Return of the dog that never came back
As the title of this article suggests this is about the dog that bogs off and never comes back. I receive many emails asking for advice regarding dogs that just go off and take hours to come back. A short reply normally follows asking them to come for a one to one lesson with me. Not all bog off dogs are the same and require several methods to sort this issue out. It is a major issue as the safety of the dog is at risk and there could be a vet bill just around the corner or even worse.
What is a true bog off dog? It is a dog that has no interest with you other than to feed it and give it hugs on a night before bed time. When the dog is taken off the lead it then knows freedom has been given and will not come back unless it wants to and for sure not when you want it to. The dog flies off and at times goes out of sight and appears not to be listening. No matter how much you shout good boy and good girl come to daddy it does not work. You are late for work and you just thought you would be nice and take the dog out for a quick blast before you set off. The dog has other ideas and has no concept of time and does not know it only has ten minutes for play. Soon you are looking at your watch and you are running out of time. You increasingly shout the dog, whistling and using your sweetest voice but only to have the dog just in the distance and not coming to you. Eventually your dog returns and you get the lead on and back to the car and race back home and race round getting ready for work. You turn up at work with one slipper on and one shoe, your tie to one side and you have missed 2 buttons on your shirt.
How did this happen? Your dog used to be fine and always came back for a treat or a hug. Surely you have not done anything wrong to deserve this behaviour from your dog. Well I’m sorry it is your fault and I will explain why before we tell you how to stop it.
At first you take your young dog on a walk and when you feel safe you let the dog off the lead. The dog has a little run round and you call it back. The dog loves this and enjoys being with you. The only thing is, it works out is when you call it back you lock it down back onto the lead and remove its freedom. At first the dog will accept this and will come back without too much fuss. Then the dog gets wise to what we are doing and starts to not come back as much as it used too but you say it’s just going through the teenage years it will be fine soon. Well this is where you should have changed what you do in your training. But you continue and the dog increasingly ignores you and you try your best to make it come back. The dog now sees you as not just its owner but the keeper of its freedom. You now have the dog that bogs off without a care about you and you now need a trainer to sort this issue out.
A dog does need freedom and it should have it too, keeping your dog on a long line or lead is not an option because as soon as it is taken off you are back to the beginning. Freedom should be given but with control and a structured approach. Your dog has learnt that the environment is far better than being with you and getting locked down. We have to firstly get the dog to want us. That may be by using its favourite toy or something similar. This would be started at home or in a safe area. When out we need to place two leads on the dog and when the first one is removed the dog will think it is free to go when actually it is not as the second lead is still connected. These are some small easy wins but will not stop the dog bogging off when it’s completely free. When you let the dog off and it goes too far the normal response is to shout its name in a nice voice. From a dogs perspective all you are saying is you are still here and you are happy. The dog continues to run off and you shout more and more and try to sound nicer and nicer. In turn the dog is loving it because it thinks it is making you happy. The best recall is no recall, the dog can’t hear you and wonders what is wrong. It will come and investigate why you are not making all the noise and will try to get you to talk again to let it be free. Stop shouting and it could have an effect straight away. Some dogs will be worried and find you straight away. I asked a customer to give me his dog and I kept it in the wood in a pheasant pen while he walked off. The dog ran round and around the pen trying to get out to his owner. When his owner came back in a few minutes the dog was all over his handler. If it was the other way round the handler is in a bad mood and locks it down. Worst case of a bog off dog I have seen was a dog that as soon it was taken off the lead did not come back for several hrs. For this dog in particular we stopped feeding the dog from the bowl and only fed it from the handler’s pocket. The food is measured out each day and must only come from the pocket. It takes about a week for the dog to understand you are the only way it can be fed and you then become much better than the environment. You are not starving the dog because you have weighed out its food, it just comes from the pocket. All the family have to understand no tit bits for the dog whilst this is sorted. This can be more difficult than training the dog. Once a week has passed you will be able to go out with the dog ensuring it is still fed from the pocket. It will work and you must not push the dog too much and each day try a little further walk until the dog is in control again. Your dog will soon love you just as it did and you can start to enjoy it once again.