excited, praising him...he just wants food. However, he will follow me around in the middle of the night to the bathroom, and always wants to know where we are. If WE leave, he must be involved. If HE leaves, well...isn't that his right? lol

We taught the basset to track, but he is glued to me, so he's actually fantastic out in the woods because he stays with us, and leads us. He won't get too far ahead. The beagle is just *gone* lol. She used to be able to recall only if she thought she was going to get in trouble. Now she's deaf, so it's the leash no matter what.
 

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In response to your question, I have a question... How is Eli with loose leash walking? Really, the concepts I apply to long line training are similar. Treats are nice, but at a distance the treats are not the main reward; continuing to hike becomes the reward.

I ask about general LLW because it gets easier if Eli has a general sense of boundaries with a 6' leash. I would then extend the length of that line gradually so that the same rules apply. You can do it on 50' too, it's just a lot more work if the dog doesn't have the basic concept of leash pressure/boundaries down. But if my dog hit the end of the 50' line, I wouldn't do a recall. I would just stand there and let the dog figure out that all the fun and walking have stopped. I would only move forward after the dog came back to me *on his own*. Basically, the dog needs to learn by his own choices that there is no benefit to going beyond X distance. Only when that rule is learned do I drop the leash and let it drag.

I do agree with CptJack in that there is a stigma that off leash hiking is the ultimate goal for many, and I think many dogs can have equally enriching lives and opportunities without that. For example, I certainly don't think 'Sure I used punitive tools/methods to get my dog off leash but he's sooo happy now since he can be offleash' is a valid excuse (more like, self justification for the human who emotionally needs their dog to be off leash for some reason). This last bit isn't directed at you, OP, just a general thought.
 

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I know my dogs responses, and they are just as happy on leash, as off. They honestly don't care. We can run, sniff, etc! Sure it seems to us like they like the "freedom" but, dogs also like to please us...so really all you're doing with a leash, is being close enough to protect your dog from dangers they may not understand. Such as other lose dogs, other animals, holes, i mean...they're not wild. lol
 

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She may not have great pack drive (desire to be with you). Females can be very independent.

I think Canyx has some good ideas but there is an innate character here of the dog. Setters point.. and the object is to range and then freeze into a point on a bird. This behavior is hard wired. Some dogs never point (never freeze) but will range and scent. These dogs do not end up hunting (because you need that pointing behavior).

This is a hunting dog and ranging is part of what they do. You may improved this by reducing the range, but you may never remove it to the point of trusting her as an off leash pet.
 

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The result is always the same eventually, she sticks around for 10 seconds and then bolts out of sight. She is good about coming back and doing huge circles around me (...)
Again she was brilliant while in a 20m range, too bad she bolts immediately.
(...) but I have found that she basically came back, took her treat and immediately took off again ( on a long line) at full speed.
Teach a recall so she actually sits in front position, and more importantly, use a release cue every time. In front position she should always remain calm and be focused on you. Build significant duration here. Then when you feel it is appropriate, release.

I am continuously rewarding her for checking in, I haven't stopped that and I probably never will.
This whole area could be part of the problem. People seldom release their dog after a 'check-in' mostly because it's an uncued or offered behaviour. Plus it's creating a chain of 'come to you > receive reward > leave at will' which seems like it's very confusing in relation to an actual recall. There's quite likely a lack of clarity and an inability to distinguish between the two. I'd consider putting payment for check-ins on the shelf for the time being.
 

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Oh, right. If you do decide to bother, I would probably actually go to releasing after the checkin, rather than just feeding. That's one thing you CAN see in my video, the last one. They come, they get a treat, and then they get told to go. For a more environmental dog being released is a pretty danged valuable reward. If they're not told to go on/go, they'll stick close or stay put until the cows come home.

That's something I'm actually proud of having taught (and thought to teach). The check in and radius are natural for them but the 'stay until told to go' is a me thing, darn it.
 

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I would give up. I gave up on my coonhounds because they will never be reliable off leash. It took off a TON of pressure just accepting that they could never be off leash in an unfenced area. They still get the freedom of long lines and I don't feel that they are really missing out on anything because they get to run around my large fenced yard.
 

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I pretty much gave up on my Cocker. He's reactive anyway, so isn't off leash in public, but the only place he's allowed off leash is my parents' pasture, far in, so that even if he runs he won't be hurt.

Thankfully, he does want to be with me, he just has a crazy high prey drive and a nose that won't quit. I've done a couple of things to improve his recall, like always rewarding when he comes back and hiding from him when he doesn't (as soon as he notices I'm "gone" he quickly tries to find me). But, it's not perfect, and if something exciting - like a rabbit - crosses his path, he's gone.

Honestly, since he's so fearful I think he'd actually be easier to control off-leash in public places, because he'd stick to me like glue. :)
 
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