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Keeping our dog off the road

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We adopted Lucky, our BC/Lab mix last June, almost a year ago. He's a lovely dog, loves ball, frisbee, any kind of petting attention, treats, food, and running along the road.


We live in an older farmhouse in the Catskills of NY. The house is half-way down an 8 mile dead-end road, and is fairly close to the road. Our house is on 2 acres of land that is not fenced. It's sort of pie shaped with one slice of the pie is a creek with state forest on the other side, the crust is woods behind the barn and the other slice is the road.


When we first got him, he wouldn't cross the road. He was sort of interested in cars that went by, but not really. We were so happy that he would stick around us in the yard and not run off. I started taking him across the road to the open meadow there to play fetch, and after that it sort of became 'his' and now he has no issue crossing the road to go over and explore.


He's also become more interested in cars on the road. They aren't frequent but he is especially interested in the snowplow and any cars of friend's that he recognizes (he totally recognizes cars!) I ALWAYS make him sit when we get to the side of the road - treating it the same way we do with thresholds (doors) in our house - he has to sit and give us eye contact before he gets permission to go.


Our issue now is that he's figured out how fantastic it is to run up or down the road. He LOVES running on the road. He always comes back so it's not like he's running off, but it's really bad for him to be running even on a low traveled road. We try to give him as much running/playing exercise each day as we can, so it's not like he's cooped up inside all day.


We recently started using an e-collar for recalls, along with a Fenzi course I've been taking to try to get him to come back when he starts to take off. But when he realizes that the controls we have over him (leash, collar, ball, treat) are gone, he takes off running on the road. We don't mind him running in the woods, but the road is a bad idea.


We don't know if an electric fence is the right idea since we don't want to just let him out into the yard and as of now, it's impossible to install until everything thaws.


Does anyone have any advice for training to respect a specific area? A don't go there unless I let you? Now that he knows what pleasure it is to go there, and because we do want to walk him on the actual road, how do we train him to only go there with us?

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Welcome to the BC boards. Lots of good people here, willing to help. Here is what I think:


I would strongly recommend against using an e collar to train anything, especially recalls. This is a device that should only be used strictly under the supervision of a very skilled trainer, as its unintentional misuse can cause serious problems, especially in a breed as sensitive as a border collie. It is something that really should only be used as a last resort and not as an initial training tool. Please stop using it.


You do not say whether or not you let your dog outside unsupervised. If you do, I suggest that you stop doing that entirely.


I also live in a rural area and I trained my dogs never to leave the unfenced portion of my property. It took a very long time and a lot of work and persistence on my part. And even so, when I am outside with them in the unfenced part of the yard I am constantly checking in on them and practicing their recalls. I do not let more than 60 seconds go by without knowing where they are; usually I check their whereabouts every 30 seconds. If you are not able and happily willing to do this, you should fence part of your yard and only allow your dog to be there unless on a leash. To be honest, even though my dogs are well trained I am seriously considering fencing the front part of my property despite the expense, just so that I can relax with them outside and not be constantly checking on them.


How I trained them is this: When outside with them I had (and still have) a pocket of high-value treats. I trained them to come to a whistle I carry with me, and they get rewarded for coming. I also never, ever, not even for 5 seconds, took my eyes off them when I was training them. If one of them approached the boundary of my property I immediately would call "uh-uh" in a loud voice. If the dog came toward me, I would go and reward and praise. If the dog crossed the boundary I would go get the dog, without any scolding, and pick him up and carry him back to the house and outside time was over for that dog.


As I say, this took a long time; well over a year before I felt reasonably confident that the dogs wouldn't cross that boundary. And even now, although I have seen one of them chase a rabbit right up to the boundary and then stop and come back again, I do not trust the training fully, as witness the fact that I said earlier that I check in on their whereabouts every minute we are out there and would never, ever let them out in the unfenced area without my supervision. It would have been a lot easier just to fence the property.


I would not recommend an electric fence. Many dogs simply learn that they can run through it and the shock is only momentary. Then the problem is that they do not want to come home again and go through it again.


If you are going to put up any kind of fence, why not just make it one that the dog cannot get through? So much easier than any of the above.

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Thanks D'Elle for the response. We are working with a trainer with the e-collar, not only on recall but on his other reactivity issues. It's actually been a real life-changer with his dog reactivity. He used to go completely crazy barking and lunging when he saw a dog. Now with a very low collar correction, he will focus on me instead of the other dog, and we can do LAT to the other dog then back to me. We've been able to take him on leash walks with other dogs which we never could before.


We never let him out of the house unattended. He's always on a leash when we go out. He is only off leash when we are actively playing fetch in the back yard or by the creek. If I start to see he's losing interest in the game, I'll either change location or take the ball, put him on the leash and stop playing. Then all he wants to do is play more! We do let him off leash up in the woods where he can't see the road and he's good about sticking around, checking in and coming when called.


I've been trying to practice recalls in our yard with the long leash, but the issue is that when he's on any leash, it's hard to get him to not follow me around! Right now, there is no way I could just let him off the leash in the yard unless I'm playing fetch with him - even when we are with him and watching him every second. He's so fast, and once he gets the idea he wants to go to the road, he's gone.


I like the whistle idea for recall, and the vocal correction for getting close to the road.


Thanks for the ideas.

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D'Elle has good advice, but in the meantime I'd say build him a safely fenced area. You can watch your local Craiglist site for good deals on fencing or kennel panels.

Really, there is absolutely no substitute for a good fence. Of course you can still take him outside and work with him, but I believe dogs also need a safely fenced area where they can be outside and just hang out. If he reacts to the road, see if you can build him a yard behind the house or somewhere out of view of the road. But you can't watch him every second forever, and it only takes an instant for tragedy to happen.

Best of luck.

~ Gloria

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've been trying to practice recalls in our yard with the long leash, but the issue is that when he's on any leash, it's hard to get him to not follow me around! Right now, there is no way I could just let him off the leash in the yard unless I'm playing fetch with him - even when we are with him and watching him every second. He's so fast, and once he gets the idea he wants to go to the road, he's gone.


I have a solution for this!


First: How long is your long leash? The one I used for training outside was at least 100ft. The way you might stop him from following you is to get the longest one you can find online, and keep him on it when outside at all times, even during his normal walks.


Second: I had a recall issue with my pup about a year ago. I trained her on a long lead, with which she had 100% recall, but once I let her off, every once in a while, she'd bolt. So what I did was, I attached a 'shadow line', so basically an extra lead she had no clue about. I unhooked her, she'd bolt, and I could still use that second lead to correct her. Worked perfectly.


Do realize that the problem is in your last sentence here. He keeps succeeding. From here on out he should have zero success when trying to cross the road on his own. If that means he follows you around on a long lead for a few days.. then that's just simply what it is..

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks DutchBorderFan. We have a 50ft lead. That's a good idea with the shadow lead. He definitely knows if the leash clicks off, and I've been training him to wait until I release him (he knows wait - we do it with treats and with waiting at the door before he goes out). I was up to only about 5 seconds, but he would wait!


Luckily, we've been able to keep him off the road since I first posted this. I think it was partly that we had so much snow, he wasn't able to really run, even when we were playing fetch and it was the only open space he had. We also were much more careful about not letting him off leash outside of the house unless we weren't near the road. And the snowplow isn't around anymore which he was obsessed with. He had an injury recently, so we're road-leash walks only for a few weeks, then it's back to training.



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