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jami74

Puppy, bicycles and an unfortunate incident

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Our beautiful puppy is 16 weeks old, and yes, a little bit reactive to moving vehicles. Every day I take him out on our quiet little road where we have plenty of warning that a car is coming and we practice on focusing on me for a sit and down while it passes. His response ranges from totally focussed on me with just a little twitch of his ear as it passes, if I catch his attention in time, to lunging and barking if I do absolutely nothing. He is similarly attracted to bicycles but to a lesser extent. I feel like we are moving in the right direction but respect that he is a young collie and am not expecting perfection quickly.

Yesterday we went up on the hills for a walk. It is generally very quiet, miles from any main roads and fenced off to prevent access to vehicles. He was off lead from the beginning, calmly pottering along with us sniffing and exploring but always keeping close. It was perfect; birdsong, a breeze blowing through the wheat, blackberries to munch on, beautiful views and the sun going down behind the hills. We met two other walkers with a dog each so said a cheery hello but carried on walking and he had a quick sniff and wag with the other dogs and recalled easily to stay with us. As we neared the end of the walk there is a clearing, an open field between us and our car. We saw a walker with a dog on the lead so slowed up to allow them time to get out of our range to prevent any unwanted greetings from our puppy and when I thought it was all clear, started to walk across.

Out of nowhere and with no warning appeared to teens/young adults on bikes. I've never seen bikes up there which is why we chose it for a safe off lead walk. Our puppy heard/saw them before us and took off at lightening speed, ears flapping behind him and deaf to our voices. As mortifying as it was it was also slightly awesome to see him moving so fast with purpose, he wasn't chasing them, he was curving round to head them off. The riders appeared to see it as a challenge to race this puppy and gave chase, swerving round him when they caught up with him, across the car park and off down the lane. As our puppy hit the gravel car park he hesitated, maybe due to the change under foot and to the noise of the bikes. We recalled him and he returned immediately. Had it not just followed a bike race it would have been a perfect recall from quite a distance away.

I'm disappointed in myself for not having spotted the bikes before he did :( I don't want to keep him on the lead forever, he is at his most relaxed when just pottering along with us. Has anyone got any tips on things to train to help prevent surprises like this again please? He hates the lead, finds it frustrating and grabs/chews it. I tried a long lead thinking that it would offer him extra freedom but he finds it even more frustrating as there is more of it flapping around him.

 

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The only way top prevent a repetition is to keep him on a leash (maybe a long leash for walks like this) until you've successfully desensitized him to motion. Sadly, what just happened just reinforced his reactivity and will make it harder now.

And )#(@&@%)_*(_*)%^!!! to the bikers for leading him on a merry chase. Eejits. :angry:

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What GL says. I doubt if a 16 week old pup is in charge of his reactions enough to have even heard your commands. 

Perhaps a flexi-lead? It would keep the leash out of his way and still allow you some control. A long line is also do-able, but you have to be willing to reel it in yourself when it starts to droop & drag.

An alternative is to gently 'correct' him when he turns to grab a trailing leash in his mouth. Practice in your yard for a while before you take this one 'on the road'.

Ruth & Gibbs

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What Gentle Lake said.

16 weeks old is wayyyyy too young to expect a recall in the presence of distractions. Keep up the training and be patient. I wouldn't usually expect an excellent recall under all conditions until closer to a year old (and maybe older, depending on many factors).  And if you do ever let him off lead to enjoy himself, keep your head on a swivel to watch out for distractions.  And whenever you are anywhere in the vicinity of a road, etc. - no matter how little used - leash him up again. Things happen so fast, as you have found out.

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Agree with the above. The thing about surprises is that they are a surprise. ^_^ And you cannot prevent surprises. Your pup is much too young, as said above, to be off leash. If things had gone in a bad direction he could have been hit by a car.

It sounds as though he is well on his way to having a solid recall and being an excellently trained dog. Just don't expect too much from him too soon. This is such an easy pitfall for border collie owners, because these dogs are so biddable and learn so fast that you tend to think something is solid before it actually is. I have made this mistake many times myself with training a border collie.

The fact that he took off and did not acknowledge your calling him back is normal for a pup that age, but indicates he needs a lot more reinforcement before being let off leash. As said above, every time he gets to do something like that reinforces that he doesn't need to come when called. And it can take 50 or more repetitions of his having to do what you want to override that one time he got away with the thing you don't want. You won't have to keep him on lead forever, no worries. Just until he is older and has more impulse control and the recall is more solid.

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Our pup is same sort of age. We don’t let him off leash but when we are on a country walk he really enjoys being on the flexi. 

When he is tired or stressed or wants to play he leash bites. I asked for advice on this via a recent post and got some great answers. What works for us is if he starts leash biting as we leave the house I take him straight back in and discuss his options with him lol! He flicks his head knowingly from side to side but he gets the message! If he does it when we are out he gets a ‘leave it’ command followed by ‘good boy’ when he drops it - rinse and repeat! I don’t give him a treat anymore as he quickly cottoned on that a misbehave followed by a behave equalled a treat haha! If he persists with leash biting he is usually tired (so we rest) or he is stressed. I do find that holding him by the scruff helps but NOT to hurt or scold him. It seems to calm him. Perhaps because I give him a little massage too! It’s amazing how normal conversation works to calm him down while I chat with him. I say things like ‘ok buddy this is going to go one of two ways blah blah’. I guess my diplomatic tone gets him thinking. I then divert him to a nearby hedge with the classic ‘ooh, what’s over here’! - just to break him out of leash biting mode. I would say I have an 80/20 success rate. If he really can’t calm down I either carry him home (a recent 20 minute walk on a very humid day necessitated this) or I march him home and give him a time out - necessary if he has just been deliberately monkeying about. Hope this helps. 

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I only just now started letting my 1 year old dog off leash, and only in certain places. Most places she's on a long line. Chasing problem or no, it's advisable to wait until mental and emotional maturity is reached before trying off leash IMO. Too much freedom, too soon, is a recipe for disaster. Young dogs don't have their heads screwed on straight, and they don't make good decisions.

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So, my contribution here is probably a bit out of left field but-


While I ABSOLUTELY agree with the advice here for this situation, please make sure you don't set up a scenario where the puppy *only* gets off leash/unconfined  for fun due to handler or equipment failure (ie: puppy just runs off to chase something, leash breaks, whatever).  This results in - freedom/running off is highly rewarding, and coming back means put back on leash/confinement/an end to fun which can be punishing. 


Use the flexi.  Use a long line.  Use fences.  Whatever, but try very very hard to avoid 'only experiencing freedom when they manage to make it happen/blow you off' AND 'fun ends when I come back (by being reeled in, caught, put back on leash, leaving, whatever). 

 

It's surprisingly easy to do that and it is HUGELY detrimental to reliable recall. 


(Total aside:  3 of the 4 puppies I've had have been off leash from young puppies and not a one of them had their recall degrade with age.  This is mostly the dog's nature, but seriously,  they range from 6 to 16 months and were fine all the way through. ... 4th dog went on and off a long line for a LOOOONG time. Ie: I'm not taking the credit for anything but not breaking them :P but teenagers *can* be okay.   And young young puppies who are still naturally following you give you a great place to start rewarding being close, coming to you, and checking in that should be taken advantage of.)

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2 hours ago, ShellyF said:

I don’t give him a treat anymore as he quickly cottoned on that a misbehave followed by a behave equalled a treat haha!

It's amazing how quickly these dogs can figure things like this out and try to use to to their advantage. My (suspected) border collie x saluki did that with jumping up on people. It was really annoying because it made it so hard to break her of that habit. But it was also pretty amusing and impressive too.

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16 hours ago, CptJack said:

 please make sure you don't set up a scenario where the puppy *only* gets off leash/unconfined  for fun due to handler or equipment failure 

Yes, absolutely, this is very important. I failed to mentioned that my dog had lots of off leash fun time in fenced areas and we practiced her recall in these places. Our household is not one where the dog ever "just gets out" either, we are all careful about that. 

Somehow in my brain"fenced area" didn't register as off leash. LOL

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Thank-you everyone! So much info and advice, you are all lovely!

On ‎7‎/‎27‎/‎2018 at 12:36 AM, urge to herd said:

Perhaps a flexi-lead? It would keep the leash out of his way and still allow you some control. A long line is also do-able, but you have to be willing to reel it in yourself when it starts to droop & drag.

I thought a long line would be a great idea, unfortunately I can't reel it in quicker than he can lie on it and roll himself round and round in it. The flexi lead works much better but. It isn't quite as long as I'd like but we have used it for places where I don't trust the environment but still want him to potter. I got a big sturdy two days ago, I had to ask someone to hold him for me for a few minutes while I attended to something and he bloody almost chewed through it. It's all super glued and duct taped up now though.

21 hours ago, ShellyF said:

When he is tired or stressed or wants to play he leash bites. 

If he does it when we are out he gets a ‘leave it’ command followed by ‘good boy’ when he drops it - rinse and repeat! I don’t give him a treat anymore as he quickly cottoned on that a misbehave followed by a behave equalled a treat haha!

If he really can’t calm down I either carry him home (a recent 20 minute walk on a very humid day necessitated this) or I march him home and give him a time out - necessary if he has just been deliberately monkeying about. Hope this helps. 

Thanks, it's good to know it's not just us. At the beginning of the walk the first few minutes are bouncy and chewy, I've found that offering him a stick to hold gets it out of his mouth now and after a few steps he drops the stick and continues without grabbing the lead. Definitely tiredness plays a part and I've done a little bit of carrying him home too. I don't mind one little bit, he won't be small enough for a carry much longer.

And yes to offering a bad behaviour followed by a good behaviour for a treat! OMG my puppy cottoned on to this very quickly when I tried to teach him 'Off' (feet on the sofa) by telling him Off and dropping a treat on the floor.  He also even does it for recall sometimes, runs slightly further away from us than he knows he should, then sits and watches us for a recall.

18 hours ago, CptJack said:

While I ABSOLUTELY agree with the advice here for this situation, please make sure you don't set up a scenario where the puppy *only* gets off leash/unconfined  for fun due to handler or equipment failure (ie: puppy just runs off to chase something, leash breaks, whatever).  This results in - freedom/running off is highly rewarding, and coming back means put back on leash/confinement/an end to fun which can be punishing. 

Use the flexi.  Use a long line.  Use fences.  Whatever, but try very very hard to avoid 'only experiencing freedom when they manage to make it happen/blow you off' AND 'fun ends when I come back (by being reeled in, caught, put back on leash, leaving, whatever). 

It's surprisingly easy to do that and it is HUGELY detrimental to reliable recall. 

(Total aside:  3 of the 4 puppies I've had have been off leash from young puppies and not a one of them had their recall degrade with age.  This is mostly the dog's nature, but seriously,  they range from 6 to 16 months and were fine all the way through. ... 4th dog went on and off a long line for a LOOOONG time. Ie: I'm not taking the credit for anything but not breaking them :P but teenagers *can* be okay.   And young young puppies who are still naturally following you give you a great place to start rewarding being close, coming to you, and checking in that should be taken advantage of.)

Thank-you for this. I really can't imagine not having off leash time with this dog, he is at his happiest, calmest most sensible and relaxed when he is pottering along with us and that lasts for hours afterwards too. He is a very independent puppy (spends lots of time playing alone at home and prefers to sleep alone) and gets frustrated being forced to comply. I'm choosing the safest places I can and he goes on and off the flexi as necessary throughout the walks now. If I can't see what is round the corner he goes on, if it's clear when we get there I let him off again. His recall is better when he's had a bit of freedom.

Moving forward with bicycles: we have one in the garage so I think we'll get that out and start very slow to desensitize him to it. Would I use a 'leave-it' command for moving things likes bikes and cars? Or a different one? I think a different one would be better because he's quite good at leaving things he shouldn't have if we get it in quick enough so I don't want to ruin that. Maybe I could ask him to 'Ignore'? We have a few cycle lanes near our parks so he really does need to be trustworthy with bikes otherwise it will restrict the places we can walk.

And how do people teach them to drop when they are running? He can do it next to me when I ask, we often circle through sit, paw, down, sit, touch, rolloever etc which he seems to enjoy doing and if we are playing in the garden I'll alternate sit with down so he has to concentrate rather than doing the same thing each time out of habit.

Thanks again for all of your comments.

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Re bikes

We have a trail near us that has regular cyclists on. 

We get Merlin to sit and ‘leave it’. I hold a treat near his nose to distract him and give it to him with a ‘good boy’ if he keeps his bum on the ground. Occasionally he does a little movement towards the bike (in which case no treat). He’s worse when the cyclists say ‘oh what a lovely puppy’ as then Merlin wants to go to them for a fuss - oh my! 

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"Leave it" for me means, "Ignore that". It also means "turn your attention back to me", and then my dog gets a 'lets go' signal. 

Starting with the bike you have and rewarding him for ignoring and turning back to you is a great way to begin. I'd just keep using the same command. 

I suspect, (and have no way at all to prove ;) ) that dogs understand words that begin and/or end with a 'hard' sound better. So a word like 'Yes' starts with a soft sound & ends with a 'sss' sound. A word like 'Good' ends with a 'd', a 'harder' sound than 's'. Again, no way to prove. I tried to do some research on sounds and ease of comprehension, got totally lost and confused within minutes. It will have to wait for much more knowledgeable people to investigate, if ever.

Good luck!

Ruth & Gibbs

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1 hour ago, urge to herd said:

"Leave it" for me means, "Ignore that". It also means "turn your attention back to me", and then my dog gets a 'lets go' signal. 

Starting with the bike you have and rewarding him for ignoring and turning back to you is a great way to begin. I'd just keep using the same command. 

I suspect, (and have no way at all to prove ;) ) that dogs understand words that begin and/or end with a 'hard' sound better. So a word like 'Yes' starts with a soft sound & ends with a 'sss' sound. A word like 'Good' ends with a 'd', a 'harder' sound than 's'. Again, no way to prove. I tried to do some research on sounds and ease of comprehension, got totally lost and confused within minutes. It will have to wait for much more knowledgeable people to investigate, if ever.

Good luck!

Ruth & Gibbs

Thank-you. We'll go with 'leave-it' then. It is a command we are supposed to be practicing for puppy school anyway and if we go really slow with the bike then it will probably reinforce it with other things too.

Were you talking about marker/praise words when you said about 'Yes' and 'Good'? I tend to use 'Good' but thinking about it, if I used 'Yes' I would say it in the same tone with the same inflection so I think the meaning would still be clear. I did notice today that when I said 'Good' puppy turned to me and sat, waiting for his treat when actually I was praising for walking nicely and would have preferred to shove a treat in his mouth while he continued to walk nicely.

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"Leave it" can be like "that'll do" in that it can have various nuanced meanings depending on context and/or tone. In fact, I've heard tons of ppl use "that'll do" to mean "leave it (alone)" or get out of that, and when I was working sheep would often use it that way too.

I teach "leave it" with food first, meaning that the dog can't touch the food. After that's well established I start using it in other contexts. It can mean leave that dog or person alone, or stop checking all the pee mail 'cause we're going somewhere, as well as leave that food on the floor or don't you dare touch that food in a toddler's or patient's hand.

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One caution about the flexi-lead. I personally don't like them for a couple of reasons. One is that it can be hard to hold on to, unlike a leash that has a loop you can put around your wrist. I once had a foster dog on a flexi, and he jerked it out of my hand and trotted off. The lead banged around on the ground behind him, which then frightened him and he took off running, with the leash banging behind him continuing to frighten him.

Another reason is that they can, if wrapped suddenly around and pulled taught, take off a finger or burn a slash into your leg or arm. Or, if your dog runs the lead around you or gets tangled up in it himself it can do a lot of injury in a short period of time.

Just saying.

 

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Flexis are definitely tools that need more paying attention to than a regular leash. If you're willing to stay alert and focused on your dog, and practice with one in a calm environment, they can be useful.

Flexis might not be practical for you, situations vary. I prefer them to a long line because I'm not constantly coiling up line to keep from tripping over it. If I'm going through different types of environments during a walk, I can have the dog safely at my side or having a little room to move about when it's appropriate.

YMMV. Use what will work most safely & efficiently for you.

6 hours ago, jami74 said:

 

Were you talking about marker/praise words when you said about 'Yes' and 'Good'? I tend to use 'Good' but thinking about it, if I used 'Yes' I would say it in the same tone with the same inflection so I think the meaning would still be clear. 

Sorry, yes in answer to your question about marker words. Tone has a lot to do with it, I agree. Whatever is easiest and most natural for you is the best.

Ruth & Gibbs

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If you do feel you need to use a Flexi, get one that is a tape-type (web, like a fine but "normal" leash) and not a string-type. While it still presents possible hazards, it is less likely to cut your finger or hand in a mishap. It is also more noticeable for the dog/pup (having more substance and weight) and for you and other people (being more visually noticeable). 

That said, I use a Flexi only on my very senior dogs in our generally very calm environment and when traveling, for potty trips to the unfenced yard - one is deaf and one is going deaf (and often choosing to be "deaf" ;) ). 

A long line is a good option but some are, as has been pointed out, a bit too long for comfort on the part of the handler. 

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With all our dogs we have found the good quality tape flexi leashes to be far better and less dangerous (on human fingers etc) than the string type. With our pup we are using it as a kind of a reward/signal that we are in a more relaxed country walk - rather than let him completely off leash. When in an environment where more control is needed and he needs to be more attentive, we use a Ruff Wear leash with the partial bungee piece sewn into the leash as it reduces the feel of tension if they do decide to pull. 

I completely get the desire to have a dog walking freely on a trail but for us in Canada we can’t run the risk. Trails have too many potential distractions (bikes/ATVs etc) and quiet woodland could potentially have hunting traps. So off leash has to be restricted to designated areas. 

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