Friday, November 13, 2009

At a Distance

Despite the rain, wind and cold, Marge finally got to try out her new 50' leash in the field with Jessica and me.  

What an upgrade over the 20' leash!  Marge was bewildered and wouldn't wander too far away at first.  Once she realized the larger radius that she had to run and play, she had a blast.  Happily, though, she stayed very focused on us, careful to not let us get too far away from her.  She has become so accustomed to walking 20' away on the other long leash that she can sometimes get a little distracted.  Because this distance was so much greater - two and a half times more - she made sure she knew where we were.  So, I intend to keep the fifty footer more of a novel item, one that I won't use too much so as to not let her get so comfortable on it that she begins to ignore us.

I don't actually think Marge would run away if given the opportunity, but I also don't think she is a great candidate for a lot of offleash work.  Sure, I've dropped the leash while walking on the deserted beach, and she is reliable enough to run agility outdoors.  But, because of her fear issues, her sporadic reactivity, and my relative inexperience as a dog owner (she's my first dog, if you didn't already know), I've decided that she's better off being clipped to a long line for everyone's safety. 

It makes me super envious of the amazing walks and gorgeous hikes that some other bloggers take offleash, but the environment in which we live (a busy place) and Marge's quirks don't make for a great combination.  I long so greatly to find a huge fenced in area for her to run that isn't a dog park.  None exist, at least none that I know of.

Here, we set her up for a more formal recall, with Jessica in the middle, so that Marge could run up to me from a full one hundred feet.  It probably turned out to be more like 75 feet because of the wind, but still, it is a great distance for her. I cut it off too soon, but I like watching her sprint up to me (and the treats awaiting her) with such enthusiasm.


T November 13, 2009 at 5:19 PM  

Thank you for stopping by my blog and commenting about Maiya. She is a special girl, but they all are.

I love your blog. I will be back to read more. Marge seems like a very special girl too.

Kate November 13, 2009 at 6:10 PM  

I love my extendy lead! It means I can go in the water without Her Indoors moaning about getting wet and splashed on!


BRUTUS November 13, 2009 at 6:16 PM  

Good idea, although I'm picturing that if I tried it myself I'd become permanently tangled in all that nylon!


Shadowsky November 13, 2009 at 6:30 PM  

It's great that you and Marge were able to get out and have some fun! That recall was awesome to watch.

Carolyn November 13, 2009 at 6:48 PM  

That's cool! I should think about getting a long leash (i think i have some 15' leads, that's it).

Nothing wrong at all with keeping her on a leash. I only let Cooper off leash when we are seriously in the back country or hiking around Big Sky. When we do trails in the Bridgers (our "local mountain range" - lol) he is on a leash the entire time. And he likes it!

Marge is one happy dog!

Have a good one!


Sara November 13, 2009 at 7:22 PM  

I wish more people were like you, and kept their dogs on leashes - for their safety and others.

I have a fifty foot lead too, but tend to use the shorter ones. With two herding dogs constantly circling....we just end up a tangled mess!

Marge did great on the recall:)

Gus, Louie and Callie November 13, 2009 at 7:32 PM  

Ya we come running for treats too.. Mom's come is waving her left hand over her head like a crazy lady.. Of course if the deaf ones aren't looking they do NOT come...

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus, Louie and Callie

The Army of Four November 13, 2009 at 8:54 PM  

That's cool! Sometimes we have to be on a 20' lead in our own fenced-in yard. Something about bunnies... prey drive... not coming when we're called. I'm not sure what that's all about.
Play bows,

Deborah November 13, 2009 at 9:28 PM  

50' Holy Cow! I didn't think they made leashes that long!
That video was cute! Right into the camera!!

Kari in Alaska November 13, 2009 at 9:43 PM  

I didn't know they made leashes that long. I am sure the two of you will learn and grow lots with it :)

Kathy Mocharnuk November 13, 2009 at 11:54 PM  

ALL RIGHT, Marge looked marvelous with her recall! I did not realize Marge is your first dog, that is very cool, you seem to be a natural doggie trainer, it sure does not seem like she is your first pup!

Raegan November 14, 2009 at 12:06 AM  

Are there any baseball fields near you? Sometimes those (or any other kind of field, soccer springs to mind) are fenced in.

Dexter November 14, 2009 at 5:16 AM  

Momma has never had a what you call "off leash dog" but they have all been happy and had lots of fun anyway. She tries that long leash thing on Pee-Wee sometimes, but he eventually goes to the end of it and becomes hard of hearing. Sigh.


KB November 14, 2009 at 9:00 AM  

I love the recall, and the closing frame with Marge snarfing her treat! That was enthusiastic!

Believe me, you're leap years ahead of where I was in terms of dog training when I had my first dog! When I finally went to a trainer with him, he had me use a 50 ft leash but make sure to change directions whenever my dog was focused away from me. The idea was to teach him that he needed to always watch me because I was very unpredictable. But, that being said, I can see your reasons for not driving toward off-leashness make perfect sense.

With my first dog, I'd sometimes take him to tennis courts for off-leash time because they're totally fenced. We'd practice truly off-leash recalls and he'd run around a bit. The down side is that it's tough on the paws but they'll get tougher if you build up slowly.

Amber and Nala November 14, 2009 at 11:03 AM  

Great running Marge! My Mom used to take me to a school that was fenced in for playtime until she trusted me to stay close and come back to her. :) When we are on walks now, I will occxasionally run up ahead with my furiends but I always look back and wait for Mom to cathc up. :) I have to know where she is at all times.


Unknown November 14, 2009 at 3:23 PM  

I think you're doing great! Marge is so lucky to have such a dedicated owner like you - honestly - if more dogs had responsible, caring owners like you, the world would be a better place for dogs - and other dog owners!

I wouldn't worry too much about her not going to the limits of the lead - you actually want her to stay within a small radius of you anyway, even when totally off-leash, so you should encourage that. As they gain confidence, they will automatically start to go further and further (don't worry - you never have to encourage that!) so I would actually work more on keeping her around you. Dogs can explore quite happily and enjoy the walk within a small radius around - they don't need to be bounding off into the distance - that's a common misconception. The most important thing for them is staying with their pack leader (you) and remaining within the "pack bubble" but YOU can take them over to interesting features (eg. pond/tree, etc) so that they can explore it - rather than they running off by themselves.

Honey is 100% reliable off-leash but she still keeps to about 20 feet around me at all times - when she was younger and we were training this, if she exceeded this distance, I would turn and walk off in a new direction WITHOUT calling her - this keeps her on her toes and makes her realise that she has to keep chcking back with me all the time, otherwise she might lose her pack! Never follow Marge's direction when out on walks (even on a long line) - always keep setting off in new directions, so it's very clear that YOU are in charge of the walk and She has to follow YOU.

Another good game to play is to suddenly hide behind a bush when she's distracted (eg, sniffing) - you can do this even with a long line, as long as its slack - when she looks up and doesn't see you, she'll probably panic and start coming to look for you. You can help her initially by calling her - and then huge fuss & treats when she finds you. This again encourages her to keep an eye on you and follow you.

Ultimately, you don't want to rely on any tool (no matter how long!) to keep your dog with you but you want to train a willingness/need to stay with you and follow you. So you need to cultivate that attitude in the dog, then you can slowly become more confident that she will come back when called (or never stray too far) even when not tied to you - because her need to stay with you will be stronger than anything else she meets.

The mistake most people make is letting their dog think the security of their pack is taken for granted - they chase their dogs, follow them everywhere, etc - so the dog never learns to value their own pack. But put the onus on the DOG to stay with you and keep up and suddenly, when he realises what he stands to lose, he will start to care more and make more effort.


Unknown November 14, 2009 at 3:37 PM  

Also - rather than having a longer line (which can get really difficult to manage and tangle easily), it might be better to stick to the shorter one but let go of it so that it is trailing on the ground. That is what we do here when training the Recall - once the dog is coming back reliably with you holding the long line, we drop the line and let it trail on the ground but it is still there as a safety so that if the dog takes off, all you have to do is run to the end of the trailing line and step on it. This will prevent the dog running away and give you some peace of mind - but at the same time, gives a dog more freedom to test him - a sort of halfway point before being completely off-leash.

This way, the dog gets used to not having any tension on the long line (apparent freedom) but if he doesn't come back when called, you can run foward, step on the line then pick it up and "reel" him in or better still, hold it but don't reel him in - instead, run backwards, while calling him and giving gentle little tugs to encourage - once he starts towards you, you can stop running & tugging on the line and just use voice/encouragement to bring him the rest of the way. So the line is just there as insurance and a reminder to get them to start the recall (in case they are reluctant or distracted) but once they start, you always want to rely as much as possible on just yourself & your encouragement to bring them the rest of the way.

Oh, by the way, I don't know what kind of line you use but the nylon once can seriously burn & cut into the fingers if pulled tight! So what we do here is make a small loop at your end of it and then clip your normal leash into that loop, so that you have something safer for your hands to grip. Never grab a nylon rope when the dog is taking off - you could take your fingers off! :-) Best to step on it if they are moving at speed.

Another thing is when you are teaching this sort of RELIABLE Recall, don't worry so much about getting the dog to Sit when it gets to you. The most important thing you're after is the reliability and speed of the recall - as long as the dog comes to you, close enough so you can touch it, and lets you handle it without trying to escape - that is the goal. All the other formal stuff you can add later very easily but the key thing initially to focus on is a reliable, fast recall in a variety of situations. Getting them to Sit is no fun - so until coming to you becomes a habit and inherently rewarding, you want to make it as positive & appealing as possible - so when she gets to you, do something that she really loves - whether this is a big cuddle or Tug Game or just letting her chase you for abit or her favourite treat - but just give it to her with great excitement, don't ask her to sit or anything. The only thing you might ask for is putting your hand on her collar before you give her the treat or toy, etc...although I find that if you can get a dog coming happily and willingly, you don't usually have a problem "catching" them. The ones that try to escape are the ones who think that coming to you equals doing somethign boring. So in the beginning, just take away all the formal stuff and focus on just making Recall the most exciting GAME with you possible! :-)

Hope this helps -

Cinnamon and Mint November 14, 2009 at 4:13 PM  

You are doing great!! I am very impressed! Am I saying the same thing repeatedly? But, I really think so.

The recall is still a problem with Cinnamon. But, all I am doing to teach her to come when called is give her yummy reward when she comes.

NAK and The Residents of The Khottage Now With Khattledog November 14, 2009 at 4:31 PM  

No off leash fur me...

I wonder why THAT is?!?


Lorenza November 14, 2009 at 4:32 PM  

Sure is nice you can go out and have fun! I wish I could run free!
We live in the middle of a city with no parks! So, I have to go out on a short leash!
Have a great weekend!
Kisses and hugs

Ruby and Penny November 15, 2009 at 8:53 AM  

Marge has a great recall. Are there certain times of the day when your dog park is not being used. Here the dog parks are really busy in the early morning and early evening, but empty during the day.
Love Ruby & Penny

Muttsandaklutz November 15, 2009 at 10:46 AM  

I totally sympathize with you about the long line thing. My scenthound Lucy can rarely be offleash, so we have a super duper long line that comes in handy. But walks are so much more pleasant when the dog can be offleash (where suitable) when you know that they won't go running off.

Wise decision with where you and Marge are at right now, but I would think the long line may become a thing of the past in your future :)

Astrid Keel November 15, 2009 at 12:04 PM  

Marge, you rock! I am also pretty envious of those who can take walks off leash, but I am not reliable (prey drive). The video of Marge dashing to you is Fantabulous!


Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart November 15, 2009 at 4:05 PM  

I love that last image on the video of her taking the treat. What a face!

PoochesForPeace November 15, 2009 at 9:50 PM  

Awwww how fun! She looked so happy! I don't really feel comfortable with off leash stuff either, I'm too much of a worry-wart even if I had a "reliable" dog.

Sue November 16, 2009 at 12:12 PM  

I only have a couple that I trust enough to let off leash in all but the most controlled situations and I have two, Tsar and Bailey, that will never be able to go off leash.

I'm so glad we fenced the back yard so they can run every day.

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