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Off Leash - is this a goal?

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While out for a run today met a lady with a beautiful Aussie ( 7yrs old). Wonderful dog. In our short visit she stated " I have never let the dog off leash because he is to precious to me". We are in a community where dogs off leash are the norm. She got this dog from a breeder as a puppy. (I state this because I do recognize that there are rescue dogs that come with such issues that off leash may never be possible). It just struck me as odd. I always hope to train my dogs well enough so that they can be off leash. Of course I am always in tune to potential dangers. When I see my dogs running at top speed - it is a beautiful sight. I thought that the reward for good behaviour - off leash running, was a good lifestyle for the dogs. Am I delusional? Is it only special in my mind?

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Where I live, there are no sidewalks so the only way to leash walk would be on the side of the road, and I don't trust the drivers well enough for that! My property, 10 acres, is mostly wooded, and it would be impossible to walk more than one dog at a time. So, all the dogs were taught a good solid recall. Just the other day I was able to call Jackson off a deer that was only 20ft away from him! It is nice to take them all down to the woods and let them sniff everywhere. The only one I have a problem with is Holly. She likes to sneak off and go back to the house and A/C! I don't know if it bothers dogs that are used to always being on leash to not be off of it. But a good solid recall is a must. In my opinion, a solid recall is when you can call your dog to you regardless of anything else going on.

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I think off leash is certainly the most natural way for a dog to be. They're not born with tethers; they don't live on tethers in the wild.

 

I let my dog off leash in local woods and fields where it's possible. He has a 100% recall, so as soon as I see potential trouble (approaching dogs, or humans who may not like dogs), I simply leash him (for dogs) or put him in a sit/stay by the side of the path (for wary humans). I don't run into trouble.

 

On our local streets, I would never let Buddy off leash. There are just too many potential dangers: idiot drivers, compulsive lawn-lovers, kids zooming by on bikes, dogs and cats who might jump out at us. The dog could get hurt or, more possibly, scare and/or hurt a kid or animal.

 

I think it largely depends on your local culture. Around here, we really don't let our dogs off leash in residential areas, but we very much do in wooded parks and reservations and other open areas where there's little trouble likely.

 

Mary

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You're right, having your dog off leash is the goal. I have agreed with every post so far, walking them in a more urban enviorment they need to be leashed. I was just thinking about this this afternoon, today is the hottest it has been in months, and I would love to be able to take my two idiots to the beach tonight and let them romp and run, but Izzy's recall isn't strong enough quite yet and Tobey once he sees another car or person goes nuts, the price he is paying for being tied to a tree for both of his two years, poor guy. I hope to have them to the point where we can do just such things. For now the backyard is big enough to let them run and they have a pool.

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I thought that the reward for good behaviour - off leash running, was a good lifestyle for the dogs. Am I delusional? Is it only special in my mind?

 

I don't see off leash as a reward, and I don't see on-leash as a punishment. Instead, I see leashes as a good tool to use to meet the requirements of the law, provide safety when needed, and to restrain dogs needing that.

 

Being off-leash is a responsibility for both dog and owner, and a reflection on your relationship, in my mind.

 

I really liked what someone said here once - that leashes are just "tack", like bridles are for horses. I think it was Melanie (Soloriver). Someone with good training/riding abilities and a really good relationship with their horse would not need any tack, but that does not mean putting a bridle on the horse is punishment. Nor does it necessarily mean that a horse who never wears tack has a better lifestyle than one who does but gets ridden and attended to frequently.

 

I don't really understand what the person you spoke to was getting at. I mean, I get that she wants to make sure her dog is safe, but in some locations, with a solid recall and good training on the dog, I think they can be just as safe off leash. The worst incident Odin and I ever had on a walk - getting attacked, happened while he was on-leash. I had to drop the leash so he could move appropriately and not be strangled while trying to get away from the other dog.

 

Odin is getting very, very good off-leash. He recalls off deer/rabbits/flushed ducks too, no problem. Like I posted here once before, his "worst" recall is when he's inside and close to me already. Unlike Mary, I'm even taking risks (which I fully realize) and training him for off-leash full voice control on city streets. This is not because I think he will be happier for being off leash - it is because I am treating it as advanced training, and a J.O.B. for him to do. Having the job DOES make him happier. Berkeley allows dogs off leash anywhere as long as they are under voice control, as do some other cities. However, so far the Oakland PD has not said a word to me, as he is very under control when we walk together.

 

He stays within 10-15 ft of me. Has to stay on the sidewalk. I have proofed him with a ball and other toys - no matter how ramped up he gets, if the ball goes into the street, he lays down and waits for me to get it. So just walking, he will never leave the sidewalk. He must sit next to me at each intersection and not cross until specifically released. If we see another dog, he must come behind me and lay down. People are not to be approached without my approval. There is one crossing in our normal route that has very busy traffic, about 30-40 mph. I get a bit nervous having him stay off leash here, but never for any reason he's given me. I can push at his butt and it does. not. move. until his release word. One time we were with my husband at this crossing and a big truck drove by. I got nervous and stepped on Odin's leash (which he drags while city-off-leash walking). My husband just busted up - he said Odin was concentrating on me and when I did that he looked up like "HEY! I can DO this, mom! I am doin it!"

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Your new Aussie friend is dead on imo. While it may be wonderful to watch them running free it isn't fun to watch them become roadkill. Better safe then sorry and keep them on lead unless you "know" the area is absolutely safe.

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I don't view off leash as a reward and on leash as punishment. I think in certain cases on leash could be viewed/used as a punishment (dog keeps blowing you off, so you put him on leash while other dogs continue to run off leash).

 

But I would never let my dog off leash -even with the greatest recall in the world- if it wasn't safe.

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1- I absolutely agree that safety is the highest importance.

2- My use of reward was incorrect. I guess my thinking is I want to train up to the point that I feel confident that is a carefully monitored situation - ie mountain hike - that the dogs can enjoy the surrounding at their pace.

 

I would be broken if through actions of my own harm came to my dogs. But the concept that something is precious means that it must always be tethered to me - wouldn't I be potentially smothering it to much? Wouldn't it be better to teach the dog a solid recall? (I know, one that must be practiced multiple times a day)

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I am a small city dweller and on the rare occasions I walk my dogs on city streets they are always leashed. My dogs and I spend a lot of time going to places where they can run of leash, woods, fields, beaches etc. I have always spent al ot of time on recall and both my husband and I derive pleasure from watching the dogs play in the woods, running sniffing just being dogs. I could not imagine only having them leashed.

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I walk my dogs on lead when the situation calls for it, and off lead when I can. Saftey would be my priority.

I don't think they care much either way. It's all out and about for them. We don't go places where we need leashes much, so my guys probably think it's a treat since they're going somewhere new or different.

 

I think Raven or Jazz could be off lead anywhere but why would I risk their life to find out,

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Yes I like off leach to, but were they cannot get into any trouble and that is a hard place to find even with my 8 acres of land. Example had a Rottie I trained from a puppy with the Air force military training dog guide with hand commands and the whole nine yards. She was very good at protection and off leach, except for one night I went next door to my mothers and coming out at night I let her out by my side and all i saw was her running to the middle of the road ( cat had gotten hit and was not dead but moving around in the middle of road and she saw this) which was 75 feet from the front door no time to do a recall with car coming up the road at 45 to 50 MPH so I myself almost gets hit going to the dog and mouthing to the car coming don't hit the dog.

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Daisy and I live in the city. We walk daily on a leash. The only time that I really let her off leash is if we are sitting in my backyard or playing in the park. It was my goal with Daisy to be able to have her play off leash in the park. She has a solid recall, I trust her in this environment, and I am constantly watching for kids, people walking w/o dogs etc and leash her if necessary.

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A leash just is. They have their uses good and bad it really depends on the situation. My dogs have always been off leash dogs where possible. Watching Jin run a full speed is a joy. Fortunately his recall for where we walk is solid and getting better. However there are places where a leash is a must. Downtown, in the store and going to and from the car. The goal should be Control Unleashed (sic).

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I also agree that safety is of extremely high importance. But my question is, what, exactly, is safe? Or a completely safe place? And how can you "know"? As far as I know, there is no place in the world, even occasionally inside one's own home, that is safe in all respects.

 

I very MUCH get what you all mean about cars. I was hit by a truck when I was a kid, and believe me, I have a healthy respect. If there is any chance your dog would run into the path of a car and get hit, you should do whatever it takes to prevent it. I am very conscious of not only the dangers of the street but also cars backing out of driveways, parking lots, etc.

 

But at the same time, there is the outside world, filled with cars, people, cats, other dogs, wildlife, kids, bikes, etc. etc. I don't know how you could ever be sure you were entirely safe about a lot of variables in terms of controlling the world. But, if you have solid control over the dog's behavior, then I believe you can teach the dog to behave safely.

 

I'll try to explain what I mean with examples of what I don't want. My in-law's dobie is 8, going on 9, and has basically 0 recall. She will run if she wants to run. She sounds like Wendy's dog in that arthritis has been a great help to them in controlling her and keeping her safe. Because of her historicaqlly poor and completely unreliable recall, and her propensity for deer-mania, they will only very rarely even walk on-leash out to the mailbox by the road. This is because they don't want her to run into the road, and if they dropped the leash or she saw a deer, she would take off. That would be it. So they wisely choose rarely to even risk it.

 

Or my coworker's dog - she knows the dog is not to be trusted off leash and thus would never let her off. But twice the pup has accidentally gotten out of the house or fenced yard and could not be caught, and ran through the neighborhood across roads and everything because it has no recall yet (not really to her discredit, as it is a pup still - although I don't think she has tried really training a recall). But the same thing could happen to a full grown dog with poor recall or not trained to wait at doors. I was also standing outside with her once when her pup's prong collar broke from the force of her pulling (the links snapped apart somehow?) and she took off! But luckily I dropped Odin's leash and he took off after her, then I called him back and she came too.

 

I don't think a dog necessarily has to be a rescue at all to be untrainable for a reliable recall - again, look at Wendy's Lucy, btw. And if Odin weren't like he has so far shown himself to be, then I wouldn't love him less but would certainly trust him less in this specific regard. And I wouldn't worry about his unhappiness one bit because of it.

 

If you accidentally drop Odin's leash, or leave the door open, or other stuff like that, he brings the leash back to you on command (or sometimes even on his own accord! - I swear he likes his leash), and he knows not to get out of the car or leave doors without approval. He wasn't always like this, and I still don't consider him 100% in any regard. But this is what I strive for - the ability to trust him to follow my rules that will keep him safe on leash or off. To me, that seems more foolproof than the idea that I'll always be able to completely control our environment.

 

Although that last bit is a HUGE part of it, I'll admit. However, it's different based on the dog, I think. Our normal off-leash walk route through my neighborhood would certainly be considered unsafe in many regards by most people here. There is a lot of traffic, people, cats, dogs, and other hazards. But it's where I've walked him since he was just-barely-double-digit weeks old. He KNOWS it. And he knows what is expected of him completely. I know, personally, he is unlikely to be overstimulated, and if so, I can still predict his responses.

 

Now, if we were to walk in a rural area (low traffic, few people, might be considered safer), I know there would be cats and deer and such but that's not what I would worry about. Where there might be SHEEP on the other side of a road, and no sidewalk for a guide of where he MUST be, then of course I wouldn't trust him to be off leash near the road. No way. Since he's been on sheep, he is ga-ga for them, and while I can call him off deer, and am even proud he called off sheep nicely at the end of our last lesson, I certainly don't trust that yet. Also, the lack of sidewalk would be nervewracking for both of us. But what I like is that he would not be unhappy to be on leash therew. I believe he really sees his leash as his possession, a closer connection between us, and a harbinger of excellent adventures, etc.

 

Anyway, one big fat disclaimer I've got to make is that this is JMHO, Karen and Mary have much more experience than I and really you guys should listen to them. I just feel I get what C&D is saying, in that yes I DO believe that off-leash would be the goal if it is possible with a given dog - not really because it's great to watch them run, although it is. But because the training is what really keeps them safe. IMO safer than without, leashes or no.

 

ET - sheesh, what an embarrassingly long post - sorry. Guess I've thought about this a lot.

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off leash is always my goal. Rusty is my only dog that I never ever ever let off leash, I dont trust him. his recall is great..when it suits him. just like training, he reponds so treats, play, praise and negative..but doesnt respond to ANY of them all the time, he responds to each method only when it suits him to do so. everyone else I allow off leash, I would never keep them confined to a leash all the time, they hate it and I hate it. however going for a walk on the bike bath with my hands free, no starin on me, watching my dogs frolick ahead of me, running back to me every few seconds to tackle me with kisses. sitting on a bench for a rest and being promptly tackled with kisses by 4 dogs at once...THAT is total bliss for me.but as long as you allow your dog to run somehow I think its ok, if your dog can gallop next to your bike, or if you run with your dog etc.. thats ok.

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Off leash is a goal of mine, actually one of my main training goals. They are always leashed on walks in my subdivision and in public parks that are near roads, but we do some hiking in areas where a leash could be a hazard (to me and them), especially with multiple dogs. Areas like this are just not practical or safe to have them leashed, plus I love to see them "free" and playing in these kinds of environments and they seem to enjoy themselves immensely. I work alot with them before they are off leash though, and I've called them off of wildlife several times, the only thing though is the shelties will not leave my kids out on the rocks, but I'm ok with that.

 

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OK, I have lived in areas that were safe enough and areas that were safe and been in areas that were not. Like others have said, the lead is not punishment. Training is the major key and I'm sorry but for all the dogs I have had there was only 1 that I knew was absolutely without fail rock solid on a recall. I am not about to set my dogs up to fail in a situation that could potentially kill them, kinda defeats the purpose....However, I also have more than 1 dog and never walked them alone. Granted, they have property to run on and yet when we would go away from home, they went on lead, the traffic, bikes, people and so on were not part of their everyday life and they were to social. Even here at night they do not go romping - we have deer, foxes, coyote, coons' and they know it and would like nothing more than to find it. Yep, all have recalls, nope not worth it (there's scary things out here in the dark!) So in the evening if we walk they all drag a line, just a subtle reminder. I understand what C&D is saying and asking but all it takes is one miss que, one taunting squirrel one "unknown" and you potentially have a injured or dead dog.

 

That said, it's all about training and also about trust and the relationship you have with your dog. It's not something someone can tell you when you are there, you just sort of know it. It's scary at first, and then you are thrilled at the accomplishment, then after a while you wonder what you were so worried about, piece of cake :rolleyes: And the flip side is - is that even if/when you get there there's really not a winning lottery ticket in a envelope with your name on it and you also lose some of the chatter you had while it was you and him walking and talking (yeah your neighbors think you are crazy). Leashes give you some peace of mind which in turn gives your dog peace of mind; when you are not stressed chances are they are not either.

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There's a time and place for everything. She obviously hasn't felt comfortable in the areas she's been with her dog. Even if it's the 'norm' in the area if the owner isn't comfortable with it, it probably isn't a good idea.

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Off-leash is a calculated risk. There's no such thing as a dog with a 100% recall, or if there is, I doubt that there's any way to identify these dogs without error. Therefore I do some sort of rough probability calculation in my head taking into account my behavior, my dog's behavior, and the environment, and then I might take that risk and let my dogs loose.

 

My dogs get the majority of their exercise off-leash. I am not a marathon runner, so I think it would be pretty much impossible for them to get adequate exercise on-leash. They are on leash when custom demands, in areas that are unsafe for loose dogs (like sidewalks), when they are being buttheads, and when we are on our way to somewhere they can be off leash. They are also on leash in contexts in which I am not confident they will behave in a way I consider acceptable. Jett is not allowed off-leash in as many contexts as Fly, and Solo is allowed off-leash in many fewer contexts than either Fly or Jett. Luckily we have plenty of opportunities for them all to be off-leash. Before we moved into a house with a yard the dogs rarely got to chill off-leash, because there were too many risks involved in relaxing in public areas (mostly strange dogs accosting us). The dogs get to hang out loose in the backyard now, when I am out there. If I'm not out there, they have a tendency to just stand there and stare at the back door waiting for me to come out. I don't consider the yard large enough for real exercise.

 

The Aussie lady obviously is not comfortable with any error in estimation (acceptable p-values would need to be very close to zero, heh), so she never lets her dog off-leash outdoors. I was like that with my first dog, a Pom. At the time I did not know anything about dog training and didn't need to, because Harley had no bad behaviors of any kind and was always appropriate in every situation. I simply did not want to take any risks with Harley, who was extremely precious to me. Toward the end of her life I started being more relaxed about things and I now know I could have let Harley loose in more contexts without consequences, but I don't think she suffered much for my ignorance. We would walk to campus and back together, and would hike together, but other than that Harley mostly enjoyed socializing with people and all of that socializing happened off-leash indoors. Harley didn't miss anything, but she was a toy dog, I find it hard to believe that an Aussie would not crave the ability to stretch his legs.

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I probably take more risks than some, but I take several dogs jogging with me in the mornings, and on the way from my property to the place where I jog, which is off the local roads, they are leashed. Once we get off the road and onto the private property (which has minimal--basically nonexistent--traffic), they are allowed off leash. I confess that often on the return leg to my place, which is about 2/10 mile, I don't bother to put them back on their leashes. But there is a really wide shoulder the entire way, part of which is next to our fenceline, so we just all walk well off the road. Generally the only thing we're likely to see is the sheep and Maia in our pasture. That said, I rarely take Kat and Twist on the same day, because Twist has a habit of darting off into the woods (after deer) and losing Kat. None of the others that I take with me will take off with Twist, so I don't have to worry, and Twist recalls well if she jumps a deer. Kat just seems to get lost if she follows Twist. So I solved the problem by taking them on alternate days. But I am talking about an area that is off the main road, though they could hit a path and go out to the road. But basically they just range ahead of me, and when we pass areas that have access to the creek on the property and I tell them "Go swim" they will go swim and then catch up to me. Likewise when we all go walking on the unfenced "back 40." They don't stay right on top of me, and Farliegh will often do the loop and get back to the house ahead of the rest of us, but they basically run around with me as sort of their focal/return point and do their own thing. Again, this isn't near a road though. If I have a nonresident dog with me on these walks, they are generally kept on a flexi leash until I can trust them to stay with the pack.

 

J.

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Off leash is my goal. With 10 acres of land and 5 dogs to potty it would be really helpful if i could let them all out without leashes to do their business and play a bit of chase to get the high jinks out as they all get the zoomies after their morning poop.

 

Trophy, however, is too bird crazy at this point to trust at all. So he is always on leash and i walk him around. Shiner is ok 50% of the time, so i put him on a long line just so i don't have to worry about him having an ADD moment and running off. Baxter stays close to me off leash IF the neighbor's dog doesn't come outside (cause then his death rays come out). Koda is hard-headed and sometimes doesn't listen but he's been here the longest and knows his bounds - he also doesn't chase cars/birds etc. Qwill is pretty reliable off leash and stays close to me no matter what.

 

Getting all my dogs off leash would me i wouldn't have to worry about having my arm yanked off as Trophy tries to chase Qwill who's doing laps around the flagpole, and I wouldn't have to stop the play to untangle the longline from someone's neck.

 

 

someone above asked how you know a place is TRULY safe to be off leash. My vet clinic has a boarding/training facility as well. I take my dogs up there and pay $5 per dog to run around in one of their fenced in yards for an hour. 8 ft fences, locked gates. It is the only place I will let Trophy off leash presently.

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Our 3 have about 1/2 acre of fenced in yard they can run free in. Every time we take them somewhere, they are leashed or they don't get out of the truck. JJ can not be trusted near any body of water; that includes waterfalls. Jake can't be trusted due to his thunder/noise phobia. And I don't trust their prey drive on any of them.

 

I don't think any of them feel 'bad' about being leashed. As corny as it sounds, I think they feel it's a treat to go anywhere with us simply because they are with us.

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In my experience, the more time my dog spends off leash, the better he is off leash.

 

I think you have to wait for the novelty to wear off for the dog and for it to become normal to have freedom. Otherwise, it's almost like they think, 'Ha ha ha! I'm finally free and I better make the most of it. Who knows when it'll happen again.' And this usually translates into totally blowing off your recall.

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Hmm... yeah, I kind of agree with BNM that the regularity of getting off leash takes away the novelty, which maybe takes away the desire to run away, for fear of never getting off leash again.

 

I used to take Buddy to a fenced-in baseball park (before I had a fence). It had openings in the fence, but not gates. Those first few times of testing him out to see what he'd do were very scary. But he was happy to stay in the field, playing chase the stick.

 

I think a lot of it depends on the dog's personality, too. Buddy lived on the streets for his first year or two. He had a lot of adventures, I'm sure. He doesn't seem to be very interested at all in exploring beyond a small diameter close to me. Beagles? I'm not sure I'd ever let them off leash!

 

Of the four dogs I've owned in my life, they've all been off leash dogs whenever it was safe. There was no special training, but I do think the regularity of being off leash weakened any urge they had to bolt. I grew up near acres and acres of open land with no traffic, and that's where all my childhood dogs took most of their walks. Buddy goes there, too, and I tested him off leash there in the early days. I think most dogs, if given a safe place like that, would prove pretty reliable off leash; I've never had a dog who wanted to be out of my sight for any length of time. Even the zoomiest dog I ever had would stay "close." Her definition of close was just a lot different from the other dogs'. There are sandpipers who nest on the open land, and they would swoop close to the ground, trying to get the dogs (and us, I guess) away from their nests by faking them out. That dog would chase those silly birds from one end of the field to the other - probably 1/4 mile - back and forth, on and on. It was great easy exercise for her... and even though she'd get a good distance away from us, she always knew to follow us and leave with us.

 

On the other hand, Buddy's friend Ozzy, a JRT, will leave at the drop of a hat and be gone for a very long time. I think, honestly, he'd come back if his owner could sit around all afternoon, calling him - but he sees no urgency. Likewise the GSD mix, Pablo, whom we run into once in a while on the trails, all by himself, sniffing and rambling. I can often hear his owner's voice in the distant distance, calling, "Paaaaaaabloooooo!" So, again, the dog's personality comes into play!

 

Mary

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I am fortunate to live where they can run off leash in safety. I drive them to a large area of isolated sand dunes and bush and they love it. They all have great recalls and seem inclined to keep me on their radar at all times. I cant imagine not seeing them run like the wind and we all get cabin fever when we visit friends in the city. My ACDS defintely dont like losing sight of me and my BC always comes when called.

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