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04 Jun 2004

For the Behaviourist - When the dogs get out
Hi Karen,
I have 2 Shepherds,brother and sister and they are 3 years old. We used to take them to training for about 6 months. They did very well and learnt the basics very quickly. They both sit when told to do so and are generally quite obedient. The problem is that sometimes when I open the gate in the morning, they both charge out and run up the road. Most days when I tell them to stay, they sit calmly at the top of the driveway and watch me leave without moving. On the days that they run out, If I call them they totally ignore me. I know that they can hear me but they pay absolutely no attention. I never chase after them as I know it makes them run even further away. I've tried sitting when calling them and also turning and running in the opposite direction. All to absolutely no avail. What really makes me mad is that when they run out, I end up having to call my husband for help. He'll go outside and call them and they'll stop dead in their tracks and run back home. What does he have that I don't? Why do they listen to him and not to me? He will also not hesitate to give them a smack when they don't listen, but I've never smacked them because I don't think it's right. They are in no way scared of my husband, but they seem to have more respect for him. My husband says I'm too soft with them and they think I'm their play mate. I still think I'm right to not discipline them by smacking them, but why does it look as though the occasional smack that they get from my husband works? When the female is on the leash she listens to me, but off the leash she doesn't recognise my authority. Can you please tell me what I'm doing wrong. Thank you so very much!
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Expert
CyberVet
cybervet

01 Jan 0001

Hi Mich
Unfortunately men often have this effect on dogs, whether or not they smack them. One theory is that they have deeper voices, but I'm really not sure. The fact that you husband has smacked them in the past may make them more afraid of him, having the effect of getting more obedient results, but you don't have to shout at or punish dogs to get this result. Fear is not the only way to train and may do more damage in the long run to a healthy trusting relationship. Being assertive with your dogs is easier said than done and involves subtle decision-making and outwitting them, rather than calling your husband for backup. In any case it will not help to smack the dogs if they don't come to you, as it's already too late and they will feel punished for coming to you, rather than for running away. Practise calling them at all times and then praising them, touching them and giving them treats every time they come, even if it's 10 minutes later. Gradually give more attention if they come straight away and less if they take their time. Use food or lots of praise to manipulate them into doing what you want. If they ignore you, ignore them back and try again later; don't repeat commands, nag or shout. Make sure they get regular walks outside your gate on leads only as this satisfies the need to get out there. To train them to stay inside the gate I suggest you have leads attached to a post inside the gate. Attach them to the leads, say "sit" and "stay" (lots of praise!), open the gate, drive out, close the gate and then release them, saying "good dogs!!" and giving them a delicious treat each. Once this pattern has become established after a few weeks, you can leave the leads unattached, but continue with the same routine.
Karen Gray-Kilfoil
ANIMAL BEHAVIOURIST
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