Dog relationships and off-leash training

amberdyan

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#1
So this questions/solicitation for advice is two fold.

I have a 7 month old herder mix named Hugo, who is just an all around wonderful dog. He loves the dog park more than anything in the world, and is great at hiking off-leash when there are no dogs close by. His problem is the fact that once he meets another dog, I can not call him off of it. I can call him off of anything else, a rabbit, a squirrel, even a tasty treat, but if it's another dog all bets are off. When he's not around dogs he's got excellent recall and great manners. So my question is, how do I get him to respond to me off-leash around other dogs? I've tried every treat I can think of, but nothing tops playing with another dog. The worst part is he seems to have no idea what the word "no" in dog-speak is. He's been snarked/growled at several times and he just keeps going until I physically drag him away. Any tips on what I'm doing wrong in this situation?

Secondly, Hugo does have a "best friend" at the dog park. He's a 2 year old border collie mix (emphasis on the mix) who is really rough when it comes to play. He's very vocal, barking and growling and tends to fling himself around and wrestle. Hugo runs to him every time and wants to play with him, so I don't think he's being hurt, but I'm worried that he's going to think that that is the appropriate way to interact with other dogs.

Overall, I'm kind of frustrated because the dog park is his absolute favorite thing. He loves running and hiking off-leash even if there are no other dogs around, but I can't keep taking him if he's going to harass every dog he meets until I drag him away.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
 

pinkspore

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#2
Seven months is pretty young for off leash reliability, he may mature and get better around other dogs. Have you tried working on a long line in the vicinity of other dogs? If you haven't taken any sort of group class with him, that would be an excellent way to teach him to think and work in the presence of other dogs. The Premack principle is probably something you can use to make his love for other dogs work for you.

If he isn't reliable off leash around other dogs, then he isn't reliable off leash. I wouldn't give my dog the chance to practice ignoring me and rushing other dogs, he could be hurt or hurt another dog. I hike with my leashed leash-reactive dog and I despise off leash dogs that charge over to "play", after getting body slammed a few times Brisbane meets them with teeth and I'm there to back him up with pepper spray and a hefty stick. I am minding my own business and hiking with my dog, if we wanted to play with other dogs we would go to the dog park.
 

amberdyan

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#3
Thanks for the reply. I think you're right- I'm expecting too much of him too soon. I was spoiled by his extreme velcro-ness. My parents own a bunch of land we hike on and he works so well with me out there. Add to that the fact that he totally leaves dogs alone when he's on leash (doesn't pull on leash or do much more than glance at them) and I assumed he would have the same behavior off leash. But training wouldn't be a fun challenge if he got everything right immediately! I looked up more about the premack principle and am definitely going to implement more of that with distractions. We have worked on a long line, but he ignores dogs when he's on it. I think I'm going to get a longer one in hopes that that will translate more into the off leash mindset. I'm excIted to work with him!

Also, just to be clear, this IS a 50 acre off leash dog park. When we hike elsewhere (other than our own land) he's always on long line. A close friend of mine has a VERY reactive dog so I always try to be aware that any dog could be like hers and appreciate a lot of space.

Thanks again!
 

DJEtzel

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#4
I don't think 7 mos is too young for off leash reliability, personally, in a herder specifically. My border collie was trusted off leash since he came home at 7 wks and my GSD has been reliable off leash since 4 mos or so? We play off leash at a park near my home every other day or so and lots of people walk dogs through. Coming as close as 10ft or so, and they have never decided to go say hi to anyone. HUGE no no, for me.

Does he like toys? Do you have a toy that he has a lot of drive for? Usually food is not going to trump something as exciting as dogs, especially in close proximity. Practice letting him glance at other dogs from a distance, then calling his attention to you, and rewarding with a game of tug or fetch. Work him on a 25+ foot long line so that you can stop him if you have to, but he has the illusion of freedom. Work up to a closer proximity doing this and then move back and start throw the tug/fetch toy further away from you and making a huge deal about it when he brings it back.

Basically, you need to teach him that you're more exciting than the strange dogs. ;)
 

pinkspore

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#5
Soooo glad you aren't letting him run amuck in public! The vast majority of hiking trails here are very high traffic so there's nowhere to go to be away from other people.

Off leash reliability probably depends a lot on the dog, mine was glued to me with an amazing recall until he hit 7-8 months and suddenly forgot everything he had ever learned. He was also my first puppy so I didn't have the training skills I have now.

I highly recommend Leslie McDevitt's book Control Unleashed for off leash skills, it's basically an agility book but has a lot of good stuff for everyone. There is a whole lot in there about how to be more exciting than the other dogs, since that can feel like an impossible task without more specific advice.
 

amberdyan

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#6
Sooooo.... I wanted to post a Hugo brag here. I made this thread when he was 7 months old and we worked for 1-2 hours out at the dog park 5 days a week for almost a YEAR. I came back to read this because I couldn't remember how bad it was before (also I've learned so much and am so sorry to all of those dogs I let Hugo approach without permission. Blerg.)

Yesterday at the dog park, a dog approached Hugo and her owner asked if Hugo liked to play, I told her usually, yeah, yadayada and we let them play together. As we were parting she had to yell at her dog multiple times and couldn't get her to come away from Hugo. I called Hugo and sent him "out" around my fiancee who was standing next to the lady, the other dog chased him and the lady was able to catch her. Hugo wraps around my fiancee, comes rocketing back and I held my hand palm out at my hip and he turn on a dime, sat in heel position and looked up at me with his tongue hanging out all excited. The lady was SHOCKED and I don't think I have EVER been more proud in life.
 
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#7
OK, that's amazing. HELP ME! LOL!

Louis is still an out of control jerk at the off leash areas. Blow me off and pesters other dogs.

What, exactly, did you do to work on this? I am desperate. It is exceedingly difficult for me to adequately exercise him without being at an off leash park, but I've been avoiding them (mostly) because of his obnoxiousness.
 

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