Dogs That Bolt
Megan Brooks CDT
Dogs Who Run
Your dog bolts out the door and runs down the street. You run after him calling “come!” and he responds by running the other direction. He then lets you get pretty close before dashing away. When you finally catch him you are frustrated and angry so you scold him for being such a bad dog. Does this sound familiar?
Let’s look at it from your dog’s point of view. He sees the door open and knows what fun it is out there with so many smells and the freedom to just run. So you begin chasing him and that is a favorite dog game as well, chase. What fun you two are having! By now you are really frustrated and you are yelling “AJ, come!” AJ, however, doesn’t understand frustration and will not follow a frustrated leader. Besides that, he is having way too much fun to come back to you where he knows that his fun will be over. When you finally catch him you are probably fuming and may scold him, which is certainly no fun for him.
Does this make sense? If you punish him once he has come back you are actually punishing him for coming to you. From now on, no matter what, coming to you must always be a wonderful thing. Even if you have been chasing him around the neighborhood for two hours, when he finally comes or allows you to catch him he is a good boy! The other thing is chasing, DO NOT CHASE A DOG! “Chase” is a game dogs love to play. When you chase him he thinks you are playing a game. The other problem with “chase” is that if you can’t catch your dog he is the one in charge at that moment. Remember, when you are the leader, your dog will listen to you no matter what..
Dogs who run should not be allowed off-leash privileges at all. I recommend putting them on a 20 foot leash and letting them drag it during times of recreation. That way, you have 20 more feet of control. The long-line is used to practice “the recall” (come when called) when dogs advance to a level 4 recall.
There are three parts to training dogs not to run. The first part is ensuring that your dog receives adequate exercise. I recommend starting your day with a structured walk that lasts at least 45 minutes to an hour. Another walk or recreation allowing the dog to run (i.e. fetch, bike riding, jogging etc.) in the evening is also advisable. Some breeds will need a lot more exercise than even that. Breeds bred for working or herding such as border collies and Australian Shepherds have an intense drive to work and must be given adequate opportunities to burn off their excess energy. Owners of such intense breeds should look into activities such as flyball or agility.
The second part is to teach them that coming when called is always a wonderful experience. You have to be better than whatever it is in AJ’s environment that he is focused on. We achieve this by hundreds of repetitions of coming when called and receiving high value praise and rewards.
The third part is controlling the door. Just because the door opens doesn’t
mean he has permission to go through it.
Practice with the door by opening it slightly and using your body to
block any attempts to go through.
Teach him that he must “sit” and “wait” for your permission to go
through every time you walk through the door, whether it is for a walk, car
ride or to get the mail.
Step 1- Create an invisible bubble around the door before you open it. Walk into your dog to encourage him to back up. Follow through using eye contact until he looks away. As you go to the door, know he will try to follow you. At this time turn around and follow the same procedure. If you are consistent, he will stay out of your bubble after a few repetitions.
Step 2- Put your hand on the doorknob, if he comes into your bubble, follow the procedure outlined in step 1. If he doesn’t, open the door just a little bit. Correct any attempts to invade the invisible bubble. If he does cross the line, shut the door and walk into him so that he backs out of the bubble.
Step 3- Each time, open the door a little bit more and expect him to remain within the boundaries. When he doesn’t, patiently shut the door and follow the procedure. Practice this three times daily for 5-10 minutes at a time.
Step 4- Continue expecting more respect of your boundaries and the door. Gradually open the door more and begin to give more distance between you and the door. Practice going outside and using eye contact to communicate that you want him to stay put.
Step 5- During training, take special care not to allow him to escape. Each time that occurs you take several steps back. DO NOT use the word you have chosen to mean “Come to me right now” unless you can enforce it or you know for sure he will come. At this point it is crucial that you don’t use the word in any situation that may ruin the meaning. If you yell “Come!’ and your dog is out of your control he learns that he doesn’t have to come.
“Wait” is a fairly universal command and can be used in a variety of situations. It means to sit and wait to be released. We will teach our dogs to wait at doorways before proceeding through, wait to jump out of the car and wait until we give the OK to eat. The “Wait” command will be taught in conjunction with the release word “OK”. “Wait” serves different purposes in different situations. For example, having your dog wait for you to give the OK to proceed at crosswalks and before jumping out of the car can help keep him out of dangerous situations. On the other hand, asking your dog to wait for you to give him the OK to eat his meal or walk through a doorway communicates your status as pack leader. Throughout your day there will probably be dozens of opportunities to t the “Wait” command; before proceeding through doorways, before going outside or coming in as well as before each and every meal. Teaching the “wait” command, is in most cases, little more than simply blocking your dog from doing whatever it is (eating, exiting the vehicle, walking out the door etc.) until you give permission. Use any opportunity you can throughout your day to practice this command. The more you practice, the more your dog will come to respect you as the pack leader.
“The Recall” (level 1)
Now that your dog is beginning to realize that coming to you makes wonderful things happen we will begin to teach a more structured recall. Take advantage of any opportunity that you find throughout the day to continue practicing random recalls and moving recalls. Remember, there is no such thing as practicing the recall too much! Step 1-With your dog on a leash; have him sit beside you in the “heel” position. Tell him to “stay” while giving him the hand signal (of course he doesn’t yet know “stay” but it is good practice for both of you) Step 2- Stepping off with your right foot and pivoting on your left, step directly in front of your dog so that you are facing each other. If he breaks his “stay” give the no-reward marker and put him back into place Step 3- Hold a treat in your left hand and the leash in your right. Get his attention by holding the treat in front of his nose. Say his name followed by the “come” command while simultaneously backing up several feet, leading him to follow you. In the level one recall it is ok to repeat the command. “Come, come, come” Step 4- Stop after several feet and reward him with the treat and with lots of praise! Step 5- with your dog still in front of you lure him into a “sit”. This is a separate exercise so remember to praise and reward! In level 1 this step is optional.
It might be a good idea to choose a new word that means “Come here right now” if you have been yelling “come” to your dog to no avail. A new fresh word such as “Here” or “Let’s go” may result in a better response. Remember, when you yell, “Come!” as your dog is running the other way, “come” loses it’s meaning.
Last Updated: Monday, December 14, 2009