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Recall help with rescue dog (had her 7 months)

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Hi all,


I'm seeking advice and training tips on recall for my rescue dog, 3-5 y.o. female, Winnie, and I've had her for 7 months. Feeling guilt and desperation because she has no recall outdoors. Have used several trainers without success to get a better grip on this.


This is my 3d rescue dog and second border collie (that one was raised from puppyhood). All learned recall really quickly and were reliable off leash. I have no experience of a dog that just won't return.


I live in a suburb with a fair amount of street traffic. We've practiced recall constantly both inside, inside with distraction, outdoors with distraction. She is quite good when practicing outdoors on a long line, or even offleash within a half block of my house even with distractions.


Winnie is extremely affectionate and wants to be with me INDOORS, follows me around the house, etc. Outdoors she always wants to meet passers by, will go up on leash and sit and wait to be petted.

The rest of the time is a nightmare. I have to be hypervigilant whenever I go in or outdoors for chores and don't completely close the storm door from forgetfulness or just having my brain on overload from trying to train this dog for the last 7 months. Recently, she seemed to be able to "stay" when I asked her to as I was unloading multiple groceries or whatever. However, unpredictably, she will seemingly exploit the smallest gap, push the door open and then run away as much as 2 miles. Once she's escaped, I run out and see her and call, she has no response at all -- doesn't turn towards me, much less return even after several hours of her escape adventure. I'll drive around and recruit neighbors trying to find her but she doesn't stay on our usual walking routes.


After 7 months, she doesn't seem to recognize that my house is her source of companionship, food and shelter. Outdoors and off leash, she has no instinctive desire to be with me or come back under any circumstances beyond those 25' feet from my front door (dogparks, fenced acreage of a friend where we practice sometimes.)


Only by the kindness of neighbors and strangers has she survived without being hit by a car or just being lost forever.


I am at a loss, really. I know this will happen again, I live alone and spend several more hours every day taking care of my other dog, who is slowly fading due to brain tumor. Sometimes my brain is too fried to be hypervigilant 24/7. There is no one else to act as a fail safe if I am forgetful.


Maybe it would be better for her to be given up to rescue again and live somewhere rural with fenced acreage. I feel like it may be just a matter of time before she is killed in traffic. I just don't know what to do.


Thanks for any and all suggestion, especially on trainers you might know of in my area (DC region/Md suburbs).



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Hi. She may never have a recall or it could take years. In the meantime, you have to manage her and that means putting her behind a closed door or in a crate when you are opening the front door. It's really that simple.


Having recently lost a dog after a long illness, I will say that these sad situations cause a tremendous amount of stress on the humans and on the other animals in the household. My 2 surviving dogs became more settled after my old, sick dog passed. You may find that your relationship with Winnie changes after your other dog passes.


For now, just de-stress your life by simply shutting Winnie in a room.

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If you can, baby gate the front door so she can't get out while you work on training.


The main issue is not recall but impulse control at the door. You want her to not run out the door in the first place, yes?


I would search online for videos for teaching door manners and impulse control. You should be able to easily open your door and come in/out without her pushing through to escape. She should be able to sit/down and wait at the door. You can practice by having her on a leash and opening the door, closing the door, repeating. Videos will help show how to set this up so she learns that the door opening is not an invite to run. Reward her for waiting calmly.


You can also try to find a competent trainer to come to your home even once or twice to show you how to work on the door issue. In person training can be invaluable as they can point out the small things you may miss when training.

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I have somewhat similar situation in that my female dog will sometimes go on a 'runabout'. She was about 13 months old when I got her about 8 months ago. Luckily, I live in the country so she is not in danger of cars (unless she runs a mile to a country road), but there is a huge area behind us where she has disappeared for as long as 10-15 minutes before returning - with a big smile and a wagging tail.


For the first few months, she was on a 40 foot long line with frequent practice of recalls and treats. Every once in a while, I would let her off-line during our free range walks. Same practice with recalls/treats and there would be 3, 4 or even 6 days during which she would stay with us. But then, I would notice that her head would go up as if she was air-scenting, and off she would run. Despite calling and whistling, she came back when she felt like it. So then she would go back on the long line for another 1 or 2 weeks with more recall training. Rinse and repeat. I have been very frustrated with her because my other 2 dogs have excellent recalls.


Then one day I had a thought: I wondered if I was teaching her to ignore me when she ran away. She would be on her run-about and I would be screaming her name, whistling, yelling "that'll do". Was she making the connection that she could run and ignore me while I was calling her back? So I kept up the long lines walks and the recall training, but if she was loose and then decided to do a run-about, I would call her once then remain silent. I have noticed that she will now return in less than 60 seconds. Not my final goal, but we are getting there.


Having said that, there are also other things that have probably affected the recall. I think she is trusting me a lot more. She is not a super confident dog, and a harsher voice can really affect her. Perhaps my strident tone when I recalled her put her off. I have also been working on getting her to play with toys in the hopes that she wants to return for toy play. She is food-motivated, but I think the toy play has made more of an impression on her.


I agree with others that management may be your best bet for now. Baby gates, tethering, long lines.


Do you feel you have a trusting connection with her? It is possible that she is not yet truly connected. I think that was part of what is/was going on with my girl. It is taking some time, but I keep seeing minor improvements as time passes.


Good luck.

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